How far is too far in design innovation?
Success Stories | Consumer Goods & Retail

How far is too far in design innovation?

Escalent saved us from going forward with a design that was doomed to fail in the market. It is never easy to see and hear that. But it's essential. Their approach helped us see the design shortcomings and prepared us for future success.

Business Issue

Design testing can be tricky when you’ve got a product targeted to a niche customer. A major home appliances brand had developed an innovative ironing system. They wanted a sleek, ergonomic design to go along with it. After all, this was a premium product for high-income consumers. The big questions: What is the right balance of form and function? How far can design be pushed, and in what direction? Will customers pay more for innovative design of a pedestrian appliance? And who are these customers?

What We Did

We knew we had to get the product in the hands of consumers who would be willing to pay more for a high-end ironing experience. And also willing to iron their own clothes. So we ran an aggressive recruiting effort to find high-income ironers. Then we set up qualitative dyads and created a situation to capture gut responses to the new design. A usage test was also essential. So we had participants iron. They compared the performance of the new product with some high-end ironing systems already on the market.

The product performed well in the usage part of the research. We also learned that when it comes to choosing a run-of-the-mill appliance, design matters. A lot. But unfortunately, this particular design did not appeal.

Given this learning, the client went back to the drawing board for a redesign. In the second round of design testing, we went for a quali-quant approach, interviewing 50 participants per market. We replicated an in-store setting by placing the new design prototype on a shelf with other irons. Again, results were poor. The new design was too much of a departure. Not classic enough. But also not modern enough.


After two rounds of testing, the client decided the product was a no-go. This happens more often than not in product development. At Escalent, our role is to arm clients with the information they need to make critical decisions. Sometimes that means uncovering insights that give our clients the confidence to start again or walk away. In this case, the client was able to use the insights revealed in this research to inform future design decisions on a range of initiatives.

Wondering how far is too far when it comes to innovative product design? Let us help you build better products through concept and design testing with your ideal consumer.

Explore our thinking on Concept Evaluation

Show All

Keep me informed. I’d like to receive occasional newsletters, event notifications, and thought leadership materials.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter