Meet the team
Whirlpool’s Global Consumer Design unit has a staff of over 150 people. This function has quadrupled in size over the last four years and expanded its capabilities to include interaction design and an enhanced usability function that includes staff with expertise in ethnography and anthropology. These functions were added in response to the design demands placed by increasingly sophisticated and complex appliances, together with the desire to engineer core product platforms to suit the widest possible range of brands and markets.
The Global Consumer Design function is represented in the US Mexico, Europe, India and China. Most of the organisation’s designers operate in brand studios, with 14 major brands and 30 sub-brands supported in this way.
Brand studios are responsible for taking the company’s core product platforms, which contain the majority of the product engineering and functionality, and modifying ...view middle of the document...
The Platform Studio’s role is to reach across to the brand platforms with their design outcomes and work with them to implement and test the concepts. This allows for cost effective modifications to suit diverse brand requirements.
Part of the programme to unify Whirlpool’s design capabilities has involved a drive to standardise the capabilities available in different design offices. Today the company has industrial designers, usability specialists, human factors engineers and interaction designers in all its major design facilities. It supports these with graphic design and model making capabilities.
According to Chuck Jones, Vice President of Whirlpool’s Global Consumer Design unit, great care has been taken to ensure that the designers can work in an environment that maximises both their creativity and the effectiveness of their work in business terms. In practice, he says, this means ensuring that designers are 'shielded from the noise of the organisation,' while still ensuring that their work is recognised.
Designers are also required to have a good understanding of the business goals they are attempting to fulfil, and the fact that they are producing 'art for commerce.' Jones says, 'My job is to make sure that every designer inside Global Consumer Design understands how their efforts are being translated into business results for the corporation.'
Whirlpool also makes selective use of external design consultants where appropriate. It uses five external agencies worldwide, choosing them when it identifies a requirement to bring in 'fresh approaches in terms of process and methodology.' External agency staff members are treated as an extension to the Whirlpool design team, and are even given performance reviews. Normally, the agencies represent different areas of expertise.
Most recently, Whirlpool has increased the recruitment of people with design planning skills in order to support its efforts to build a logical, differentiated brand architecture. 'We are employing street smarts in equal proportion to book smarts to make sure that we’re getting the desired outcome,' says Jones.