Here's a riddle: What goes "flop, flop, boing!"?
The first few times computer companies tried to introduce handheld computers, the idea flopped, as the market yawned and sales were flat (remember Apple's Newton?). But when Jeff Hawkins founded Palm Computing, his no-frills design sprang to the top of every techie's must-have list.
The famous story of Hawkins' early research is that he would carry around a wooden model of the proto-PDA in his shirt pocket, pretending to take notes at meetings, and learning which features were crucial to consumers. Today you can do nearly anything with your Palm, using it as a digital camera, choosing from hundreds of games, "beaming" wireless business cards, and attending an annual developers conference if you have ideas for new applications.
Hawkins won Design News' 2000 Special Achievement Award for his work (see DN 3/6/00). He has since left Palm to found Handspring, which makes the competing Visor PDA.
How can you apply these lessons to your own design challenges? Hawkins will share his own experiences in a discussion titled "Design with the consumer in mind" in a virtual trade show October 18, produced by Cahners. The first annual SupplyChainLinkExpo is called "the industry event that comes to you," since it predicts attendance of over 7,000 surfers.
The conference is organized into five sections—design, plan, source, make, and move—each with its own pavilion, booths, keynote speakers, and industry round-tables. Go to the Design Pavilion to hear Hawkins, and then check out the Design Industry Roundtables. On October 17 they'll include "Trends and Innovations in Automotive Design" and "Age of Collaboration," and on October 18 "How to Shorten the Design Cycle" and "Bright Ideas with Materials."
The other Design Pavilion keynoters are: Boeing President and CEO Alan Mulally, who was general manager of Boeing's 777 project; and Brian Muirhead, who was flight systems manager for the Mars Pathfinder, and currently manager of the Deep Impact project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.
Attendees can also listen to technology broadcasts, browse exhibits and interactive product demonstrations, and then drill down for deeper data, using a browser to watch movies, listen to audio presentations, download specs, and contact a company's live reps. To learn more about the event, and to register to attend at no charge, visit www.supplychainlinkexpo.com.