Bringing in design groups to oversee design strategy and commission other consultancies is becoming more popular among retailers. For Halfords, the decision to use Ideo to repackage its car battery rechargers was instigated by Pentagram partner John McConnell, who is part of the retailer’s design management team. Halfords product manager Paul Fensome recalls it was the first time he had worked with an industrial design group. ‘It was interesting for me because Ideo took it back to consumer level and what the needs of the end user were. Often the product manager is too close to the product so it’s good to get an independent view,’ he says.
Ideo was asked to design a range of vehicle battery chargers and presented Halfords with several options. ‘Some were more realistic than others, but the finished result is very good and has been very well received,’ says Fensome.
‘It was unusual for us because we were presenting to Halfords and Pentagram, but it worked well. Paul did a really good job supporting us to get the right product out,’ says senior designer at Ideo, Philip Davies. ‘Because 50 per cent of users don’t have garages, we went for quite a revolutionary product which is neatly housed and does away with the need for newspaper on the kitchen table,’ he adds.
The new range has a cable wind at the back and pouches for the crocodile clips. External packaging has been eliminated and replaced by a label on the charger itself, which has substantially reduced costs – the former packaging cost almost as much as the charger to produce. Davies worked with Ideo engineer Neil Martin, who provided technical knowledge on the production side. There was also liaison between Ideo and the manufacturers in Germany.
According to Kim Baxter, assistant product manager at Halfords, the redesign has made a difference. She says sales of battery chargers have improved ‘because of the design changes’.