Philip Bourgeois, Founder of StudioRed, discusses his 30+ years of experience in product design – beginning with a lesson he learned in the early days of computer design in the 1980s. As Philip tells it, early prototypes can lead to plenty of excitement in the boardroom and can also lead to some costly decisions.
Product Design Lessons: The Osborne Effect
In the early 1980s, I worked on the product design team at Osborne Computer. You may recognize this brand, but might be more familiar with the term “Osborne Effect.” Basically, it is an example of what not to do in launching a product or brand marketing.
The original Osborne computer took seven hours to build. As a result, the product design team was asked to develop a new version that could be assembled more quickly. I designed a new product called Vixen and was asked to show a sample prototype to Adam Osborne (company founder).
On a Friday afternoon, I presented the Vixen prototype to Adam and his team. It took me about four minutes to assemble the prototype. As you can imagine, the team was pretty excited about build time going from 420 minutes down to four minutes.
The problem is that Adam got too excited about the product design. On Monday, the company sent out a press release that said, “wait until you see what we have coming.”
After the release went out, everyone stopped buying in-line Osborne computers because they were waiting for Vixen to launch. In addition, we were about one year away from having Vixen ready for production. Furthermore, all we had shown them was a sample prototype.
Unfortunately, this led to the company’s downfall. In the end, I guess you can say that I was an influencer in what became known as the “Osborne Effect.”
About the speaker
Philip Bourgeois is the Founder of StudioRed. Since its inception in 1983, Philip’s team has introduced more than 400 products developed through the “Rational Emotional Design” process (RED) - which combines logic and emotion into product design to connect with more customers. Considered one of Silicon Valley’s design pioneers, Philip is featured in several books including “From Patent to Profit” and “Make It New: A History of Silicon Valley Design.”