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Frog Joins Forces With Software Engineers. Say What?

The new business unit will be called Idea-to-Market.

Yesterday, Frog Design and its parent company, Aricent, a software consulting firm, announced that they’re starting a new business unit, blending personnel from each enterprise, to be called Idea-to-Market. In all, the new business unit will draw 600 strategists and designers from Frog, and about 900 software developers and testers from Aricent, thus creating a 1500-person business with staff spread across the U.S., India, China, and Europe.

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What on earth could industrial designers and hardcore software engineers collaborate on? “Our work might include anything from the FLO TV we created for Qualcomm to applications, devices, and service offerings for energy, health care, and automotive companies,” says Doreen Lorenzo (pictured above), who is president of Frog and will also head the new business unit. “In other words, there’s one throat to choke, as one of my clients tells me.”

Greater integration not only makes managing the design process easier for clients, but it should lead to end products that hew to the original creative vision of the design — and thus hit the market with all their revolutionary spirit intact, according to Aricent’s CEO, Sudip Nandy. He says that Aricent and Frog have been studying for four years what makes certain projects work. “Between design and software development, the creative intent is lost,” Nandy tells Co.Design. “What comes out of the whole cycle might be only half of what was intended.” But introducing software developers and even testers to the earliest stages of product strategy and design allows those who will actually build the thing to see what’s at stake — and why every detail has to be just so. “Many companies try to do this in compartments,” explains Nandy. “But the one company that everyone wants to emulate, Apple, integrates every stage.”

The new spin-off reflects trends in both design and technology. For example, mobile interfaces are probably today’s toughest design challenge: The exploding capabilities of cellphones and mobile computers place an enormous burden on a screen no bigger than your hand. How do you design something that’s intuitive to use, which is only being glanced at for seconds at a time, at arm’s length? That requires a powerful intuition for how people behave, and the way they actually interact with technology in the real world. But equally, it requires the backing of developers who can actually pull it off, because minute decisions gone wrong could be disastrous.

“The most frustrating thing for a designer is to have worked on something that finally hits the market and is just 50% of what was intended,” says Lorenzo. “And the other 50% is just because no one on the engineering side could figure out how to do it. To do something unique in the market, you have to stretch what can be done.” The new firm, according to Lorenzo, is meant to ensure that both designers and engineers are stretching as far as they can.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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