video: RISD Students Design “Snapshot” Device for Progressive Insurance
Monday, July 30, 2012
Progressive turned to RISD students in 2008 to redesign Snapshot, which "looked very much like an old beeper or pager that people used to wear," said Leslie Fontana, Professor of Industrial Design at RISD. The company contacted RISD's former Center for Design and Business asking if students would be interested in partnering with Progressive to redesign Snapshot.
Using RISD students to create "something more magical"
"RISD is renowned as a leader in art and design," said Richard Hutchinson, general manager of usage-based insurance at Progressive. "We turned to RISD in 2008 to take a box-type design that was previously designed by Progressive engineers and turn it into something more magical," he added.
Rethinking an "awkward" device
"As much as this was a physical design challenge, it was also a promotion, a consumer perception challenge," Fontana said. While Progressive had already developed a device and brought marketing material explaining its purpose, the original device was difficult to install on the circuit board in cars, awkward, unfriendly, and posed the uncomfortable notion of someone tracking you on the other end, which early focus participants found off-putting, Fontana said. While potential consumers liked the idea of a discount on insurance contingent on good driving, they didn't like the implications of poor driving and potential—though nonexistent—penalties. But tracking has become more interesting and acceptable now, Fontanta said, and RISD students saw the potential of products like this device. Future products could, for example, help people not fall asleep at the wheel, Fontana pointed out.
Students worked on the design of the device, "adding some ergonomic features," but they also considered and developed packaging and the interface, Fontana said. And when the going got tough, they could ask questions of Progressive engineers—for example, what does taking one piece off the circuit board and moving it three inches down do? This work led to final team presentations before the entire class and Progressive representatives.
Hitting the airwaves
37-year-old product designer Diau Hall was pleasantly surprised when he received a call about Progressive's Snapshot commercials. Hall, who attended RISD and has now lived in Rhode Island for over a decade, was on the team that ultimately provided the artwork Progressive used in production. The team of six included Hall, Michael Clare, Gazal Goenka, Cassandra Maurer, Brian Mitchell, and Hayden Reilly.
"It was a great learning experience for everyone," Hall said, adding that the collaboration was fun, challenging, and a valuable experience, as it was with "an actual client that's not your professor."
The students initially brainstormed many concepts, some far-reaching, others more practical, and narrowed it down to six concepts, Hall said. One idea was a ladybug, an icon that the team could envision a campaign around because if a ladybug is eaten by a gecko—a mascot of Progressive's competitor GEICO—the gecko will die. Progressive appreciated this ladybug humor, though they decided not to use it in their final product, Hall said. Several weeks after the group's critique, Progressive announced that they were taking the design back to headquarters for the Snapshot program.
From imposing to wonderful
"The students’ creativity and intelligence made something slightly imposing into something wonderful. The collaboration with RISD spurred us to think of the device as a representation of our brand," Hutchinson said. "The winning RISD group introduced form to function, in the device and the origami-style box design we still use today," he said.
Fontana stressed the significance of good, successful design. Design goes beyond making a product look better, but about making it more user-friendly, Fontana said. "We're not just styling a product but adding value to a design," she said. The aim of design is to make a substantial difference to the final product, creating something clearer and more accessible, she said.
RISD encourages creativity, but also a fast turnover rate. Projects tend to be three to four weeks, and this one was no exception. At the end of the day, there's a lot more to do--and a lot more companies to work with. Fontana, who has been teaching for 17 years at RISD, named a number of companies that the school has collaborated with in the past, including LG Electronics, Loreal, Samsung, and Unilever. Partnership with Unilever, a multi-national company with too many brands to count, involved looking at new opportunities for Dove that went beyond the company's successful "Campaign for Real Beauty." What about a Dove for the elderly? Babies? Automobiles? What is the best bottle shape? Method of dispensing the product? What are the practical limitations? These are some of many questions that RISD students would consider, Fontana said.
Want to see the RISD students' work in Progressive's TV commercial? Watch here.
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