I have often written and referred to the difference between convergent and divergent products. Convergent products are simple design improvements on existing models already being marketed. The push button radio, the car radio or a clock radio are examples of convergent products. These examples simply add features to the divergent “alpha” invention of the radio. The invention of the radio was truly a monumental breakthrough divergent product. It was revolutionary and totally new.
Most new product introductions are simple line extensions, or convergent products. Pringles Potato snacks were a divergent product when introduced. Pringles were a significant departure to any potato snack then on store shelves. The dozen or so newest flavors of Pringles are convergent. They expand the brand, increase retail shelf space and add sales, but they are not revolutionary heart unique smoking pipes.
The difficulty for inventors and entrepreneurs is to create truly distinct divergent products. This is the “Holy Grail” for new product developers, and yet, it is exceedingly rare that such a product appears. It is a desirable goal. Nevertheless, it is not essential for a product designer to achieve divergence to enjoy acclaim and enrichment.
There is nothing much new about the ancient bicycle. They have two wheels, a seat, brakes, pedals and maybe some gears. There are different styles and brands of bikes, prices run the gamut, but they essentially do the same thing: transport a human being.
Take a look at the Polygon Bicycle created by Reindy Allendra. It is obviously a bicycle, with a significant difference. The profile of the bike looks like a rocket ship and– I want one! If nothing else, I want one for a piece of sculpture. Mr. Allendra’s design is so stunning that it might be dangerous to ride as drivers and pedestrians gawk at the stunning brilliance of the design and become distracted. This product is convergent, but is so unique that it will almost certainly become a sought after status symbol.
Chairs fill up homes and serve the basic purpose of holding our relaxing bodies. There is nothing really not much new about the uses and placement of the basic chair. We eat while sitting on chairs. We read while sitting on chairs and watch television while relaxing on chairs. Some chairs are upholstered, some are all wood construction, and some recline.
The Rabbit Chair, designed by Stanislav Katz is just another chair. But what a chair! The color, elegant simplicity of design and amazing symmetry of line make the Rabbit Chair a work of art and artisan excellence. This is another example of convergence on steroids. The Rabbit Chair works on so many functional and artistic levels that it will be thought of as much more than a convenience for supporting the human body.
The smoking pipe has been with us for centuries. I can clearly remember my dad’s pipe rack that held his assortment of wooden pipes and tobacco’s. I occasionally see pipes on display in tobacconist shops. I do not notice that much has changed in the styling, construction or function of the pipe.
Recently I was introduced to the Ecolos Pipe created by contemporary designer Harold Bogazpinar. Stunning! There is no other word for the sleek beauty of such a mundane product as a pipe that is crafted as elegantly as the Ecolos Pipe. This is another example of the work of creative genius.
A pipe, a chair and a bicycle; common products all! However, when inspired designers and artists apply their amazing creative talents to crafting ingenious styling cues these common household products become art. They are convergent products, but they will enrich the lives of consumers lucky enough to own this artistry. Always remember the importance of design when creating new consumer products.
Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.
After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.