Since the introduction of the integrated bachelor/master programme in Industrial Design Engineering at Chalmers in 1999, the fostering of students’ analytical, creative and strategic skills when designing new products has been considered an essential component of the educational curriculum. Since the master-level course Visual Brand Identity and Product Design (7.5 ECTS) was introduced in 2004, strategic design and branding has been given an even more prominent position in developing the specific skills associated with the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of branded products. Over the years, this course has established itself as a prominent component in the Industrial Design Engineering programme.
The goal of the Visual Identity and Product Design course is to provide students with an understanding of the role of branding in design, with an emphasis on how aesthetic and symbolic qualities of products can be used to support the visual identity of brands. The course is organized around a series of lectures and a main group project. In the lectures, students are introduced to a range of design and branding theories, which are complemented with practical insights from high-level professionals from industry. For example, design managers from Electrolux, Saab and Volvo have over the years lectured in the course. An extensive reading package has also been developed to support the students in learning on the aesthetic and symbolic role of design in branding. In the group project, students apply the material introduced in the course in their analysis of established brands, and use the outcome as a starting point for designing and branding new products.
Honda Active GPS by F. Andersson, J. Bergqvist, A. Rynvall, L. Wiklander, VBI 2008.
The Honda Active GPS device provides an interesting example of how the aesthetic and symbolic qualities of a brand were used by the students as a starting point for a more age-neutral product. During the analysis phase, the students acquired both primary and secondary data on Honda and its products. During the synthesis phase, the students translated their insights about the Honda brand and its use of design cues in a fictive extension of the Honda product portfolio; a handheld GPS device for active older adults. They also created a new fictitious sub-brand, Honda Active, to support the introduction of their product.