PhD thesis: paper vs. book

Marketing PhD candidates write papers to obtain their degrees. However, some design PhD candidates publish books. I have received two book-format theses from the design PhDs from European universities. I also know of some other design PhD candidate in US  who write books for their PhD degrees. There must be some reasons why different formats are required to earn PhD degrees.

My temporary answer is that design PhDs are required to understand an area broadly and comprehensively, whereas marketing PhDs are asked to generate specific but novel piece of information to the existing knowledge base. An author of a book (PhD in Design) raises a broad question (e.g., value of design thinking in business), reviews others’ answers comprehensively, and then makes his/her own arguments with supportive evidence. Differently, an author of a research paper (PhD in Marketing) raises a narrow question (e.g., value of design thinking in business is greater when economy is good than when it is bad), reviews others’ answers briefly, and then provides statistical evidence thoroughly. In other words, design PhDs seem to have more holistic (vs. analytic) approach than marketing PhDs.

Please help us recycle easily

We want to voluntarily participate in recycling but do so only when it is easy. Recently, I met two bin boxes next to each other at a university in Seoul. Unfortunately, their colors and names made me confused: the left one had a blue cover and a green panel saying “recycled” and the right one had a green cover and a blue panel saying “disposable.” When I found myself keep thinking to figure out which to follow among words, cover color, and panel color, I decided to throw my empty coffee can somewhere else. Indeed, behaving nicely requires enormous mental resources.

DML_Bin box_01

Going Outside the Frame


There is an OOH (Out-Of-Home) advertising at one subway in Toronto. Benylin is a medicine available at the Shoppers Drug mart. Advertisers intentionally drew its figure outside the frame to communicate that the pill is strong. Although this is less shocking than VolksWagen in the ski resort or AIA in Bangkok, going outside the frame will successfully attract attention by passersby.

Bridging the Chasm between Design and Marketing

DML_Productdesign_UoT_02Although integrating design and marketing is critical for successful new product development (NPD), there has been a limited attention to the potential problems that arise during the NPD process and their possible solutions in academic literature. In order to narrow this gap, our study conducted a series of surveys of an interdisciplinary class project between marketing and design students over two year periods and identified two major potential problems: (1) conflict from the functional background, and (2) the conflict from imbalanced decision-making authority between design and marketing. In order to resolve such conflict, we found the two contrasting solutions: (1) facilitating communication to enhance cross-functional integration between the two groups and (2) prohibiting communication to protect each group. Our findings contribute to the formation of a theoretical basis for research on the topic of design-marketing integration.


Behavior Change in University Education


Historically, a professor distributed its course outline with a textbook (e.g., Principles of Marketing) and students bought it at a convenient place (e.g., book store in the campus). This pattern is now dramatically changing.

First, students change their book purchasing behavior. The book store in the campus are now facing the price war with online booksellers. Although it keeps saying that “Out textbook prices are competitive with THE largest online bookseller,” many students pursue hassle-free-and-more-convenient shopping experience. They click a few buttons at home and then pick up the textbooks in their mailbox in a few days. They do not have to walk down to the book store.

Second and more importantly, students change their learning behavior. Previously, teachers needed widely accepted textbooks to transfer the established knowledge to students through lecture. However, contemporary teachers often develop new courses (e.g., Design Marketing) or lead typical courses in different ways (e.g., New Product Development). As such, they look for alternative formats to share insights with students; students could learn how to sketch from designers, they could identify business opportunities for 3D printers by discussion, they could make a pitch in front of real managers, or they could even register courses available at the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) systems such as Coursera or EdX. Now, learning and teaching is not limited with the form of lecture.

Two Different Ways to Play with Words

University of Toronto has two interesting institutes: Martin Prosperity Institute and Best Institute. The former is an academic place for the global-scale prosperity and inequality. Its research papers discuss the creative classes and cities (Richard Florida), the integrative thinking and strategies (Roger Martin), and the global crowdsourcing for problem solving (Don Tapscott). The latter is a relatively practical space where the start-up companies focusing on health-care products and services run their offices.

While visiting them, I found there are two different ways to play with words. At the Martin Prosperity Institute, a visual art piece hangs on the wall saying PROSPERITY. At the Best Institute, a verbal notice posts on the door saying “Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies.” I find these two pieces are very creative but in different ways: the former changes the visual aspect of the word, whereas the latter changes the verbal (meaning) aspect of the word.



Expert Products, Novice Consumers


Crate and Barrel, one of my favorite stores following Pottery Barn and Williams and Sonoma, has a section called “Everything You Never Knew You Needed.” It introduces highly specialized kitchen utensils including jar spatula, melon baller, strawberry huller, avocado slicer, dual citrus squeezer, egg timer, and herb scissors.

At first, they look useless for many who do not cook often. Even if they do so, they can slice avocados and trim herbs using existing kitchen utensils. However, it is true that people often fell in love with a product only after they experience it. For example, I love the salad spinner by OXO, Panini grill by Breville, and wine decanter by Spiegelau. Although I am able to dry vegetables, grill sandwiches, and oxygenate wines without using these products, they make my cooking experience enjoyable. Indeed, I believe most smart kitchen products are the nice marriage of careful observation of people’s behavior in the kitchen with just a bit of technological flavor. If I should slice many avocados and trim a lot of herbs all the time, I may need a slicer and a pair of scissors designed exclusively for them to enjoy my cooking experience.

This leads us to a series of critical questions about new product development. Should designers and marketers ignore the novices’ voices (e.g., I am fine with an existing slicer) but listen to the experts’ voices more carefully (e.g., I need a better slicer for avocados)? If so, how do designers and marketers confirm that there will be a market for highly specialized expert products (e.g., avocado slicer)? Alternatively, how should designers and marketers “educate” novices when launching highly specialized products so that the newly developed products are appealing to novices ?




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 128 other followers

%d bloggers like this: