November 9, 2015 – Human Centered Design at P&G

November 9, 2015 Seminar: Human-Centered Design
Jennifer Moe (Proctor & Gamble)
Robb Olsen (Proctor & Gamble)

Dr. Jennifer Moe: Received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in organometallic chemistry. Afterwards, started working at P&G as a R&D scientist. Currently serves as the Open Innovation Manager in Research and Development, where she is primarily involved with industry-academic partnerships at P&G.

Robb Olsen: Principle Scientist who works in product innovation and innovation strategy in R&D at P&G. Currently serves as an Industry Innovator in Residence and Adjunct Professor at Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University and co-Director of the Advanced Consumer Methods lab at University of Michigan.

What is Human Centered Design? Are you interested in working in industry as a R&D scientist? Two topics that appear to be two separate entities but both go hand in hand at P&G. At P&G, their products are produced through a human centered design process. Robb Olsen introduced the concept and explains how it applies to their products/brands.

He emphasizes that the brands are not built through marketing alone but through building a great product. The product is designed through researching a customer’s needs, understanding those needs and associated human behaviors, and understanding how to deliver on those needs. This is the human centered design process which essentially, integrates business, technology, and consumer science in crafting an innovative product.

A scientist’s role in the human centered design process is directly involved in research and development of the product. Often times, the amount of R&D in the product itself is taken for granted. Most of P&G’s brand is synonymous with commonly used every day items and it is this association that has masked the complexities involved in creating a product.

Dr. Jennifer Moe, a former R&D scientist working in formulation chemistry, elaborates on the complexities involved, specifically on her experience working on laundry products. Laundry products are complex formulations and can have upwards of 30 different ingredients. There are many jobs for a chemist in formulations. It can be both broad, in terms of understanding the aesthetics of the final end product, the material/packaging compatibility, large scale manufacturing, formulation patents, environmental safety, and physical and chemical stability, and as well as detailed orientated, in terms of synthesizing each individual chemical component comprised in the laundry product, which are surfactants, chelators, bleaches, dispersing/depositing polymers, enzymes, and brighteners.

Each chemical component in a laundry product has a designed role and much thought is given towards their optimization. Ultimately, the R&D process results in the design of a product that delivers on a customer’s needs of freshly smelling, brightly colored or pearly white, and soft to the touch, clean clothes. At this stage, business and marketing takes over to continue the rest of the human centered design process.