Kellogg tried the technique on corn. Over the course of several years, he perfected the tasty flakes by experimenting with different formulas and testing them with his brother’s patients. He had invented — or designed — corn flakes.
But Kellogg didn’t stop there. He believed that the entire population — not just hospital patients with special diet restrictions — would enjoy the new food, and he carefully positioned and marketed it. He created a recognizable brand and set about continually improving packaging that kept the product fresh. The product went on to sell 175,000 cases in its first year, laying the foundation for the $22.5 billion company that still bears Kellogg’s name.
Kellogg’s genius came not just in his flair for food product invention, but also in his customer-centric approach, iterative prototyping process and careful consideration of the entire product experience — from the cereal itself to its packaging, marketing and distribution. Kellogg was more than a brilliant food scientist and marketer. He was also a brilliant designer.
One misconception that I am still surprised to hear around Silicon Valley is that design is about making a product pretty — that it’s about designing the cereal box. Of course, colors, typography, layout and graphics — the classic elements of visual design — play an important role in the overall impact a digital product experience has on users. But pixel-perfect mockups and Dribble-friendly UI elements are just one component of a well-designed product.
IDEO, where I worked as a designer for eight years, is famous for popularizing Design Thinking – a repeatable, human-centered method for creative problem solving and innovation. Much like Kellogg did in re-inventing breakfast, this holistic approach to design takes inspiration from real people, works within market and technological constraints, and considers every product touch-point as an opportunity to surprise, delight and deliver benefits to users.