How University Research Can Help Build Products (That Your Users Didn’t Know They Needed)

How University Research Can Help Build Products (That Your Users Didn’t Know They Needed)

Developing new products is a tough exercise, especially in a field that’s widely undiscovered. A partner in crime – like a university – can open up new possibilities.

Successful products are built with the needs and wishes of your users in mind. Amazing products, however, are built with your users involved – especially when you’re thinking long term. We can learn a lot about making the right decisions through thorough user feedback, but how do you even start thinking about building something that people didn’t even know they needed? That’s where we shift into creative process facilitation, workshops, or focus sessions like a Design Sprint.

If you’re a young software company, and you really want to do in-depth research about a new product category, you’ll need a fat stack of cash, a lot of time, or tons of employees (which, now that I think about it, is also requiring a fat stack of cash). This little catch-22 drama, in which you can’t really seem to find an easy way to win, requires a little hot-wiring…

Frontify & the New Challenging Area of Brand Identities

When we first started thinking about a way for our platform to better serve the needs for companies that wanted to better map their brand identities, we quickly found ourselves having more questions than answers to how we could actually do it. The short story is that, as we found out, the discovery and development of brand identities is quite a complex field of science that isn’t completely studied or even (in many ways) tangible.

So, we gave up, right? No, of course not. We proceeded carefully over time, and made small steps into the world of brand identities. We started learning about the essentials of brands, trying out techniques that were considered benchmarks for reaching a higher brand maturity, and studied which methods worked well, and which ones didn’t.

It took us quite a lot of time, and we needed to hit pause more times than one due to other challenges on the product level. Things that were more urgent or easier to be solved in the short term. So, with limited capacities and a somewhat narrow understanding of the field that is brand identity, we spent several years doing discovery work – taking us just a little bit closer to a solution every day.

Understanding Brand Management as a constant process, made up of different fields, helped us disconnect some of the challenges of Brand Identity Management, and allowed us to align them with other areas instead; like Enablement, Creation, Distribution, and Measurement of your brand.

This exercise helped us create smaller packages of initiatives, and to strengthen our product without being completely paralyzed by the daunting Big Topic.

Working with the Swiss Government & the OST University

For some, working with a university is a terrifying idea. The scientific process could seem like something that’d slow the process down when looking at it with normal business logic. Researchers are often thought of as people locked away in an ivory tower, pursuing obscure interests in their labs and, to add insult to injury, some of their findings do seem rather self-evident at times. Reality does not have to be that way though, and as we discovered, it really isn’t. At least when engaging in a government-funded Innosuisse (Switzerland’s innovation agency) project.

Innosuisse aims to assist Swiss SMEs and startups by providing state-of-the-art research led by Swiss universities. Such projects are initiated by businesses with innovative ideas but too many questions to tackle all on their own. With the most promising projects, the Swiss government steps in and funds the research work necessary, at a Swiss university.

Frontify chose to collaborate with the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland OST, and its Institute of Innovation, Design and Engineering IDEE specifically. Not only were they located in the same town (as our HQ) but, more importantly, they shared the same values and passion for innovation. This was the foundation of a straightforward, collaborative effort. The university could deploy its research muscles with the topics that needed an in-depth treatment, while Frontify could focus on realizing hands-on tests with a real user base and a real product – resulting in a tangible solution that is innovative as well as grounded on a sound scientific level.

Shape the Future of Brand Identity Management with Us

We’re both thrilled and lucky that we had the chance to work in-depth on this topic over the last few years. Working on the future of such an essential part of the brand experience is not just exciting, but challenging, every day. Today, we want to deliver our modern solution, digitally supported and with features ranging from what the small companies need, to the necessities of big enterprises, and everything between: for young startups to traditional businesses alike.

It’s time to work on your brand in a different way, and understand it better than ever. Here are some examples of the methods that are waiting for you:

  • Create a stunning Moodboard – and allow different teams and stakeholders to collaborate on the visual mood of your brand. Exchange photos, colors, illustrations, icons, and other inspirational things that help you translate your brand into visual characteristics.

  • Pick the Values that count – building a foundation for your brand that allows you to challenge (and optimize) everything you do. Always ask yourself: Are we still shaped by our values, do we need to update them, or is it necessary to adjust our work?

  • Travel in time with the Timeline – remember when everything started and how the journey of your brand has shaped who you are today. Which obstacles did you face along the way, and what did you learn from them?

All of these techniques were scientifically selected, with a lot of care, to deliver an efficient toolset to you – helping you discover and manage your brand identity in the digital age.

Oh, and good news: You can apply today, and join the Early Access Program to discover the new possibilities around Brand Identity Management, and help us shape a new product area that will help thousands of brands perform better today, and in the future.

Patrick Hummel
Patrick Hummel
Product Designer, Frontify
Esther Federspiel
Esther Federspiel
Lecturer & Project Manager, OST University