Posts Tagged ‘innovation’


Introducing On the Future

Thursday, December 4th, 2014


While you may read about a lot of trends as 2014 winds down, we’re happy to introduce On the Future, our first forecast of product and brand trends for 2015 and beyond. As you’ll see, our report is quite different. It goes beyond the coming year to see what brands and products will be up to several years from now. We deliver this in what we call Sterling Futurecasts. Each futurecast in an actual illustration depicting a product, service or item we believe will be brought to life thanks to the convergence of many aspects of our current reality.

Using a cross-section of cultural anthropology, market research, trends observation and forecasting, and industrial and experiential design, some of the Sterling Futurecasts include:

Urban Defense

The over-population of urban environments and the creation of more mega-cities will drive the creation of health and wellness products that help consumers navigate and fight environmental challenges. Sample products include pockets embedded with a silver-based antimicrobial nanotextile that sanitizes your hands on contact.


Wearables that track the steps you take or the food you eat are already falling behind the true potential for the convergence between health and technology. Future products will allow for up-to-the-minute reports on your blood composition in order to recommend changes to your diet and exercise regimen.

Frugeois (pronounced Froo-ZHwa)

Millennials and the generation that follows have each experienced the recent economic recession in their own way, and each has learned that conspicuous consumption and careless spending never ends well. For them, being frugal and finding new ways to reuse and repurpose what they already have is paramount.

We invite you to download the report and let us know what you think the future holds.


Defining Innovation

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


In a recent interview over at, Debbie discussed what drives innovation with Senior Curator for the Museum of Modern Art, Paola Antonelli.

Click here to see the interview

And learn all about Sterling’s own Innovation team by clicking here


A New Design Matters is UP!

Monday, January 27th, 2014
Join Debbie as she interviews Amanda Michel & Amy Webb, co-founders of Spark Camp!
The next generation convener, Spark Camp engineer productive collisions of talented people to tackle provocative questions, develop meaningful relationships and lead ideas into action.
Don’t miss this inspiring and propelling episode.
>>Click to listen here


Join Debbie as she interviews Amanda Michel & Amy Webb, co-founders of Spark Camp!

The next generation convener, Spark Camp engineer productive collisions of talented people to tackle provocative questions, develop meaningful relationships and lead ideas into action.

Don’t miss this inspiring and propelling episode.

>>Click to listen here


Sterling Buzz…

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Recently, Sterling completed an exciting new Innovation project for Sustain Condoms. We’re excited to unveil the new packaging and a terrific follow-up article in FastCoExist >>Click to Read More

‘Using only sustainable materials and working with out manufacturer in India, Bart Haney and Sterling Brands’ Innovation team developed a design that reflects our transparency as a brand as well as positions us as a more premium, discrete and aesthetically appealing product in the category.’

–Meika Hollender, Sustain



Helping Bayer Innovate for the Future

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Many senior executives recognize innovation as a strategic priority, but often focus just on opportunities in the short-term.  At Sterling Brands, we believe in managing innovation risk and reward across a portfolio of initiatives to create near-term revenue streams while cultivating longer-term breakthroughs.

Bayer Consumer Care and Sterling Innovation recently partnered to understand the relevance of big consumer trends and how they might shape the future of Bayer’s business, industry, and consumers — not just tomorrow, but over the next decade and beyond. We set out to identify new opportunities and areas where Bayer might make bold, innovative plays and create pathways to position the company for the future within these trendspaces.

How we did it

Our approach was to start big and wide, charting and prioritizing a canvas of relevant consumer trends that might give us a peek into Bayer’s future; then narrowing-in on the most promising innovation opportunities. One macro consumer trend that we focused on was dubbed Metromorphosis, which describes the social and structural transformations occurring in tomorrow’s megacities.

First, we engaged across the globe with members of the-Collaboratory, Sterling’s proprietary community of nearly 50,000 consumers, to better understand what Metromorphosis meant and to immerse ourselves in the lives of people who are actually living the trend. Because there was no way to screen explicitly for “Metromorphosis” consumers without introducing respondent bias, we established a set of trend “markers” — essentially, a fingerprint that identified people who were experiencing the trend and who had a deeper emotional connection & level of engagement with their city.

What we found

the-Collaboratory members provided a rich tapestry of stories and examples of how people experience the urban environment. We then coupled them with our trend analysis to reveal several interesting, interrelated themes:

URBAN WELLNESS the desire to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced within the urban environment

PURE LIVING consumer aspirations of living in a city free from pollution, trash, and environmental effluents and contaminants

INTELLIGENT CITY using information and connectivity to drive more harmonious city living

Next, we identified key consumer challenges within each theme, as well as chains of evidence that speak to how people are attempting to address and solve for those challenges — thus demonstrating a market need.  Together, they served as our springboard to action and innovation.

Transforming our findings into a multitude of new ideas again involved consumers as co-creators as part of a three-step process.  We tapped into the-Collaboratory and received a groundswell of ideas, sketches, photos, and product renderings — some incremental, some revolutionary. We work-shopped the ideas with Bayer, expanding, pivoting, refining, and blowing out these ideas even further.  Finally, we screened and funneled the most promising ideas down based on a set of well-defined criteria.

Though the details are proprietary, the leading future-facing concepts that met all of our screening criteria and garnered the most interest from Bayer represent relevant, unique and breakthrough ways to leverage and take action on big, global consumer trends — and ultimately innovate their business.


Sterling Buzz…

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

DeeDee Gordon, President of Sterling Brand’s Innovation group, recently participated in the LAUNCH 2020 Summit, a multi-day event that convened over 150 global innovators and thinkers to collectively imagine a world where the making of things has a minimal impact on people and the planet.

Founding partners NASA, NIKE, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of State formed LAUNCH in an effort to bring collective genius, unprecedented networks, and new resources to overcome some of humanity’s toughest sustainability challenges.

The summit also unveiled the LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement, an open call for innovation to transform the system of producing fabrics. LAUNCH 2013 is open to individuals and teams. In August the 10 strongest innovations will be selected and participants will take part in an immersive program that provides access to capital, creativity and capacity.


Sterling Buzz…

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Check out the Buzz from Innovation this week, as DeeDee Gordon shares her insights on how to innovate for the future.
How do we innovate for the future? It is a driving question for many businesses, but many of them are looking into too short-term of a future.  DeeDee Gordon provided a case study with insights into how to innovate not just for tomorrow, but for the decades to come.

Check out the buzz for Sterling Innovation this week, as DeeDee Gordon shares her insights on how to innovate for the future.


How do we innovate for the future? It is a driving question for many businesses, but many of them are looking into too short-term of a future.  DeeDee Gordon provided a case study with insights into how to innovate not just for tomorrow, but for the decades to come.

For the answers, click to read more.


Get amp’d

Friday, January 18th, 2013

This year, Audyssey launched a new media app that maximizes the listening experience on mobile devices: amp (Audyssey Media Player). Sterling Innovation partnered with Audyssey to manage the strategy, design, and frontend development of the app. Bart Haney, SVP of Innovation at Sterling, led the project.

Audyssey is known for its innovative audio technologies. With roots in R&D, Audyssey solves audio problems across a range of platforms (from IMAX theaters to home sound systems to car stereos) so the listener hears an accurate reproduction of the music or movie to which he/she is listening.

amp takes this offering one step further and delivers Audyssey’s technology in a mobile setting. The app provides headphone-specific optimization and innovative sound controls for the user’s iTunes music library.

How does it work? Audyssey tests and tunes headphones using its proprietary technology and then creates a profile that, when downloaded from the cloud and chosen in amp, provides optimal playback. All you have to do is download the app, choose your headphones, and start listening!

We had an awesome time working on this mobile app and adding yet another cred to the Innovation Group’s digital portfolio.

Visit the App Store to download amp today or the microsite to learn more about how it works!


SB Innovation Welcomes Bart Haney

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012


Bart Haney is the newest addition to the Innovation Group at Sterling, having joined the team as SVP – Innovation in May 2012. Bart has years of experience in entrepreneurial endeavors, education, and project management with clients ranging from nimble startups to Fortune 500 companies and huge global brands. Most recently, Bart hails from fuseproject, where he ran the New York studio and brought communication, coordination, and direction to fuseproject’s creative engagements.

“We’re so pleased to have Bart on the team. His expertise in product and structure design has really pushed our innovation offering to new levels. His energy and enthusiasm for what we do is infectious.”

- DeeDee Gordon, President, Innovation

At two months in, we thought it was about time to introduce Bart to the greater Sterling family right here on the 3rd Button. Here’s what Bart has to say for himself…

Q: So, Bart, you’ve taken an interesting path. Not everyone starts their own company immediately upon graduating Art Center College of Design. Tell us a little bit about what led you to where you are today.

A: It’s been a path of curiosity, exploration, and evolution.  My first company, Superhappybunny was formed at a time when micro-manufacturing was just starting to be within the grasp of well-trained designers. When my partners and I graduated from Art Center, we believed it was our responsibility to explore and guide where this would go. In order for our products to see the light of day, we needed to not only learn how to promote them out in the world, but also develop a business structure to sustain this endeavor.

Moving forward to fuseproject, I was able to hone the interaction of a design-centric vision with an evolving studio scale and philosophy. Building from the amazing vision of Yves, we were able to craft great design at the highest level for years, across an incredibly wide spectrum of challenges and brands.

All of this has led me to Sterling, where the approach to innovation and design, specifically DeeDee’s integration of articulate and well-vetted consumer engagement and co-creation, represents the next step forward for the process of product development. In a world where every consumer has a voice, we need to be amazing listeners, but even better filters to find the insights that will drive true and valuable innovation.

Q: You definitely seem passionate about what you do. What is it about Innovation that gets you so excited?

A: I am ecstatic about the idea of watching the ways of the world and finding those moments and opportunities where small focused change can make a huge impact on human behavior.

Q: What is your design philosophy? What do you feel are the building blocks that make or break great product and structure design?

A: Design Philosophy… that’s a hard one to pinpoint. If your job and your passion are to find and capitalize on moments of cultural evolution, your philosophy also needs to always be growing and adapting.

To me, great design done well is almost invisible. It’s evident when the first time you try something/interact with something new, something about it already feels familiar and instinctual. It is the result of an immense amount of research, exploration, invention and sweat, but to the user, it feels so effortless…THAT’S good design.

Q: What was it about Sterling that lured you from NYC to the West Coast to run the studio for the Innovation Group? What’s your vision for the Innovation Group moving forward?

A: It’s about coming back to my roots in design to harvest something fresh. That and the opportunity to work with DeeDee. She and I worked on a project many, many years ago. Her laser sharp vision on the inner workings of people and culture, as well as her “tell it like she sees it” attitude always stuck with me. I believe that this, mixed with my love of process and product, are going to have amazing results.

Q: And now for a serious question. After spending time in NY, San Fran, and LA, is the West coast really the best coast?

Two words : Avocados and sunshine.


DeeDee Gordon on Co-Creation in Design

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

On June 24th, DeeDee spoke at the 2012 Dieline Package Design Conference about a topic near and dear to our hearts—co-creation with consumers.

What is co-creation?

We define co-creation as the process in which consumers and experts collaborate in a meaningful way with brands and product developers. At Sterling, we believe that co-creation is about establishing an open transmission of ideas, and an honest exchange between a brand, our team, category and topic experts, and consumers. The result? Big, actionable ideas that resonate with consumers and address specific needs and motivations.

Why is co-creation so important in design?

While we believe co-creation is appropriate for any branding challenge that involves a human being as the end user, we’ve seen a growing need for co-creation specifically in package and structure design. This is due to the evolution of today’s consumers to become increasingly conscious of design, and as demanding about the presentation of a product as they are about the product itself.


Today’s consumers are inundated with beautiful design across all categories. They have come to expect nothing but the best when it comes to design.

The package is very often the first touchpoint of a brand with which a consumer interacts. To this end, it’s incredibly important that structure and package design speaks to consumers, piques their interest, and encourages trial and usage. Co-creation helps us to ensure that it does.

Co-creating with the-Collaboratory:

In almost all of our work with clients, we engage the-Collaboratory, our proprietary database of brand enthusiasts from around the world, to gather insights and to work with us to develop new products, services, and designs. We seed hypotheses into the-Collaboratory and then we receive feedback, builds, and even blue-sky ideas in response.


Sterling’s co-creation process involves a number of unique inputs and an open feedback loop with consumers and experts.

Keeping this feedback loop open with consumers is incredibly important and a task that we put a great deal of time and energy into. To this end, DeeDee rounded out her presentation at the Dieline Conference with some design assertions that we’ve heard first-hand from members of the-Collaboratory. What entices consumers? Gets them excited to try a new product? Keeps them coming back for more?  Here are some thoughts, straight from the mouths of members of the-Collaboratory:

Refined Simplicity

“Excess is out. I want understated, clean designs that let the product shine.“

Some examples:


Unico Musk perfume designed by Lavernia and Cienfuegos; Voda Vodka designed by Mass Design; Sifteo Cubes designed by New Deal Design

Global Influence

“I see inspiration from around the globe in everything I do. Packaging should be no different.”

Some examples:


Taiwan Centennial Blessing Tea designed by Bonho Inc.; Brickhouse Soaps designed by The Soap and Paper Factory; Ojon Hair Oil designed by designpackaging


“Hand-crafted packaging and structure is a key indicator of a high quality product…and I’m not one to settle.”

Some examples:


Bar Gelato by Naia, designed by Mette Hornung Rankin of Bureau of Betterment; Wahl’sche Schnapsbirne by Stahlemuhle

Tactile Curiosity

“There’s something about haptic packaging. If it makes me want to touch it, I’ll likely also want to buy it.”

Some examples:


Coop’s Hot Fudge designed by Marc Cooper; Seedbom by Kabloom, handmade in the UK; Ten over Six Unisex Perfumes designed by Henrik Vibskov

Sustainability and Substance

“These days, I want a package that’s more than just green. It needs to stand for something.”

Some examples:


Boxed Water designed by Kevin Hockin and Benjamin Gott; Guactruck Mobile Eatery packaging is designed by Michealle Lee (owner of the truck) and encourages consumers to bring their packaging back in order to receive a free meal; The Replenish cleaner bottle reduces materials usage by 90%, designed by Jason Foster

Display-Worthy Design Objects

“I try to surround myself with beautiful design objects. Why should packaging and structure be any different?”

Some examples:


Evian by Jean Paul Gaultier; 21 Drops designed by Purpose-Built; Lov Organic tea

Mobile Life

“Everything in my life is mobile. I expect packaging to follow suit. I want streamlined, portable options.”

Some examples:


Help Remedies designed by; GoGo Squeez Applesauce designed by Menage a Trios; Loffle Mich designed by Createam

What does this mean for brands?

In today’s environment, brands must do more to surprise and delight consumers. At Sterling, we believe that co-creation is one important way to do this.

As brand practitioners, we must not only listen to consumers, but also engage them in the creation process. We believe that the best packaging of the future, won’t just be designed for the consumer, it will be designed with the consumer.

DeeDee Gordon, President of Innovation at Sterling

Check back in for Full coverage of the concurrent, HOW Design Live Conference from the expert lens of Debbie Millman-Coming Soon!