Many companies returned from the holidays with a focus on 2019—finalizing financial targets, planning new product introductions, completing budgets. No doubt, there are discussions taking place on what worked, what didn’t, and where to improve. For those of us that work in product design and development, it is a time to look at past product introductions and assess their successes (or their challenges). It is often a time to consider holes in existing product lines, refreshing old designs, or opportunities for completely new ones. As you assess your product design and development needs for 2019, Catalyst would like to offer a few perspectives and trends to consider:


There is little doubt that we are a society on the move and we like to take our stuff with us. To satisfy that need, we see a trend favoring products that have flexibility built into their design (i.e. easily set-up, easily disassembled, and adaptable to different environments and/or needs). Modularity will be a key factor in this and products that have features which can be easily added or fulfill multiple needs will also be more marketable. 


Environmentally conscious products will continue to be popular. This is a trend that has been in play for a number of years, but we see it becoming more prevalent as low-cost producing countries implement jurisdiction to reduce pollution and negative environmental impact. The need to become more competitive from an environmental standpoint will become more critical. As single-use products such as drinking straws and plastic cutlery continue to lose appeal, other design solutions will be needed to replace them.


UX is going to be driven by personalization, customization, and accessibility. Augmented reality will continue to evolve as well as biometric interfacing for products. But the real trend Catalyst sees in the area of User Experience is in simplification of user interface, especially in the area of voice and gesture recognition. This, in turn, will be driven by a necessity to understand end-user needs by applying techniques beyond the basics of Design Thinking. User-centric product design will be essential to successful innovation for many business models.


We are simply amazed at the amount of press 3D printing has received in the past couple of years since this is not new technology. Catalyst was utilizing Stereolithography (SLA) in the mid 90’s, and we continue to use it for design verification to this day. 3D printing is not just for engineers anymore, however. From printing specialized prosthetics to entire houses, the technology continues to find new markets and uses. We see this trend continuing and believe 3D printing will evolve into a viable, cost-effective means for the mass production of OEM parts and consumer products. Further, we see end-use consumer applications growing. Companies that provide products which require reoccurring replacement items (i.e. razors & razor blades) will be able to send files to consumers so that they can “grow” their own consumable parts in the comfort of their own homes.


Design trends sometimes seem to vacillate between extremes. Sleek lines and crisp color hues favoring silver, black, and metallic have given way to smooth flowing curves mimicking natural, organic shapes.  As consumers, we have become more techsavvy and accepting of new methods to accomplish old tasks. But, our choice in aesthetics still often favor shapes and colors that are comfortable to touch and desirable to look at. Catalyst sees a trend in which even the most complex products will need to be wrapped in smooth packages with organic lines to appeal to consumers. Materials such as plastic and wood will be essential in supporting this trend.

When considering your product development plans for 2019, it may make sense to get a fresh perspective outside of your industry. Or, if your development plans stretch your internal resources, you may need a partner to help capture opportunities. Regardless, of whether you partner with a design consultancy or utilize internal resources, Catalyst would like to wish you the very best for a successful 2019.

Catalyst Product Development Group