The DNA of Design: Developing a Global Platform While Allowing for Customization

Sheryl Connelly is the head of Ford's Global Trends and Futuring Division, where she separates trend from fad and helps the auto maker determine what global changes will influence the market in years to come.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: You spoke about globalization. I assume, when you're looking globally at trends, it changes very rapidly per country, when you look at different countries. Ford plays in a lot of different countries around the world, but we also have the One Ford plan, which is going toward more common platforms and common vehicles.

How do you recommend adapting your vehicles to local trends, when you're going toward common platforms? Is that a challenge?

Sheryl Connelly: Sure. When the Trends and Futuring Team was established in early 2000, their mandate was to become a center of excellence. The idea was that Trends and Futuring wasn't new to Ford. You had people in Strategy or PD or Design that were always thinking about the future, but they weren't always sharing their ideas with everyone else.

Ford of Europe might have their set of trends; Ford South America might have a different set of trends. The concern was that this disparate work might produce inconsistent but, more worrisome, incompatible trends.

The early work of the Trends team was to globalize it. We said, "Regardless of where you are in the world, when you're having a discussion about the future, these are the things you should pay attention to."

As our work has become more sophisticated and nuanced, now we say, "Here's the global trend, but let me tell you how the implications are regional." Aging is a global trend, but it feels quite different in China than it does in Germany, or Brazil. You play against that, and that's where we start to do that.

In terms of our global platforms, that was really important in terms of manufacturing efficiency, and also brand equity; making sure that Ford stood for the same thing. Wherever you were, whatever car you bought, or truck or SUV, it still had these hallmarks, the DNA of design.

We still do that, but then when you market it regionally there are some elements of customization that can be tweaked, so that's more reflective of the marketplace and the consumer body.

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Brendan Byrnes owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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