To understand how a successful product borns I decided to interview CMF designers that you should know.

I started with whom I consider the most important: Reiko Abo Morrison, Industrial design consultant specializing in CMF development and trend research/forecasting for consumer electronics.

Her trend colours research are in almost every home in the world thanks to Xbox 360 and Xbox One
for which she designed the look and feel.

Who is Reiko Abo Morrison?

I am a Color, Material, Finish Strategist and Trending Consultant.  I’m also a mother of two boys, a wife and a down to earth person.

What does CMF designer means to you?

A CMF designer to me is someone who cares about the details of a product and how those details can change perceptions or feelings towards the product.

How is changed the choice of materials process since you have started this work?

Technologies mature over the years. With the push for devices to get thinner and lighter, materials suppliers have developed super strong materials that can have thin walls using special molding technologies like gas assist. Coatings keep getting more durable. Color pigments are getting cleaner and brighter. It’s really fun for me to see these things change over time, for me the past 20 years.

In Italy sexism is still very strong and women find hard to succeed, have you ever encountered this kind of issues or other discrimination in your career?

Not too much but it does exist. The director of my Industrial Design program in college went out of his way to teach me about the stigma of women not being respected in the Industrial Design profession.  I’ve only encountered three clients that clearly gave me a hard time but didn’t treat other men that said the same things I did a hard time.  It’s difficult and frustrating to be in that situation because no matter how much research I do to back up my recommendations, those types of people will always second guess a woman. It’s unfortunate and I’m glad I don’t deal with it all the time. When I have encountered sexism, I stand my ground very firmly, state what I have to say objectively without getting emotional. It’s good exercise really and I have always looked at those experiences as learning lessons and opportunities to grow.

Which kind of path you’d suggest to someone that wants to become CMF designer?

I would suggest interning and working for companies that embrace CMF and see the value of CMF design. Some companies don’t get it and will not invest time or resources into CMF development.

Can you tell us about a project that hasn’t been approved but that you are particular affectionate to?

I worked on the new Xbox One recently with an alliance called Mesh Collective that I helped co-found. It was a quick Trend and CMF study at the tail end of the development cycle. None of the CMF directions that we proposed were directly translated to the final product release, or so I thought.  Microsoft ended up using their Liquid Black that was already used on the previous Xbox so I was initially disappointed.  But I recently just learned that the Liquid Black is actually a very complex black with various color undertones, mainly blue which is in line with one of our proposals that was called Ink Obsidian which is a blue-black.  So at least our Trend and CMF study helped to validate their final choice, which for logistical reasons made sense to carry on the Liquid Black legacy.

How many people works with you?

That is in constant flux, depending on the project.  Most projects I work on by myself. Some projects I will collaborate with 2-3 other designers or engineers.

One of the yours most recent work is about the Xbox One, can you explain which was your role and how it was different from the other projects that you ran?

Microsoft hired Mesh Collective, an alliance of creative professionals with a specific focus on Socio-Cultural and CMF trend research.  I am the CMF component of Mesh and Lisa Yong heads up the Socio-Cultural and Trend research efforts. This division of efforts works out really well and I actually prefer working this way.  Lisa does the upfront research which builds a foundation and framework for my CMF recommendations.  While she is doing the research, I can focus on technology research and address issues like using specific resins that will affect the final colors.  Working in tandem like this allows us to pack in a lot of research and deliver very comprehensive knowledge to our clients in a shorter amount of time than if we were working individually.  Once the research is done, we are able to validate the CMF recommendations that are tailored to the target consumers and brand objectives.  Most projects I work on, I end up handling the whole process, which means the depth of the research is limited unless the client has a longer timeframe to complete the work within.  But now days, everyone needs the work to be done yesterday so collaborating with other designers is a very effective way to go.


At the page bottom you can found an interesting gallery with Reiko’s works.