Exercise | September 2013

An Exercise in Designing a Travel Coffee Mug

by Elie Ofek and Michael Norris


In recent years design has emerged as a critical factor in the success of many new products. This case exercise provides a hands-on way to experience the design process and offers a structured approach for incorporating key considerations that can aid in effective design. Students are asked to generate ideas for the design of a new reusable travel coffee mug. Relevant information on the consumer coffee market and on existing coffee mugs is provided. To assist students in this task, they are presented with an approach employed by the design firm RKS and which has been called Psycho-Aesthetics (PA) by its pioneer Ravi Sawhney. The PA process involves in-depth market research and visualization, a lens to assess existing competitive offerings, the creation of potential customer personas, and imagining a "hero's journey." When combined, these analyses allow designers to conceive elements that will result in a new product or service that delivers a unique customer connection for a specific target market. The exercise gives students an example of a company that successfully used PA principles to design and launch a new reusable water bottle in the late-2000s. It then asks them to follow the PA process to design a reusable travel coffee mug. The exercise includes exhibits to help students visualize the market, and an appendix with a detailed explanation of the PA process.

Keywords: New Product Development; innovation; design; Market research; competitive positioning; Design; Product Development; Consumer Products Industry;


Ofek, Elie, and Michael Norris. "An Exercise in Designing a Travel Coffee Mug." Harvard Business School Exercise 514-042, September 2013.