Mechanical Engineering

Differentiation by design—the bionic wrench story

October 06, 2017

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Porter Hall 100

In business, the practice of new product design is a multi-faceted creative quest. Although designers invest considerable time and effort into the new product development, their efforts often prove inadequate in the face of competition. Entrepreneurs often seek new competitive advantages as the outcome of these creative quests, and yet truly innovative and competitive products are rare, as their efforts often fall short of the original design aims when put to the test in the marketplace.

Through the presentation of the entrepreneurial story of the Bionic Wrench, Professor Dan Brown will be sharing a successful marketplace outcome resulting from the Differentiation by Design (DXD) development approach. Although a qualitative narrative in nature, this autobiographic experience builds on the unique insights and the access to rich quantitative competitive marketplace evidence of a design based entrepreneurial experience.


Professor Dan Brown, Ph.D.
Clinical Professor
Director, Ford Prototyping Lab
Segal Design Institute—Northwestern University

Dan Brown, is an award winning designer, inventor, entrepreneur & professor, in the Segal Design Institute—Northwestern University. While serving in management roles of increasing responsibility in the rapidly globalizing marketplace of the 1980's, Dan quickly discovered the necessity of creating protectable competitive advantages to sustain a business model. Dan launched his own Product Design consultancy, Consul-Tech Concepts, in 1991 based on creating competitive advantages. Dan’s philosophy for this new approach was “Differentiation by Design®”, a design process that strategically focuses on potential “white spaces” early in the design process. In 2001 Dan embarked on a case study of this process which resulted in the creation of the Bionic Wrench®. Today as it approaches 2.5 million units sold, Dan has had the satisfaction of creating an innovative and successful product as well as the challenges of fighting patent infringers knockoffs in the marketplace. After 30 years of design practice in business Dan started teaching full time at Northwestern 7 years ago, recently earning his Ph.D. in Design from Coventry University in the UK.

Upcoming Events