Book Review: Creating Products in the Age of Design

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Book reviews are typically created for new books. However, I own a number of great books on creativity, innovation and design that are lesser known. This is one of them – it takes a scientific look at the role of “style” in product design.

In this nonfiction work, Dr. Besemer makes a case for how to evaluate and nurture creative products. The book begins with a journey through product successes and product failures. Dr. Besemer then dives into consumer behavior and details the psychological, socioeconomic and marketing reasons behind why we buy. The remainder of the book is dedicated to Dr. Besemer’s Creative Product Analysis Model (CPAM) and the Creative Product Semantic Scale (CPSS) – a valid and reliable online assessment used to evaluate creative products. Readers will learn the behind-the-scenes story of Dr. Besemer’s work, gain an understanding of Creative Product Analysis, discover the importance of Style, learn techniques for generating new product ideas, and practice conducting a Creative Product Analysis Study.

Creating Products in the Age of Design: How to Improve Your New Product Ideas by Susan P. Besemer, New Forums, 2006 Paperback, 206 pp. ISBN 158107119-1, $25.95


In her study of creativity, Dr. Besemer noticed people made “frequent, sometimes harsh, judgments of creative products” and became curious about how people decided one product was creative while another was not (Besemer, 2006, p. 41). In looking at product evaluation criteria, Dr. Besemer found a large and varied swath. Examination and research of the criteria led to the creation of a theoretical model, the CPAM (pictured below). The dimensions of the CPAM include Novelty, Resolution and Style.

Over time, the CPAM fed into the creation of a judging instrument, the CPSS. Empirical studies of the CPSS showed it was a reliable tool for “discern(ing) differences between similar products that differed only moderately from one another” (Besemer, 2006, p. 47). Of the three dimensions, research on the CPSS highlighted the importance of Style.  For, Style can be used to add Novelty to a product, as well as, aid in Resolution.

The CPSS provides a way to evaluate creative products while nurturing creativity. Solidly grounded in research, the CPSS helps product evaluators provide “fair” and “formative” judgments. By creating a common language around product evaluation, the CPSS help to improve a product by aiding teams in understanding which of the dimensions is the weakest so that they can focus on improving that particular dimension.


Generally speaking, Creating Products in the Age of Design was a quick read. Dr. Besemer’s work in creative products is impressive. The amount of rigor in the research is evident throughout. Because I had interviewed Dr. Besemer and read her theoretical and empirical studies prior to the book, I had better context for understanding the CPAM and CPSS.

One way to improve the book would be to include one-time access to the CPSS online assessment tool so that readers could experience the instrument first hand. The Gallup organization uses this method in Rath’s (2007) Strengths Finder 2.0. This feature may be a future consideration, as currently, each CPSS evaluation is accompanied by Dr. Besemer’s follow up debrief. By opening up access to the CPSS to readers who purchase the book, it may be possible to collect enough data to benchmark categories of products.


Creating Products in the Age of Design offers readers a primer in consumer behavior accompanied by stories of product successes and failures. Leveraging the CPAM and the CPSS, one is able to use the dimensions of Novelty, Resolution and Style, to objectively evaluate a creative product. Because the CPSS is a quantitative, valid and reliable instrument, product designers can confidently review scores and work on improving the lowest rated dimensions.


Besemer, S. P. (2006). Creating products in the age of design. How to improve your new product ideas! Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, Inc.

Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0: A new and updated edition of the online test from Gallup’s now discover your strengths. Washington, D. C: The Gallup Organization.

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