Mattress Designs That Led to a Cultural Transformation
How the world’s largest mattress manufacturers transitioned from operations-centered to customer-centered
Sealy and IDEO first collaborated in 2008, to rethink the design of its Stearns & Foster line. For years, Sealy, the largest mattress manufacturer in the world, had taken the standard industry approach to selling mattresses and watched market share and sales flatten; it knew something had to change. Stearns & Foster evolved from a single product design into a keystone for transforming the organization.
IDEO helped Sealy use actionable consumer insights to develop a scalable design methodology and new brand principles, which it applied to product design, operational and manufacturing decision-making processes, and sales and marketing strategy. This “brand-to-product” framework was subsequently used for three separate and consecutive product launches—Stearns & Foster, Embody, and Posturepedic—resulting in an overhaul of 85 percent of Sealy’s mattress portfolio.
A design language informed the tailored elements of the mattresses.
Tempur-Pedic was already working with IDEO on a new mattress design when it acquired Sealy in 2013. It was also interested in how design thinking and human-centered design could improve its business. Once solely focused on the technological elements of designing a mattress, together with IDEO, Tempur-Pedic redesigned the outer shells of its mattresses to reflect the quality on the inside. This design change led to the company to look at new ways to infuse design into their products.
“The initial project was to design the mattress,” said Thomas Overthun, associate partner and design director at IDEO. “But the second project was to create a whole design language from the mattress out to what it meant for any other product, from pillows to blankets and other accessories. It eventually became bigger than just the mattress.”
Working on the Tempur-Pedic/Sealy relationship has been gratifying, said IDEO partner and design director Michael Hendrix, because although home goods can be thought of as simply products, nothing could be further from the truth. IDEO and Tempur-Pedic/Sealy changed the course of the mattress company's business through the transformative power of designing where, and ultimately how, people sleep. And in the process, the organization itself changed as well, moving siloed departments to cross-functional teams, with the brand division central to their cooperation, which led to consistent and aligned decisions across the board.
Contouring lines are designed to look as comfortable as they feel.
Some of the projects include:
Stearns & Foster Luxury Mattress
Sealy teamed up with IDEO to develop a design language for Stearns & Foster mattresses that would reestablish what the brand stood for. Through redefining brand principles and rounds of prototypes that focused on evocative details, the new Stearns and Foster mattress was the highest rated in Sealy’s portfolio since it started keeping records, and initial retailer orders were three times what management projected.
An icon in the mattress industry was brought into the 21st century by developing a new product that delivered on the long-running promise of the brand. Together, IDEO and Sealy designed a product that focused on holistic back health. In its earnings report, the company said US bedding sales for the quarter were up 10.6 percent, to $253.4 million, a figure driven by the new product line’s introduction. According to Sealy’s Q3 earnings report, the Posturepedic launch represented the largest and fastest rollout in the company’s history.
Embody by Sealy
The project began by defining the market opportunities for all-foam beds, and ended with the modern, streamlined Embody mattress as well as a simplified design language, free of industry jargon, to help retailers talk about the mattress to customers. “Sealy collaborated with IDEO to create an approachable and attractive mattress that delivers the simple, healthy rest consumers want with a selling story they can easily understand,” said Jodi Allen, Sealy’s Chief Marketing Officer.
Tempur-Pedic Sleep System
Best known for the revolutionary, NASA-proven Tempur material inside its mattresses, Tempur wanted to transform the exterior of its mattresses to match the caliber of innovation inside. Together with IDEO, Tempur created a new sleep system, including an easily removable and washable fabric mattress cover. “Tempur-Pedic was born of innovation, but we were never a design-driven company until we worked with IDEO,” said Patrice Varni, senior vice president of brand marketing, Tempur Sealy North America, LLC. “Seeing consumer need in a new way through IDEO’s eyes has transformed us. Our product design, our creative psyche, our brand are all fundamentally changed by this sharper focus. This collaboration has given us all a renewed sense of pride.”
Key elements of the new design lexicon include pattern and materiality.