New BTR Park firm offers inside look at product development process

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of the Newell Rubbermaid Design Center.

The Newell Rubbermaid Design Center

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A new corporate partner at Western Michigan University's Business Technology and Research Park is offering members of the campus and surrounding communities a chance to get an insider's view of the consumer product design and development process.

Newell Rubbermaid's new Design Center formally opened May 19 at the BTR Park. Product testing by consumers is one part of the A-to-Z design process in the 40,000-square-foot building, say company officials. In a special lab there, parents are brushing their daughters' hair, construction workers are swinging hammers, expectant parents are testing infant car seats and people with various hand sizes are trying out pens.

Inside the design center

It's all being done in the name of product development for consumer goods that bear such iconic brand names as child care products from Graco; writing tools from Sharpie, Paper Mate, Waterman and Parker; label makers from Dymo; pots and pans from Calphalon; tools from Hilmor and Lenox; hair products from Goody; and many more.

The variety of its consumer and commercial products means that Newell Rubbermaid is on the lookout for an equally wide range of real consumers to contribute to the designs of products that potentially millions of people will use. Marketing Partners Inc., of St. Joseph, which for years has recruited consumers to test prototypes for Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp., is handling the recruiting process for Newell Rubbermaid.

"We're excited to be working with Newell Rubbermaid's usability team," says Michael Beall, the marketing firm's president. "It's a boost for Southwest Michigan that this innovative company has opened such an advanced facility in this area."

Those recruited receive between $100 and $200 for about an hour of testing prototype products in the Usability Lab, says Beall. The next product tested will be a prototype for an Expo dry eraser, and classroom professionals—including college-level instructors—are among those being sought to work one-on-one with an interviewer.

Slots are open for that Aug. 14-15 testing and those interested in seeing if they qualify for this particular study can go to

Studies are going on year-round, and most pay $150 for about an hour. Participants are not asked to buy anything. Those who'd like to be considered for future test sessions can sign up as a test panel candidate by filling out the survey at

About Newell Rubbermaid

Newell Rubbermaid is a Fortune 500 company that had 2013 sales of about $5.7 billion. It has more than 40 brands in its product portfolio.

The University's BTR Park point person Bob Miller, associate vice president for community outreach, says the company's presence at the BTR Park is important for a variety of reasons, and one important one is the potential for research and additional product testing initiatives with WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which is located nearby.

"The University's relationship with Newell Rubbermaid has really hit the ground running," Miller says.