HOW TO DE­SIGN A PROD­UCT

From CON­CEPT to prod­uct CRE­ATION, there’s A LOT more to cre­at­ing a NEW OB­JECT than meets THE EYE. An EX­PERT takes us through his PROCESS.

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an ex­pert walks us through sketch con­cepts to fin­ished prod­uct

New­cas­tle-based prod­uct de­sign com­pany De­sign An­thol­ogy works with clients from idea con­cept through to fin­ished prod­uct, tick­ing off great brand­ing and a mar­ket­ing strat­egy along the way. Prin­ci­pal de­signer and co-founder Josh Jef­fress takes us through the com­pany’s de­sign process – from a client’s light­bulb mo­ment to phys­i­cally cre­at­ing a prod­uct, and mak­ing sure it will ac­tu­ally sell.

1 CLIENT LI­AI­SON

“When we talk to our clients, we take them through our process first up, and of­fer them our ser­vices phase by phase – we tai­lor our ser­vices very much like an ar­chi­tect. We do things pretty dif­fer­ently [from other de­sign com­pa­nies]. We of­fer work­shops to all our clients – it’s to do with mak­ing sure that ev­ery­one’s on the same page. There are so many ben­e­fits to [the work­shops] be­fore we even start the project, be­cause the cus­tomer has done that due dili­gence and they’re re­ally on board.” 2 WORKSHOPPING A NEW PROD­UCT “We run two work­shops. One of them is tai­lored to in­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses that have a brand-new idea. We try to get them to es­tab­lish what they want to do, what they’re try­ing to of­fer the mar­ket, what the sell price is and what the key ben­e­fits are – all the re­ally crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to start the de­sign process. Mostly we say: ‘Iden­tify who you’re sell­ing to, why they want it, why they’d pay money for it, what fea­tures they want, and what it’s go­ing to do for them.’ We walk through that process, and then we start talk­ing about how many [of the prod­uct] they want to make and how big their mar­ket is. We also have an­other work­shop, which we do with com­pa­nies that are al­ready man­u­fac­tur­ing; they might want to re­fresh their prod­uct of­fer­ing, they may want to make it more ef­fi­cient, they might have re­branded and want to add new fea­tures. We’ve got about 33 points with which we eval­u­ate their cur­rent of­fer­ing, and then we come up with sug­ges­tions.”

3 EVAL­U­A­TION

“Some­times they don’t pur­sue the idea, be­cause it’s flawed – which is good, be­cause it’s sav­ing them a lot of money. [The work­shop is] a bit of an in­sur­ance pol­icy. Al­ter­na­tively, out of that process, we’ll [some­times] come up with an al­ter­na­tive idea. We stop at that point, and give them a re­port that

says, ‘This is your idea, this is your tar­get mar­ket, this is how many we’re go­ing to make, these are the key fea­tures that it in­cludes.’”

4 CON­CEPT DE­VEL­OP­MENT

“If we’re mak­ing 10, or 1000 or 100,000 [prod­ucts], that changes the way we approach the con­cept. Some­times we’ll do cus­tom fur­ni­ture, or mass-pro­duced med­i­cal prod­ucts; they all have dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria. We’re very prag­matic about prod­uct de­sign, be­cause you have to give peo­ple a con­cept through which they can make a vi­able prod­uct. You don’t want to give them an awe­some con­cept, [if] they can never man­u­fac­ture it. So when we’re de­vel­op­ing the con­cept, we’re al­ready start­ing to think about how we’re go­ing to man­u­fac­ture it, what kind of ma­te­ri­als we’ll be us­ing, what pro­cesses we’ll be us­ing.”

5 MAR­KET RE­SEARCH

“We tell our cus­tomers to go out and do some mar­ket re­search for them­selves. We’re big on val­i­dat­ing the idea. We give them the con­cept and then say, ‘You go out and test whether it’s ac­tu­ally worth­while pur­su­ing.’ So they’ll talk to clients, they’ll do fo­cus groups – or they’ll pay us to do that, de­pend­ing on how big the client is. We’ve sug­gested to our clients a few times to do Kick­starter cam­paigns – not to fund it, but just to get feed­back, to make sure our pitch and our of­fer­ing was right.”

6 CON­CEPT VAL­I­DA­TION “Ba­si­cally con­cept val­i­da­tion is test­ing that what we’ve de­vel­oped in the con­cept can be tran­si­tioned into a real prod­uct. Some­times we tweak [the con­cept] a lit­tle bit. We’ll do a bit of fine tweak­ing and then, de­pend­ing on what we’re build­ing, might make a test rig or pro­to­type to test an idea, check the er­gonomics and make sure [the client is] happy with the over­all pack­aged lay­out be­fore we pro­ceed into the next phase.”

7 DE­TAIL DE­SIGN

“Now we de­tail all the in­tri­ca­cies of the prod­uct. We look at all the fine de­tails and make sure we get them right so we can then mass-pro­duce it. That also in­cludes ap­ply­ing the brand and fin­ishes, and all those ex­tra de­tails that make a prod­uct more ap­peal­ing. We do this stage in-house.”

8 PRO­TO­TYPE

“We do an­other pro­to­type to es­tab­lish that all the de­sign de­tail is cor­rect. Some­times prod­ucts need to be cer­ti­fied, so we’ll start the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process here. We func­tion­ally test, mak­ing sure all the com­po­nents fit to­gether like they should, also mak­ing sure all the hard­ware that needs to be in­te­grated fits as in­tended. A lot of the time we’re work­ing around the elec­tron­ics – so the holes have to be in the right place, and the but­tons have to be in the right place.”

9 PRE­PARE FOR MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING “At this point we pro­duce all the doc­u­men­ta­tion, so pro­duc­tion draw­ings, pro­duc­tion-ready 3D mod­els, spec­i­fi­ca­tions, fin­ishes, all that sort of stuff. We’ll de­velop that and put it into a pack­age, and ei­ther the client runs with that, or we start se­lect­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers. With the man­u­fac­tur­ers, you’ve got to be very spe­cific in what you re­quire. We put a lot of work into our doc­u­men­ta­tion, and we’re very spe­cific in what we re­quire, prod­uct- and time-wise.”

10 TOOL­ING

“Tool­ing takes be­tween eight and 12 weeks, and what we’ll get from the man­u­fac­turer is an ‘off tool’ sam­ple. They make the tool, and put some plas­tic into it and send it to us to make sure it’s all good. We have the op­tion to make some ad­just­ments. If we ap­prove it, ev­ery­thing gets fin­ished, and you’ll get a sam­ple, with the fin­ishes ap­plied, and then it’s into pro­duc­tion. We say to [clients], ‘The draw­ings and the spec­i­fi­ca­tion are your con­tract, if you get de­liv­ered prod­uct that doesn’t con­form, then you don’t pay for it.’”

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