In this episode…
Andy Bartlett, a UK-based product designer, joins Renaud again to discuss the industrial design process in detail. Following on from a recent episode where he introduced what industrial design is and how to work with designers, this time the process you can expect the designer to follow between being hired and handing off the completed designs for development and manufacture is explained. It can be broken down into 6 rough phases, and each of these is discussed.
Why is this helpful?
Most importers with a new product concept need to work with an industrial designer. So this will help you understand the process they follow and where you will be involved.
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00:00 – Greetings & introduction.
This episode looks at industrial design from the point of view of startups and SMEs who want to develop a new product, have a concept and target user in mind, but who now need to do the industrial design of the product (especially electro-mechanical products).
03:13 – What does the ID process typically include?
It’s a lot more than receiving sketches from a designer and commenting on what you like or don’t about the designs. A lot more goes on behind the scenes. There are 6 phases in the typical industrial design process:
- Clarification of needs
- Early discovery
- Initial concepts
- Focus on 1 concept
- Detailed aesthetics
- Handover & follow up
04:29 – Clarification of needs.
You need a high-level design intent idea – explain the idea and who it is for and how it will be used. If possible, document it with a list of requirements, such as USB ports needed, type of display to be used, etc. The designer at this point will start to identify the key constraints, difficulties, etc, in the design to be faced in order to create a mature design.
The designer will understand the client’s product requirements (also time and budget), gather preconceptions from them and understand how they want them to work (the scope’s limitations).
A real-time conversation about the brief is better than a written one. Communication via a zoom call and considering other similar/competitor products that already exist is a good way to quickly get started.
Deliverables: Map out the process (the 6 phases), the number of concepts to be explored, visuals, supporting documentation to explain design intent, frequency of communication for reviews, typical industrial design process journies to help the client understand how it will work.
16:20 – Early discovery.
Get an understanding of typical users and use cases of the product, especially when some designers may be working on a new product category. Similar products will be studied, considering how brands present themselves, engage consumers, etc. Designers will also seek to understand the client’s brand values: quality, price point, where and how it will be sold, marketing, and launch plans. This helps the designer understand how far they can go in the design process and manage any unrealistic expectations.
19:19 – Initial concepts.
Start with a broad exploration of different concepts. Here is where drawing actually begins and the designer starts from building blocks that are the basic requirements of the product (such as its type, need for a display of a certain size, buttons, heating element, USB port, etc).
Several concepts will be made, three to five is a good number, and clients will often pick out the elements they like from them and the final design becomes a hybrid of all of them. Sketches may be drawn in illustrator with hand notes and discussed via zoom for fast feedback on the vision of the designer – it is more about aesthetics at this point than the finer details of the product. CMF (color, material, finish) may come into it here, too, and the designer will be thinking about these at this point.
Start to prepare mockups, to feel ‘Form, Fit, & Function.’ These do not need to even be in 3D, 2D paper mockups can illustrate scale, etc, well and are very fast to create.
33:48 – Focus on 1 concept.
After discussions and weighing pros and cons, pick one concept. This is driven by the customer, although the designer may provide opinions. Strict project management is required at this stage to keep the project focused and not drifting. It may be necessary to go back and consider other ideas in some cases, but the focus is on selecting one concept.
The designer almost always discusses a ‘minimal viable product’ with more advanced designs to be considered for a V2.0 or 3.0 of a product in order to decide on a manufacturable product design. The designer may also flag up possible production issues, as the design may look very nice but without a very good manufacturer or top-level process (such as metal plating, for example), it may be hard to reproduce the design in mass production.
41:20 – Handover & follow up.
The designer should provide a PDF to the product development and production teams used by the client including CMF information (Pantone colors, materials, etc), 3D CAD drawings including aesthetic and mechanical elements, and enough information to allow them to reproduce the product and manufacture it commercially.
42:58 – Detailed aesthetics.
Spec colors by using renderings, sample swatches (such as from Pantone), or physical examples from an existing product. A part may be made using the correct color and be sent to the client for their approval of it. 3D renderings need to represent how a color will truly appear as accurately as possible (a product may not appear as a single ‘flat’ color as different angles and surfaces may look different).
45:08 – Follow up once the product is being developed.
During the New Product Introduction process (product development, sampling, and prototyping, and pilot run stages) the engineering and production teams may challenge certain assumptions the industrial designer has made and some adjustments may be required, so it is good practice to keep them engaged in case changes need to be made. During mass production processes may need to be used that end up with the product looking very slightly different. The industrial designer can confirm whether the design is still aligned with the approved concept and design or not (known as the design validation testing or DVT phase in consumer electronics).
47:27 – Wrapping up.
- What Does An Industrial Designer Do? [Podcast]
- Why You Need Mature Product Designs BEFORE Working With A Chinese Manufacturer!
- Why Product Reliability Testing Is A MUST During Product Design [Podcast]
- A Product Designer’s Tips For New Product Launches
- How Bad Product Design Leads to Many Quality Issues
- Is Your New Product Design Ready for Manufacturing in China? [5 Questions]
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