The Industrial Designer’s Sure Path to Best-Selling Products
For every 7 ideas for new products, 4 will be pursued, undergoing Research and Development (R&D), 1.5 will reach the market, and only one will succeed. After years of research in the field of product design and development, companies and entrepreneurs still invest huge amounts of time and effort in products that are destined to fail. This reality, though prevalent, can be avoided. The challenge is transforming R&D from a high-risk gamble into a systematic process with substantial chances of success. This article offers such a process, based on the best practices, methodologies, and techniques of professional Industrial Design.
According to the definition of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Industrial Design (ID) is a “professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value, and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer”. An industrial designer combines visual and artistic skills with engineering expertise. The designer’s mission is to coherently express the intended use and perception of a product through the right choices of form and function. Product form is determined by factors like shape, color, and texture. The function should ideally be achieved in a straightforward manner that suits the real-life conditions in which the product will need to perform. Experienced Industrial Designers can often surpass the original product specification, based on their vast knowledge of design, engineering, production methods, and marketing.
Research and Product Definition
At this stage, the scope, usability and functional requirements of the product are defined. The main operating principle is determined and the main electronic elements, if any, are selected. In parallel, risk analysis is performed for all possible design concepts, ensuring that the target price and the competitive advantages defined in the business plan are maintained. In some cases, a Proof of Concept (POC) is required to verify that the design approach selected is technically sound.
Many people can envision one or two ideas for a new product and even sketch their general outline fairly well. However, when required to provide detail or suggest alternatives, they usually fail. Professional Industrial Designers can offer a wide range of optional solutions in a concise and clear way. During the conceptual design phase, ideas are transformed into illustrations and drawings, and a design concept is selected. Sometimes, 3D models are created using a variety of mediums such as paper, plastic, carton or foam. At this stage, market needs, competitive products, and pricing constraints are thoroughly analyzed. This process might be time consuming but it is time well spent, especially since the conceptual design is the foundation of the entire R&D process. Mistakes at this stage are much harder to resolve at later stages.
After the design concept has been selected (see Conceptual Design above), the detailed design takes place (also called Design for Production). This includes the detailed engineering design of every component of the product. For each component, according to its manufacturing technology, fabrication processes and materials are selected, finishing grades are determined and production tolerances are defined. CAD tools are especially useful for detailed design, generating 3D drawings and illustrations that facilitate the production of prototypes, filing patent applications, and raising funds from investors.
Testing and Experimentation
During this process, several prototypes are constructed, built to resemble the final product. The prototypes are designed to display the important aspects of the product, including the appearance and feel of the product, its ergonomics, component interconnection, mechanism etc. The early stage prototypes are constructed to expose any design shortcomings and ensure the product complies with the specification.
Later stage prototypes serve for field-testing and ensuring conformance with relevant standards and specifications such as military and medical specs, safety regulations etc. These prototypes are constructed from the actual product parts procured from their future fabrication factories. Later stage prototypes include all the components of the final product including computers chips, connectors, motors, bearings etc.
At the production stage, the final and most realistic prototype is constructed. With this prototype, the key guidelines for production, and especially mass production, are generated, namely the Production File and the Bill Of Materials (BOM). The production file includes the 2D and 3D drawings of each component and of the final assembly, production instructions, surface finishing requirements, dimension tolerances etc. The BOM includes the materials required for the fabrication of every component.
At Klipy Design ltd. we have consulted many companies and entrepreneurs, guiding them through this entire process. Our team of seasoned experts can support you from the initial idea stage, through all the design stages, and up to the selection of manufacturers and suppliers that are right for you.
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