Four Lessons from Product Designers

Thomas Edison famously stated, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  The field of product design is often one of failure.  Brainstorming and testing naturally lead to some avenues that simply won’t work, and it’s important to realize the strengths and weaknesses of a design early in the process.  Fortunately,…

Thomas Edison famously stated, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  The field of product design is often one of failure.  Brainstorming and testing naturally lead to some avenues that simply won’t work, and it’s important to realize the strengths and weaknesses of a design early in the process.  Fortunately, over time, product designers have been able to glean some important lessons that can help guide future designers.

  1. Do the homework on your product and your client. Nothing can make the design process go more smoothly than knowing the background of the product line being developed and the client who asked you to make it.  The more you know about their expectations, brand recognition, development timetables, corporate history, and previous designs, the more likely you are to be able to develop a product that will meet their needs and desires.
  2. Understand the manufacturing process. Nothing can put product development in the toilet like a design that simply can’t be created in a cost-effective or manageable way.  The materials you had in mind might be too expensive.  The design you had might require incredibly labor intensive processes to achieve.  Mass production might require a complete overhaul of existing factories.  If you don’t have manufacturing experience, take the time to learn something about how your products are physically made.
  3. Get to know your clients. Every product design company has an ethos, a guiding principle that informs their design process.  By meeting your clients early and learning what they want, you can determine ahead of time if it’s a good fit for both of you.  Late in the game, you may learn that a client wants a product design that is completely at odds with the kind of product that you want to put out.  On the other hand, the process that your company uses may simply be counter to what a client desires.  In either case, this is information that is best acquired early on.
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