Key elements to create a fantastic concept

Christian Bourgeois . March 3, 2023

Keep it accessible – ideas can come at any time. Be ready for them.

On a typical Sunday morning, I was having breakfast with my husband. We were enjoying our coffee and expressing frustration about our not-so-great coffee dripper. The conversation shifted to its specific shortcomings. Then one step further to: how to develop our own dripper?

We grab a pen and paper to get ideas on the page. How to make a coffee dripper that is made out of ceramic with a simple mold, but also the form can stand out from (and better) the drippers in the current market?

The key to all this is the instant grabbing of pen and paper. (Or whatever that you can find, the materials don’t matter).  Capture your ideas when they come – have that pen and paper handy.

The best foundation for a good idea is many ideas.

In the early stage of the design, to keep our design thinking as creative and innovative as possible, sketching out ideas from many different perspectives is the key. It’s important that the focus is getting a good range of ideas rather than a single idea in a beautiful sketch. Once you start visualizing your rough ideas and this leads to another DIAMOND. 

Sharing ideas via sketching with your teammates is always good practice. Once something is on paper, it’s much easier for the next person to build and depart from that concept. This improves your creativity but it’s not your personal creativity, it is the creativity and range of the whole group.. As you gather a range of concepts from different participants or sketch holders, you can  start seeing new opportunities. Great design concept does not come from a single brilliant person or instantiation, it comes from a process. Sketches are the most efficient means of communicating a range of concepts fast. Don’t forget that good range of ideas from many different perspectives.

Iterative design process brings powerful results. 

Amazing designs do not emerge fully formed. There is opportunity to improve a promising concept at each stage of the development process – and repeating a step is often key to success at each stage. On top of that, iteration is the key to continuous improvement. If it doesn’t look quite right, do it again. Try different concepts and angles. Iteration will refine your sketches. Ideas that were raw when first captured on paper will become elegant and nuanced with multiple attempts. 

In this stage, it’s helpful to use a master sketch and tweak your ideas on top of the initial ideas that you have. The goal is constantly improving and refining concepts as you go through this step. Using tracing paper or sketch underlays can be an excellent choice to work on detailed parts of your design or interaction of your form language. Keep the same underlying structure of the drawing and change only the parts that matter for this particular design.

This iterative design process helps make your workflow more efficient. In order to make the process more efficient, try to avoid reworking an entire sketch from out of scratch. As you repeat the iterative design process, you are constantly developing your ideas until you get closer to a solution.

Collaboration makes better design and the world. 

Sketches play a crucial role for supporting design discussions. 

At StudioRed, there are whiteboards hanging in every corner of the office. We use the whiteboards to communicate ideas between Industrial Designers and Mechanical Engineers. 

We brainstorm ideas together to come up with solutions for product design challenges that we face. We use whiteboards to discuss the concepts, sequences, and the location part lines. The goal of whiteboard sketching is to align our thinking, design direction, or reviewing design decisions. By communicating openly on common ground, we move quickly to the next important decision.

The whiteboard sketch is a powerful collaboration tool for brainstorming as well. Each sketch holder can draw their ideas and at the end, the whiteboard will be full of input from the collective group. If team members are not comfortable sketching, delegate a person to capture concepts for other team members. Once time is up, compare ideas and try combining several good ideas into a powerful final one.

All in all, whether or not you work as an individual or as a team,  sketches serve as a rich medium for supporting your design process. 

A fantastic concept doesn’t usually come from a single idea, it comes from a broad range of rough ideas. As rough ideas get refined and developed through an iterative design process, you will find a gem, but by working together with your team you can turn that gem into a piece of fine jewelry.