How Do You Go About Designing a New Product?

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There are two general ways to go about the process of designing a new product.  You can start with a revolutionary new idea or technology and evolve it, or you can start with a burning need and figure out what technology can help you solve it in a more valuable way than exists today.  In other words, is the ass led by the head or the head led by the ass.

Engineers and production people tend of think of the design flow as flowing in the same direction as production.  I have an idea, I have some cool machines and I have material.  How can I spin this together to make a cool product?  When I’m done, I’ll give it to the sales and marketing guys to sell, and we’ll all be rich.  This is the head to tail and the obvious choice.  This process doesn’t work very well unless you are a corporate behemoth with millions of dollars to promote the product and browbeat distributors to overwhelm the buying public.  Product development by bludgeon is a better term to describe the process.

Small innovative companies need to take a more brain surgery approach and take the unusual approach of starting off at the tail and moving toward the head.  No matter what industry you are in I would always choose to start closer to the purchaser’s end of the chain than the producer’s end.  End users must have a burning need that isn’t being met and enough money to buy a good solution.  This is where design begins for me.  At the tail end of the process.  Answering the question . . . WHY should this product exist?

The interrogation of the consumer is sometimes done by way of their proxy, the salesman, to create the shape of the product specification.  It needs to do X function, cost Y, ship within Z weeks, have finish F, etc.  The designer then needs to go back to a quiet place and lay out the conflicts in these specifications.  There are always conflicts.  The design process has to optimize the relationship between all of these in the most elegant way possible.

The first consideration for me is price-point.  If consumers do not have an appreciation of the features that they say they want in the form of willingness to pay for them, it creates a non-starter.  Price is the great separator.  Elaborate and exotic materials can be thrown out if the price potential isn’t there.  Volume, or the number of units that can potentially be sold at a specified price point, is the second qualifying factor.  Price, volume, speed of delivery, and level of desired customization round out how much freedom the designer/engineer has to work with to come up with a solution for this market.

These non-engineering, commercial factors form the design intent which lead the actual design of the product.  The journey starts at the end but travels back to the beginning at the head for the actual creation of the design.  Design is a rapid-fire process of taking bits and pieces of machine and material capabilities and mixing them up until a unique and valuable solution is discovered.  Once discovered it needs to receive the approval of the potential consumers which doesn’t always happen.  In any case, it is usually back to the drawings board until an approved solution is accepted.  Many great designer ideas have fallen like scrap to the design room floor.

2Fold® is a disruptive design because it joins materials not often used together by window and door makers to create a unique solution for lovers of modern, sleek design.  I hope you agree with the value proposition we offer. 

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