Dangers of Boilerplate Product Design

By July 20, 2020Process

Change is Part of the Product Design Process

Prospective clients often ask about our process for product development. We can’t help but chuckle and say that’s a complicated question. Maybe we should discuss it over a beer.

Truth is our process can’t really be nailed down. There’s a lot to it and it depends entirely on the client we’re working with and the project we’re working on. That’s not to say we’re haphazard or improvised…between us we have over a century of industrial design and engineering experience. We’re methodical and systematic—but not rigid.

You know what it’s like—you develop methods and systems as you experience and learn. Over time they become second-nature and automated. We’ve been a team for over 23 years. Think about how many different experiences we’ve had with umpteen developers and their unique projects.

So all that comes to bear when we’re talking about designing your product. We can’t tell you what the process is going to look like until we’ve talked about the idea and the human problems behind it. We’re not in this game because we like products. We do this because we like solving problems. And the first thing about creative problem-solving is: you have to know the problem.

Which means you have to know the person trying to solve it—as well as the people who will benefit.

Successful design projects develop and evolve

Not long before the country began shutting down, we visited an out-of-state client who asked us to design a simple grilling accessory for them. It seemed straightforward enough—just list the required technical specs, figure out aesthetics, and voila! Onward to production… Right?

But when we met with them to discuss the proposal, a bigger picture came to light that otherwise would have been missed. It turned out this accessory was just one part of an overarching strategy including a whole future line of interactive outdoor cooking products. We also learned about their competition and their company’s position in the market, which dictates product price points, manufacturing constraints, and branding. Through our person-to-person conversation about the problem they were trying to solve—rather than the solution they were seeking—we were able to tailor the proposal to suit their actual needs.

There’s no way we could’ve gotten there from a boilerplate product development process. We’d have run them through a standard procedure and spent time and money on things they didn’t need—or worse yet—developed a product that functions exactly as specified, but doesn’t fit their budget, their brand, their customers, or their future strategy.

It’s understandable why some organizations would be drawn toward boilerplate processes—they’re easier to manage. Bespoke is difficult—true customization requires creativity and experience, as well as cohesion and communication. It’s client-centric instead of workflow-centric. We get it. It’s a lot to handle.

But in the age of personalization—who wants to be processed?

Your project may require mechanical engineering but not industrial design. Or maybe both. But we’re not going to force you through a process that doesn’t make sense for your outcome just because we always do it that way. Not only is that unscientific, it’s also not cost-effective.

First we’ll talk. Face to face if possible.

Once we understand the problem we’ll draw up a proposal tailored to your manufacturing capabilities and where you are in the journey of product development.

Think of our process as a mirror we hold up to you. You’ll help us clarify and polish until it accurately reflects your needs. The proposal is a living document. Your project isn’t standard…neither is our process. We’ll apply our combined creative minds until we get it right.

Then our team will come together in our cozy little conference room for a buzzing session of brainstorming and deconstruction from all our different perspectives. After that we’ll get to work on the problems.

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Interested in finding out more or meeting over a beer?
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