don’t let the form + design of what exists today shape you’re future. i’ve custom designed everything from bags to gizmod’s in the past + have no intention of stopping now. after a series of flights lately i came up with a concrete concept for a fantastic new bag.
however, knowing that the complete design manufacture process is well beyond me i approached my friend matt in bend, oregon to set me straight. matt’s a creative industrial designer who’s actually developing a complete set of camera bags for a client as i type this (more on that soon).
his response to my request was so well thought out + insightful I thought i’d share it (with his permission of course). though i’m not thinking of a production mass market run at this time he brings up too many good points to pass up that relate to any branding/product work that you do. (+ just so you know i’m already moving on the automated taffy puller…)
Yes, we do do one off designs when presented with a good product. The process question is more of a book than a response. It is a tough road, however if you are interested I can guide you through. We have a monthly column in a local publication (http://www.cascadebusnews.com/index.php?m=2&s=78&id=942) that covers this process. Here are some of the high points… To keep it simple:
1) If you are worried about protecting your idea(or someone stealing it), start using NDA’s (non disclosure agreements) with anyone out of your close friends and family.
2) You want to do some market. The internet works wonders in this area. Start with simple google searches for products similar. This should take no more than a few hours. If you still have something you want to pursue, analyze (provided there was some unearthed competitors) competitors and tailor your product to capitalize on weaknesses of other products and strengths of yours. Note; sometimes competition doesn’t actually look like competition. If you had a revolutionary idea for a digital day planner (being silly of course), you could go out and see that your idea was far superior to anything on the market, however you may ignore the smart phone technology. Another example, the competition in a premixed canned bloody Mary is not other premixed canned bloody Mary’s, its beer, zima, wine, mixed drinks etc… The point is: avoid tunnel vision. Further your competition may not exist yet. If you were coming up with a new baby bottle that dwarfed all other baby bottles, there is a strong chance that P&G may see your design, and make their own version.
3) You know your competition, now you want to know what their IP encompasses. In google, under the more tab there is a patent search filter. Click on this and search for competing patents. This can be tricky as the search terms are very important. You have to find the right combination of phrases that will get you staring at that one patent that hampers your progress. You can certainly have someone do this for you, but since you are a clever guy, I am sure you can handle it. 99% of the patents won’t need a second glance. The other 1% can usually be worked around.
4) Next analyze your market. Who is buying your new home automated taffy puller. What are the demographics. How will you market your device etc… Out of this should come a plan for how you will attack your market, what channels are there to get your product to those buyers, and what price will they pay for the product.
Note: this is a lot of words for a process that in many cases may take a lot of time and research, however it may be a very simple process as well. This usually happens when a person with a product has intrinsic knowledge of the problem and industry.
5) You’ve done your homework. You know how, and you know what price people will pay. These previous steps all led up to giving your product designer the right information. You should now sit down with someone like myself and go though your product in detail. A good product developer should be able to digest all this information and by the end of the conversation have the product 90% thought out and designed in their head. For instance one of the key pieces of information is selling price and how many you expect sell. This determines manufacturing methods, what continent it will need to be produced on, limitations on design based on production methods, nifty additions to the product that may improve functionality. Additionally they should be able to tell you roughly how much money you (Heath) will have to fork out to make molds, samples, and production runs. If there are many parts going together to make one big assembly they will tell you how to produce the tools needed for this assembly.
6) If you are not scarred yet then the critical moment comes. Now you actually have to pull the trigger, or go back to drinking beer and swimming in your pool. All previous steps were at little or no cost to you. Once you bring in the designer your costs add up. And the process is not as easy as we make it sound. Often it can take a year or more of iterations to get the product ready. The process can cost as little as a few hundred dollars all the way up to 10-30k.
7) After the design is done it is time to source your product. The suppliers will make molds prototypes etc… and start sending you parts within a few months. At this point it is time to fine tune your product and get it just right.
If the product has some important features or applications you will want to test the pants off it. Often it will require some special equipment to do this testing.
9) Once through these hurdles you are ready to order a production run of parts and initiate your sales and marketing plan.
if this is not your cup of tea for the time being, then check out this fine design in a travel bag from speck products. + while you’re waiting for your flight why not reread your canon 5D II manual again.