We are all product designers on some level. Whether a child dreaming of adding a fun accessory to a favorite toy, or an experienced engineer having a eureka moment, the world of invention is alive and well in all of us. So how do you take an idea that has realistic chances of having an impact and move it from your brain and into a fully functioning product?
The term “design thinking” is commonly used to describe the product design process as one that takes multiple processes and streamlines them into a singularly run process. This provides a seamless flow of tasks and operations from end to end. There are several best-practice product design phases you must understand before you try to convert your vision into a physical product.
1. Build an Understanding of the Intended Product Audience
No matter how innovative and revolutionary your product idea is, it will fall on deaf ears if it misses the mark with its intended audience. A key task to perform early in the product design process is to learn exactly what the expectations would be surrounding your product and if it would be a good fit for its intended audience. There are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Purchase marketing research to gauge the product’s market success.
- Enlist the help of a manufacturing partner that provides end-to-end services.
- Contact existing customers and solicit their input.
How you go about these tasks will vary and will be dependent on industry and product type. However, the information gained in this phase will be instrumental. It will tell you if you need to rethink the idea, change its audience, or if it is ready to go as is. This reduces risk factors and saves valuable time creating the design and when taking it to production.
2. Use This Information to Define Product Requirements
The information gathered from your intended audience will now be leveraged for the definition of product requirements. Your devised product requirements must include the below specifications to help keep your project on track throughout the design and testing phases:
- The right team configuration
- The physical dimensions of the final product
- Product functions and features
- Measurable testing and validation goals
- Tasks to create the appropriate support and user documentation
- A task runbook that includes accountability and transparency
One aspect that cannot be missed here is the development of cross-team collaboration. As the project advances, so does its complexity. You need to make sure that all of your teams, including your external product development consultants, are communicating and on the same page.
3. Design the Product Based on These Requirements
The first two steps have given you the necessary fundamentals to advance your project to the more advanced phases. At this point, you should be able to confidently hand over the keys to your project to the experienced hand of your CAD design team. This is where the rubber meets the road—it’s where your vision and the information gathered from the customer starts to become reality, for all of its innovations and the revealing of any potential flaws.
As experienced and talented as your CAD design team may be, there may be some elements of the new product that may escape notice. It is here that introducing an external engineering team to your project can start to yield benefits beyond just adding technical expertise. They will see things from a fresh perspective, and be able to quickly identify design efficiency gains or improvements that can be addressed without reinventing the wheel.
4. Create and Test Using Simulation and Rapid Prototypes
The testing phase of product development is important in terms of validation and to further prove your idea and research. There are two primary ways to test a product: through the use of CAD simulation, or using a prototype. Both have their pluses and minuses, but fortunately, these are all complementary. That makes using a combination of both a fantastic solution.
An engineering consultant can inject beneficial guidance here as well while helping to lower the risks of moving into production. In the ideal scenario, your engineering consultant will be able to offer a full array of services, including CAD simulation and rapid prototyping, thus giving a fully supportive product design partner that effortlessly collaborates with your internal product development team.
5. Execute the Right Manufacturing Strategy to Bring the Product to Market
Once testing has been accomplished, and your product is behaving per expectations, the time has come to start to build a manufacturing strategy. Using an engineering partner that has experience in new product launches is a perfect choice. Working as a manufacturing partner as well, they will help you to determine if a short-run or small-scale manufacturing strategy is best for your production scenario.
Your partner will also provide in-depth guidance around the post-production aspects of your project. Tasks such as distribution and support become documented and well-run aspects of the overall product development process. This type of production partner ensures that no stone is left unturned so that you put forth a complete product that is ready for action.
Efficiently Implement These Product Design Phases
The steps for developing a new product can be more than expected at the outset. You need concise documentation to track market research, technical consulting, and testing. A blended team of internal designers and external engineers that seamlessly collaborate lends a high level of expertise that serves your project well. Not only will tasks be kept on track and schedule, but you will at the end have a product that is performing at its highest potential.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.