What Are Product Design Services?
You have a product idea. Maybe you dreamed something up and scribbled a concept on the back of your shopping list. Perhaps you work at a product-focused company and have seen too many decent product ideas fail and question if your idea has legs. Or you might be an eCommerce reseller looking to build a brand and revenue with a new product of your own.
There’s one thing that these different scenarios share: they all need product design services to turn an idea into a reality. Not just any reality, mind you. The vast majority of product ideas fail, and approximately 40% that make it to market never become profitable. While there are dozens of reasons why success alludes many, poor designs are often the case.
A bad product design not only results in a lousy product, but it also costs you money and precious time. The goal for any product developer is to optimize the design to result in two things: a product people will buy and one that can be manufactured at a price that generates a good return on investment.
Product design services intend to help innovators translate ideas into viable product designs. These services involve artists and designers, and in many cases, different types of product engineers, such as electrical engineers and mechanical engineers. Each works together to create a final design ready for a manufacturer to use to make a prototype. From there, the design team and innovator have the opportunity to inspect the prototype to see if they need to adjust the design with improvements before the product goes into mass production.
Related: The Industrial Design Process: The Key to Legendary Products
The product design process always takes time, and you can expect costs to vary based on complexity. Design services can range from $5,000 – $10,000 for a simpler design and up to $100,000 for a more complex design. If you work with the right people, however, you can dramatically shorten the design and revision time, as well as the associated costs. In the end, your goal is to end up with a profitable product.
Getting The Most Out of Product Design Services
It’s relatively easy to hire a product design services company to render your exact idea. After all, you’re hiring them to just make your idea or sketch something the manufacturer will want for production. The designers will ask you questions like, “Is this what you had in mind?” and “You said you wanted this component here?” No problem, right? Not so fast.
It might surprise you to hear that the best product designers will tell you “no” more than they say “yes.” Their mission shouldn’t be to do what you ask them to do without serious consideration as to whether your instructions are in your product’s best interest. Instead, their real value comes when they can scrutinize your idea and your assumptions, pointing you in a better direction based on their product design experience. That may even mean scrapping the original product idea for something entirely different.
If this sounds counterintuitive, hear us out. You want people who know more than you about product design to tell you when parts of your idea aren’t going to work. If they have experience designing products like yours, an important distinction versus a general designer, they have valuable background knowledge you can leverage to your advantage. Why make common design mistakes when you have an experienced designer telling you how to avoid them?
If you want to get the most out of the product design services you’re paying for, lean on the designers and engineers to give you their best advice, best practices, and lessons learned from previous, similar projects. Their approach to “design thinking” is critical. According to Tim Brown, the co-creator of the term, “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of the people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.”
Your design team will also make sure your final design is ready for production so you don’t have to be the middleman between the factory and the designers. You can save money and speed the design process to move onto production with greater confidence.
What You Can Expect
Your product designers will want to hear your idea, but their priority is to give you a few variations on your vision for you to consider. Initially, your first image will be in a 2D format, detailed sketches that include options such as colors, shapes, placement of components and features, materials, and other variables. They should walk you through the pros and cons of each design option, citing parts and overall manufacturing cost variances, as well as the ease of which parts can be sourced and sustained, expected production timeframes, and functionality fluctuations for each product design.
Related: Product Design and Development: What You Need to Know
It’s exciting to see your idea drawn in such detail finally. Still, your product design services team should focus on two essential considerations: feasibility and viability. Again, this is where experience matters.
You can have the most kick-ass design that looks great on paper, but if it’s going to cost too much to source the parts and manufacture the product, you’re left with a product that won’t be profitable. Your team should understand that every design decision has an impact on cost and should evaluate the cost and benefit of every option.
Once you finalize your product design after considering all possibilities, your product design team will create a digital 3D rendering. You will be able to see the product in a photo-realistic model from all angles and with all components and details.
Though you are further along in the design process, you should rely on your team’s expertise once again. The designers need to provide you with reliable data, such as how much you can expect in terms of production costs, materials sustainability, production timelines, and import, export, and tariff considerations. While production costs will vary depending on the manufacturer you choose, your team should have enough experience to give you reasonably accurate production estimates you can expect based on the design specs.
Depending on the type of product you are creating, this may be the time you work with a factory or a prototyping company to create a prototype. You may want to create a simple prototype to ensure the product functions as intended, and the shape of the product and finish materials appear as expected. For some types of products, especially more complex ones, you may need to have the final design specifications before you can create a fully functional prototype.
Once you give the green light, it’s time for production.
Final Design Specs
The manufacturer needs more than a 3D rendering to quote you production costs and start production. Your product design services team should know what your manufacturer will need and provide everything upfront to avoid delays. The exact specs vary some by the type of product, but they typically include CAD files for hard goods, a tech pack for soft goods, and a BOM (bill of materials).
Your manufacturer will assess the final design, and if they have no questions, they will quote you a production price. Costs will depend greatly on the cost of required parts, the design’s complexity, and whether they will need specialized equipment, tools, or skills. The manufacturer will also consider the volume and frequency of your orders in their quote.
The first step in the production process is to go through the sampling process. This may take multiple iterations to get to a product that you are ready to put into mass production. Before starting mass production, the factory will create a final production sample, which is sometimes referred to as a golden sample. This is the sample the factory will use as the standard for all products to follow.
Once the production process starts, you must retain local expert resources to conduct thorough quality control in the factory location. You should never assume that product quality will meet your standards but continually verify for every subsequent production run.
How to Go From Design to Manufacturing
Product design services are just one essential part of the product development process. Before you even get to design, you need to conduct thorough research on your product and the market. After the design process, you need to source a manufacturer and manage production. This can be especially challenging if you choose to use an overseas manufacturer.
You may have sourced products overseas before, but be aware that making a new product is significantly riskier than just buying something that already exists in the manufacturer’s catalog. You need to have feet on the street visiting the factory during production to conduct quality control and make sure the product created meets all of the specifications. The last thing you want is to receive a container full of products that does not work or look the way you intended.
Instead of working with disconnected teams from different companies to help you through every stage of the process, consider working with one company, such as Gembah, to partner with you from start to finish. The company developed a proprietary platform where you have access to sophisticated product and market research tools, a network of experienced product designers and engineers, and vetted manufacturers, as well as a single place to communicate and share data with everyone.
In this consolidated model, you have everything you need in one place to bring an idea to market. This approach will save you significant time, money, and frustration as you have expert guidance every step of the way. Yes, most product ideas fail, and the nearly half that make it to production fail to return a profit. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you work with the best people with the right experience, you’ll be able to turn a good idea into a great product.
Learn more about Gembah and how to bring better products to market faster and more profitably.