What Is The Industrial Design Process?
According to Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), industrial design is the professional practice of designing products, devices, objects, and services used by millions of people around the world every day. People often misunderstand the industrial design process, believing that because it is “industrial,” it must only apply to raw materials, goods, or services. In fact, every object we come into contact with in our homes, workplaces, or anywhere else in our daily routines are a consequence of industrial design.
The industrial design process is the most critical element of bringing a product to market. Industrial designers and engineers must consider every aspect of a product, focusing on the product’s manufacturability as much as its appearance and functionality. The ultimate goal of the industrial design process is to finalize a design that has lasting value for the end customer.
The Role of Design Thinking
Good product design begins with the customer in mind. Even a seemingly brilliant product idea is meaningless if an adequate number of consumers fail to see its value. Design thinking is a common process used by industrial designers that puts the customer front and center, solving common problems by either innovating an entirely new product, device, object, or service, or enhancing an existing product. Design thinking is a great approach to capture those needs and let them guide the design process.
Instead of making assumptions about customer desires, design thinking involves prolific research. Product innovators and designers must gather insights by observing customer behavior and interviewing customers to understand their wants, needs, and desires. From there, designers and engineers can sketch out product ideas and build prototypes to bring ideas to life, then present them to a target audience to get feedback and validation.
By focusing on what customers want, empathizing with them to fulfill unmet needs and solve their problems, industrial designers can bring forth better products and continually hone the design process. There is a caveat, however. Design thinking goes beyond creative problem solving to design desirable products; it also equally weighs the product’s viability and feasibility.
During the industrial design process, designers must perform a product viability analysis to determine whether the product idea is practical, can overcome challenges, and requires support services to ensure customer satisfaction. Everything from a product’s size, weight, and fragility to its lifespan, seasonality, price point, and competition plays into product viability.
The product must be able to be manufactured, shipped, and inventoried economically. The more it costs to bring to market, the higher the price point will need to be to cover those costs and provide a decent margin for profitability. If the price point is perceived by customers to be higher than the product’s value, it will not sell well.
Industrial designers are able to use the data gathered during analysis to either scrap the product idea entirely, or more commonly, refine the product design to accommodate these variables. By changing the design, materials, and/or factory, designers can transform a product idea from unlikely to perfection.
Industrial designers also analyze product feasibility during the design process to establish whether the proposed product is both desirable and in demand. Is the product idea worth pursuing? If the product is an entirely new innovation, demand may not yet be there, simply because consumers are unaware of its possibility. Nevertheless, if the product is designed thoughtfully to solve a problem or fulfill and unmet need, demand will come.
Product feasibility analysis includes focused research, such as concept tests, usability tests, and buying intention surveys. The analysis will reveal whether there is a market for your product, consumer desire for your product as is or if specific modifications would make it more desirable, the price consumers are willing to spend, and if there are competing products that have a loyal following.
Designers + Engineering = A Perfect Duo
Industrial designers should never design in a vacuum. Engineers need to be part of the industrial design process, as they bring a different and valuable perspective to the table. While an industrial designer is focused on designing for the customer, the engineer will ensure that the product is designed for manufacturing.
Design for Manufacturing (DFM) describes the process of engaging engineers to optimize a product or a design element to ensure it can be manufactured as easily, cost-effectively, and efficiently as possible. It is important for designers to work with engineers during the design process and before the tooling and assembly process. The earlier modifications to the design can be made, the less cost and fewer complications and delays.
By designing a product for efficient assembly and with a limited number of standardized materials, for instance, it is possible to reduce costs and bring a product to market faster. While each product varies in its complexity, designers and engineers can work together to simplify the design as much as possible to improve its manufacturability without sacrificing appearance or function.
Examples of Great Industrial Design
The most iconic products begin with a solid industrial design process, one that exquisitely balances form and function to deliver a product people love. By combining innovation and creativity with practicality and prudence, industrial designers and engineers can strike gold, so to speak, developing a product that becomes the standard, a household name, or even legendary.
Take, for instance, the Coca-Cola bottle. There is nothing like it, and because of its distinct shape and lines, is instantly recognizable, simply by touch. It is easy to hold by any sized hand, is transparent and slender to maximize the view of bubbles rising to the top, and even without a label, immediately signifies a soda. Despite countless competitors over its more than 100 years of existence, Coca-Cola and its iconic bottle design remains, by far, the most valuable soft drink brand in the world.
Other examples of inspiring industrial design come from products that solved a particular problem. The “bendy” straw was patented in 1937 after its designer noticed how difficult it was for his young daughter to drink out of a tall glass through a straight straw. The ball point pen solved the issue of dried-out fountain pens that bleed ink. And the KitchenAid stand mixer was created as a smaller version of a commercial-grade bakery mixer, suitable for any kitchen to eliminate manual mixing. All of these innovative designs have changed very little over the decades and are staples in any home or office, proving their lasting desirability, viability, and feasibility.
Let Gembah Help
There is no limit to human imagination and creativity. By engaging in a proven industrial design process, creators and brands can continually innovate and bring to market products we could never have imagined living without. To do so takes a team of people to look at every aspect of the product, each bringing their own insights and expertise.
Gembah can help you bring those resources together with reliable industrial design and product development processes to ensure your product is designed for the customer and manufacturability. As design, development, and manufacturing experts, we have curated a network of the best, most specialized professionals from around the globe. Spend less time in trial and error and more time executing validated processes to make your product ideas come to life.