06-idology

This article is a transcription of episode #6 of IDology - the industrial design podcast by Mindsailors. You can watch the entire episode on YouTube or listen to the audio version on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

In this episode Voytek Hołysz talks to Mikołaj Wiewióra, our senior designer, about how budgets for product development are structured. About how time and materials are allocated, what’s the headcount on various product development stages and what decisions might make you burn your money.

Voytek Hołysz:   

This is probably the most interesting topic for many of our clients - budgeting! What sort of budget should one take into consideration when planning for new product development or even just design work? I thought we should talk about it a little bit more, not just the design process and where the costs come from, or how a budget is constructed, but also what kind of decision-making can prevent budget waste or going over budget. I don't know if it's the first thing, but for sure, one of the common questions that come up when talking to clients is, "How do we budget our work?" in the sense of do we go with time and materials or do we go with a fixed price for the whole process? And I know the answer, as always, is "It depends." But maybe you could clarify why and how it works.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Okay. Yes, talking about money is a really difficult topic. So, I think that we won't go into specific amounts of money. But I would like to cover the topic from a broad perspective, like, how do we work? How many people do we need to deliver? How many weeks or how much time do we spend to make the work valuable for the client? You were asking about the time and materials as well as the fixed price. We do both at different stages of our design process.

We are used to taking fixed prices at the beginning and then working in a time and material efficient manner. That’s because we don't know what the end result will be at the start. We all know that the product or brief clarifies the work that needs to be done, but the outcome or difficulty of the outcome for the subsequent steps in developing the product is unknown. As a result, once the concept presentation is finished, we estimate how long it will take to deliver the final product.

And then this time is taken in a time-and-materials manner because we have to be as transparent as possible with our clients as well as not waste too much money or too much time. So, we are working on both, but the first part of the design process is rather fixed. And the second part is usually time and material.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Okay. If I understand correctly, at the beginning of the process, it's a more predictable scope of work in the sense that we're sure that we won't go over a certain fixed amount of money, time, or work hours. But after a certain stage, it's the sort of legwork, the testing, and the prototyping that we are unable to predict for a fixed amount of time or money.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, it's difficult to define the cost of developing the product into a physical object because prototyping costs money. And at the beginning of the project, we don't know how many prototypes we would need to get the result that we want. So, when it's a simple product to make, such as two pieces of a plastic enclosure with no requirements for waterproofing, water resistance, or any other quality matching of these two objects, we can take higher tolerances.

If we just have two pieces to assemble, it's an easier task, and it should take fewer prototypes—one or maybe two prototypes will finish the job. Whereas, if we are designing a complicated or sophisticated object that consists of tens of components, each of them has to be prototyped and tested. So, the number of prototypes grows.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Yeah, so there are more complications and more unknowns.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Of course, at the beginning of the project, we know if the project will be easy or not, but still, the final result is not yet visualized. So, because we have the tools, such as CAD software, we can design the same object—a really simple one with simple surfaces—that is fairly easy to represent in a CAD and then develop a physical product. But sometimes our clients need this object to be more stylized or have a more complicated surface.

So, the surfacing or the mechanical components that are inside, like reaps, leaps, and all the little things that make this concept a product, take time. So, if we take into consideration all of these little facts, I think that we all understand that thinking of the project as just words in the brief, we cannot tell how complicated this project will be in the end. So, the level of complexity at the beginning is more of a container; it is still theoretical.

We classify a project as easy, medium, or difficult to design. We tend to categorize projects into these three broad categories because when a client comes to us and says that he wants a small product that is not going to be a family of products, he has the electronics that will fit inside or he has an idea on how this product should work, it's rather an easy one. We know how to plan this project. How to set the budget for this, especially for the conceptual phase So, this will be an easy project for us.

Of course, every project might be difficult. I just want us to understand that each project might be difficult. There are easier ones to make than others. While in the medium perspective, or in the medium class of projects, there are projects that have some mechanical movements or kinematics involved, where we have to think not only of the form but also of the function and maybe develop something new inside. So, not only the style but also the internal, because we have to think from the inside to the outside, We don't know what's inside. So, this is more difficult because we had to think of it. So, it takes a little bit longer, and we have to spend a little bit more time developing these ideas.

 Voytek Hołysz: 

And probably it involves more experts than the other projects you mentioned because there are more different elements involved.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes. It takes a little bit more headcount.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Maybe we should go through our design process and talk about each stage and what's the headcount for each of them? Maybe not necessarily what that stage is about, but why, at this stage, do we need, for example, this many people for this amount of time to deliver that sort of effect? For those who are interested in our design process, we have a separate video about it, so you can go and check it out on our channel. Now, we're not going to talk about the specifics of each stage, just the way we approached budgeting at each of these stages, because not every project is a full process; some projects are just one to three stages.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

You can join at any point during the process.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Okay, so let's start at the very beginning.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Let's finish with the hardest projects first. So, when you have two designs with more than one concept for the client, it means more than one product, like a family of products. It's usually the hardest thing because you have to take into consideration not just one product but three or four—it depends on the project. So, you take all these easy and medium steps into this third step, which is the most difficult to work on. 

Now, let’s jump into the design process and all the details about the time and budgeting. We can start with predesign. And at this stage, we are discovering what the project is about. Of course, we've got the brief, but when we read the brief, it's just language; we have to understand it and then translate it into a specification for the project. So that both sides understand what is to be done.

Voytek Hołysz: 

And this is one of those parts that you mentioned that are more on the fixed-price sort of stage because the amount of work we need to do is more predictable.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, we take a little risk at this level because we need to extract as much information as possible from the client and from the topic of the project to be sure that we are going to design what the client needs.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Okay, so who runs this stage of the process? And what's the work involved?

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

This stage of the process is led by a team leader or a senior designer because he is the most experienced person to ask questions. But of course, these questions are a synthesis of questions that we have as a team. Because we work on the brief, we set a list of questions or write the list of questions to the client, and then we meet with the client and go through these questions, so that we are able to describe the project in a more technical way with a better understanding of the potential client or users of this project. This predesign phase can last anywhere from one week for a simple project to months if we want to uncover all of the project's fine details. But it usually takes from one week to four weeks to unfold.

Voytek Hołysz: 

I think it's important to mention that no matter—correct me if I'm wrong—whether a client comes in with a somewhat detailed brief or they come with a vague brief or with vague descriptions, even if the brief is pretty specific in its language and its detail, we still need to verify if these assumptions are correct. So, no matter if the brief is pretty vague or very detailed, we basically still need to go through the whole brief and verify if it's okay.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, because, as I said, language is a communication tool, but it's not as precise as the specifics and common understanding of each sentence. Because sometimes you write a sentence, and you think that it's totally understandable, but someone reads it, and it means a different thing to them. As a result, we must develop a common language on the subject.And we have to make sure that we understand each other—what does a particular sentence mean?

Voytek Hołysz: 

So, that's the predesign phase. The next one is conceptual design.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes. Conceptual design is the most predictable stage. Because once we know what to design, then we can start with the creative process. And we usually make it in four to six weeks. Even if the project is complicated, once you know all the details, it simply needs more people and more communication. So, that's why it takes longer, maybe six or seven weeks or something like that. But it's not too difficult to predict the time frame because it's a conceptual phase, a phase where we are thinking of the brand, the style, and the proposed values.

We are making conceptual models, so they are not as complicated as the final production models. Because we make the skin, we make the outside of the product.

Of course, taking all the technical requirements and assumptions into consideration, it's not that we are delivering beautiful imagery or pictures that are not possible to turn into a physical product. But of course, what we've learned is that it's super hard to translate the same model, the same 3D model that is a conceptual one, into a physical one. So, we have to jump into another phase, which is the mechanical phase. But let's leave it there for now. We are still working on the conceptual phase.

Voytek Hołysz: 

So, for this conceptual phase, who's on the team? Because from what you're saying, it's not just about designing; it's also part engineering.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, the team is usually around four people. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but we are not working in a group with less than three people. We are working on this project in such a manner that one designer should deliver at least one concept. We believe that we should take as much as we can from a team as opposed to a freelance design studio, which has a single or two designers. And of course, I know that each of my designers has her or his own style. So, it's good to show the client different styles of proposed designs instead of showing three different designs in a similar style.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Or three variations on a theme.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, but of course, that sometimes happens because clients want to see similar projects, which have already defined styles, but with a different level of detail or maybe a different level of finishing. But usually, clients love to see three different approaches to solving the problem that they came to us with. So, we need at least three people. And with more difficult projects, we need more than four or even five to six people.

Voytek Hołysz: 

Okay. So, after that phase, we go to the targeted conceptual design, which is sort of taking into consideration feedback for the conceptual designs and then refining the details.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

We call it refining the design or making it better. This is because we are not able to predict all the things in the conceptual phase or match the style that our clients have in their minds. The client is really stressed when waiting to see the concept. Because if he's using our service for the first time, he doesn't know what to expect. And once he sees the presentation with visuals, he can speak about them. And once he hopefully likes one of the concepts, he can decide what comes next. So, how do we refine this single concept that he has chosen into a concept on which we should work further?

Voytek Hołysz: 

So, how many people usually work on refining a specific design concept? And how much time does it take?

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

The group is usually smaller because we've got a small amount of work to do. And it's usually the project leader who is not changing at this stage. So, the project leader comes at the beginning of the project and goes with the client through phases one, two, and three. And the designer who created this specific concept that we are going to refine, because it is easier for the designer who has already created this specific concept that we are discussing, so that these changes can be made more efficiently.

And it usually takes two periods of time. The first period is when we need to get feedback. So, it takes time, or our client’s time, to look at these concepts and gather feedback, maybe from their potential customers or from target groups. There are a lot of different stakeholders in the project, so they all need to give feedback.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, apart from that, I assume that sometimes it's a one-man army sort of making the decisions. The feedback might be quite quick. But like you said, when a larger organization needs to consult the feedback between departments or just a couple of heads, they need to do 1, 2, or 3 surveys or focus groups or whatever, this might even take months. But for our team, after we receive the feedback from the client, what's the predicted timeline, more or less?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

The predicted timeline is two to three weeks. Because, as I said, it is an easier task to make these changes. But because this feedback might come in at any time, we have to have time to plan the team to make these changes.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, you're saying that after we get the feedback, we don't necessarily jump into refining the project. We need to have some time to do it because we never know when we are going to get the feedback.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, it's as simple as that. This is because we are not working on a single project each time. So, we have to be sure that we have time and that the designer who was designing this particular concept is also available. If not, we will work with someone else. But of course, it takes a little bit more time because he has to learn the concept from scratch and what to change.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Moving on, we would go to the mechanical design part. Are we still within the fixed-price scope of work?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

We try not to be, because different things happen. because different clients have different needs. For example, some clients need an estimation of hours, and it's totally understandable that they need to have these price ranges. What's the lowest possible price, and what's the highest possible price? And of course, we are able to estimate the time on each project. But it's only possible once we are finished with the conceptual phase.

It's really, unbelievably hard to imagine what the amount of work will be before this third stage of our design process. We still have only vague ideas about how this object or product might look. Implying that it is more of a guess. So, if clients would like to expect the estimated timeline and budget from us, we need to be at least at the end of stage three to be more precise. We can't just take some numbers and put them into the quotation, because they may not be correct in the end.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Well, of course, the client knows that. We tell each client that we need to go through the first three stages if they want to hear a quote that makes sense. Because without those three stages, it will just be guesswork, and hence it will definitely change.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Yes, definitely. We inform the client that the quotation is going to be revised after phase three. Next, we jump into the mechanical phase, which is more focused on delivering the working object, the working prototype, and the physical product. So we simply create a list of tasks that must be completed in order for the final product to include all of the described details from the list.And then we can estimate which task takes how much time so that we can sum it up, and then we can tell the client the estimate.

So, that's why time and material count, because we sometimes need to buy something. to buy things to build the prototypes. Maybe prints, maybe buying some materials that have to be sourced and tested with the physical products, and the time that we need to spend, we just cannot fix the price. We can just estimate.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, I assume you won't be able to tell me how much time it takes because, like you said, it varies quite a lot. But tell me about the size of the team that might be working on this project, and for this medium-difficult project that you've mentioned before, what more or less the margin of error on the timeline could be.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

So, we try to prototype fast so that we can fail fast and remedy what is probably the problem. We are not going to make this phase long at all until we are totally sure that this concept will work because we have to test it. So, it's a matter of weeks, sometimes months, but no more than three months. So, this first prototype that we are going to test should be made within three months.

Voytek Hołysz:

For the medium-scale project?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. So, three months is the timeframe. And considering the team for the medium project, it depends if embedded electronics are inside or not. The team varies from two or three people and up to six people if the electronics are inside, so we have to have embedded engineers, firmware developers, and so on. But this phase should take no more than three months.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, after we have this stage checked, we have the final prototype, and the next stage is DFM.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, but that’s in an ideal world. Once we get the prototype running, this usually does not happen at the first trial. As a result, we refine and tweak the mechanical design. Because the mechanical phase is not widely spoken about, it's an iterative process. Just like all of the processes of bringing new products to the market, they are a little bit more complicated than the linear fashion design process. But if we had to describe it in a more understandable manner, we had to make it more waterfall-like.

But this phase, number four, is iterative. We tend to make smaller chunks of the bigger part of the project so that we can test on different prototypes what the functionalities are that we have to deliver and what the aesthetics are that we want. And within these three months, it's already okay to set a prototype into round number two or three, so that we have a complete understanding of what's going to be manufactured in the future, and then we can jump into the DFM phase.

Voytek Hołysz:  

But the different stages of prototyping, from one through three, or however many are needed, are these still within those three months?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

These small prototypes are usually within these three months, but what I was speaking about is that we have the final, first assembled prototype of the project that is after these three months.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay, you mean the first one.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, the first one that is complete, because in between we can prototype a single mechanism or a specific part of something. So, we are already iterating. So, we are already trying different approaches and finding the right one.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay. As a result, the first complete full prototype usually requires some additional tweaking before making another one.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. Because once you assemble the whole thing, you also learn something new. And when you learn something new, you assemble it once again. And sometimes you need to make a third prototype.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, what is this? An additional month, two, or three?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

No, it doesn't take three months, but it usually takes about two months. It's usually because we have to source all the components. It doesn't take so much time to redesign these small things, but it takes time to make an order with different vendors and then gather all these pieces once again and then assemble them together.

Voytek Hołysz:  

It is also important to note that while developing or working on prototypes, there is still a lot of logistics involved, such as finding the right vendors, finding the right components, particularly with electronics, purchasing them, waiting for delivery, and so on. And then it's sort of like with the feedback we were talking about: maybe the process of doing a task doesn't take as much time, but waiting to have everything you need to perform the task is sometimes the most time-consuming part.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, that's true. We can overcome it by finding faster vendors, but it usually takes more money or simply makes it more difficult to find the right one at the right time. Usually, the time can’t be remedied; we have to be patient because not all things are possible within a shorter time.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Sure. So, the mechanical part takes four to five months, or maybe six months in some extreme cases. And then we move on to design for manufacturing. So, tweaking the final prototype to fit into the production process or system.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, it's a very wide process, from the design to the manufacturing of the product. But we tend to define it as something like this: if we have the prototype already made and it is working the way we like and looking the way we want, and now we've got a vendor that is interested in manufacturing and assembling this piece of a physical device. So we need to come to an agreement on what is possible within his technologies, or perhaps many vendors, because it is also possible to have many vendors for your product.

So, we have to understand each other's needs and possibilities so that they can do something without many changes. But sometimes they say that this little part is not visible in the whole assembly; it's an internal part. Maybe let's make it cheaper and more efficient. They have suggestions on how to do it. And then we tweak it because we can't predict the costs of manufacturing each part because the manufacturing people are the experts.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Yes, of course. So, how many people on our side take part in this process? And is it even possible to say how much time this might take within the medium-difficulty project?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Sometimes, it takes weeks, like two or three weeks, because the project is simple. The vendor is already within our network of contacts; we know each other and we know that they have these possibilities, so we design for these possibilities, and hence the process is easy. So, after the mechanical phase, we already have 99% of DFM made. But it's not very common. The most common occurrence is that we must check for all of the parts in the assembly of the design that we have created and make minor adjustments to each of them.Just a little, but sometimes more aggressive and sometimes less aggressive. But on average, these changes are made on each part, hence the manufacturing is more efficient.

This process might take up to three months or something like that. But there are other factors that may make this stage longer or shorter. The most important thing is that the client signs the agreement with the vendor without any issues, because sometimes it's on the legal side and you have to spend quite a bit of money to make that link. And if you need to spend this money, you have to be sure that the quality that you get is within your standards.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, the time for this specific stage can be mostly stretched because of situations that are outside of our scope.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Usually, it is because of the communication. You have to communicate between the design studio, the vendor, and the client. And this loop takes time. Changes are usually minor, not major enough that we have to rebuild the entire assembly because it is not manufacturable. It has never happened in our studio, but we have to tweak the design. So, the communication between vendors, clients, lawyers, investors, and all these stakeholders that are going to finally be a part of the success of the product still takes time. Because we are different, we have our own different projects and objectives, and we have to be at the right time and in the right place. So, that's why this process might take a little bit longer than the actual work of having it done.

Voytek Hołysz:  

How many people take part in this process on our side? Is it still the team leader and the designer responsible for the final design? Or is it someone who specializes in DFM?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

The designer is not always involved in the mechanical design process; he is, of course, looking at the end result and designing the surfacing, the values that he wants to be visible.But sometimes the designer is not involved in this process anymore. He's focused on another project. But it usually takes two or three people.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay, is it because this process is less of a design process and more of a negotiation or technical production process?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

There is still design, but of course, design and mechanical design are a bit different. because the design is more about the values, more of a holistic approach. And then the mechanical design is actually making this possible, within these values that were defined. Of course, designers are technical people as well, and mechanical designers have this artistic understanding of the values that we need to deliver.

Voytek Hołysz:  

They need to be on the same page.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

But these are different competencies, different skills. Sometimes we switch the designer within the project to where his skills are better suited for this particular phase.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, if we have two people, it could take two or three months, or it could take much longer, depending on factors such as whether you need to wait for lawyers to draft contracts, etc. This might take a really long time.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. And I've got an example. I cannot speak of the brands that we worked for but I've got an example from both perspectives. We were able to deliver the conceptual design and the mechanical design and our client was able to manufacture this design in a time period of half a year.

Voytek Hołysz:  

You mean, from the beginning of working with us to the moment where...

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

…where the product was actually on the market. It took half a year.

Voytek Hołysz:  

That seems below the time scopes we were talking about.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. But I want to mention that if we have the vendors already set for manufacturing, that's really important. We've got a project manager that knows what's possible within this time period, on the client side, of course, because they are experienced in the process, in the manufacturing process, and in introducing the project into the market. Because it's a fast-paced project, we delivered three concepts within a month, then made some tweaks within two weeks because they were just tweaks for the targeted conceptual phase. And then the magic happened, because we were simultaneously working on the mechanical design with their team.

And the biggest advantage of this project was that we were working in different time zones, so that when we wake up and start working on the mechanical design for several hours, then send the design to their designers, their mechanical designers, they are waking up because they are in Canada.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, this was nonstop work.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, that was non-stop work because of the fact that these time zones were well aligned. So, this was possible only within these conditions. So, that's why this project went so quickly.

Voytek Hołysz:  

But still, that's one side of the spectrum. You said you had another example.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, I have another example. And I have an example of taking the product from the conceptual phase up to the market for nine years. Why did this happen? We still completed the conceptual phase within one month, and we made some small changes within three weeks or so. And then the magic didn't happen because the project manager changed at the client company. There was no one to take on this project and continue it within the set structures of our client's company. So, this project just stopped after several years because people weren't able to communicate among themselves.

Voytek Hołysz:

And they just picked it up after a couple of years?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. And after a couple of years, there was a man who discovered that there was a project open in their system and that they would like to return to this project after seven years of nothing.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, communication, communication, communication, and project management.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. And to be honest, the former project was more complicated than the latter one.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Yeah. I'm not sure if I would believe it if, after seven years, someone contacted me and said, "Hey, remember that project we were working on? Let's finish it." I would be like, "Whoa, is this April 1st? What's going on?"

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, that was a story that you could write a book about. But it is true. And I didn't know about this story because I wasn't working at this company at the time the concept was created.But I was working for this company when this project finally happened. So, it is a funny story from this perspective. But from the perspective of the design studio, since your work has been on hold for several years, you did not expect it to be successful in the next year or so. But these are extreme examples that I wanted to cover. Usually it takes around two years from the idea to the market.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Yeah, but there is still one last stage of the process we haven't mentioned before the product can hit the shelves, and that's supervising the production process. Sort of quality checking the first batch of products that come off the assembly line. This is also probably time-consuming and requires a couple of people. So tell me a little bit about this last step of our design process.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Sure. We do not have the facilities to make or manufacture these projects because we are not the manufacturers. We still see that the problem is within quality assurance, because once you set up the manufacturing process and all the tools to be made by the vendor, the problem is that sometimes our clients or the people that are involved in the project from our client's side are not able to judge if this product that is already assembled and placed for verification and final acceptance is okay or not.

So that we as designers know what we should expect from the product, what the surface quality is, what the assembly quality is. Is it squeaky or not? Does it work the way we want? We can do a variety of tests on the mechanical side as well as the electronics side, because the electronics are also important for the proper functioning of the final product. So, we know what to look for and how to tweak the process so that the final products are of the quality our client needs and the quality we want.

Voytek Hołysz:  

How much time can it take, and how many people work on that?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

I think that it's a constant process of tweaking the production if it is needed. So, once the production starts, we take an engineer and a project manager—usually two people, sometimes more—to visit the vendor, to visit the company that we are working with. And you can call it an audit; as we discussed earlier with the project, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each step of assembly. How can we make it more efficient? What are the ideas for better manufacturing? And finally, making the price more affordable.

So, I believe the process takes days. Because once the production is running, you can make some quick changes within this process. But I'm not saying that you should rebuild the tool that you're manufacturing. Spend more time on the technological phase of figuring out how to make this process better. Sometimes it takes more than days; it takes weeks, but it's not very common.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Yeah, but it doesn't take months. So, we have two people sort of auditing the quality of the products that come off the assembly line for days or weeks.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

True. 

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay, that is the whole process. I believe we have a good understanding of how much work each step requires and who is responsible for what. I think we can also have a very quick talk about situations that you have witnessed or know were witnessed in our company about how sometimes clients make decisions that cost them money or time that could have been avoided by simply making a different decision. Let's put it that way. Perhaps as a word of caution to those considering developing a new product, or who have recently done so and encountered budgeting issues, or who may come across situations similar to this, this will help them make better decisions the next time. Can you think of any situations like this?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

There are some. But I would like to make it more general than the particular situation that we had. I think that we should all understand that the design process is a process that needs to be done in an iterative manner. So, we shouldn't save money or time by reducing the number of prototypes, for example. Because it's really not that expensive to make the third or even fourth prototype before being 100% sure that the tooling we are going to invest in is going to be okay, It's a good way to simulate. If you believe that a simulation, such as an injection molding simulation, which costs around $1000 or $2,000 per single piece to be expensive, I want to assure you that it is not.

Voytek Hołysz:  

In comparison to the amount of money you'll need to spend on the final production.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. Because you have to buy steel, or the manufacturer has to buy steel, he has to mill it. He needs to spend a lot of machine time making this tool. And once he's created this tool, it's not easy to change.There is a well-known graph that shows that the change at the beginning of the project has a very big impact but a low price. But on the other hand, when a small change happens in the later stages of the process, it costs a lot more money.

So, make sure that your design is manufacturable. We can take care of it, of course. However, make certain that the prototype you have meets your requirements. If in one way it doesn’t, we should discuss it and make one more revision. It takes the designer a few weeks to prototype. So, a month in this period of developing a product is not a big amount of time. You can afford it.

Voytek Hołysz:  

You need to be able to afford it.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, you should be able to afford it. because we can jump from the first prototype into the DFM process and manufacturing. But if we are not 100% sure, I think that something will fail. So, this is the number-one master rule. The second thing is that in your budget and in your schedule, you have to not only think about the design phase, but also the manufacturing and marketing phases.

Because it's really easy to see the visuals, you've got this beautiful render after two months of cooperation, and you think that's okay; it's going to be on the market. It's a product that we will see on shelves within the next month. No, we must collaborate with the client and the design studio to make this product a reality. And making this possible is only feasible when you put it into production. So, you have to reserve some time for manufacturing as well as marketing, which can be a parallel process, because when you want to sell something, you have to advertise it earlier than when production begins because you don't want to risk a lot of money in production when your products are not needed.

It's usually the idea of a few people, but this idea has to be bought by many people for the product to be successful. So, these factors are also important to think about within the strategy of introducing a new product into the market. But of these two rules, time is the most important factor. If you are going to be fast in delivering the product, you have to be 100% sure that the manufacturing facilities, the vendors, and the components that are going to be in this product are already sourced, and then you can be fast.

Because you know the process, you know the vendor's capabilities, and you know that especially the electronic components are available. So once you have these three factors already secured, you can jump into the design phase with certain constraints because these constraints might influence the creative process of designing the product. But if you want to be fast, you have to be constrained, you have to be precise, and you have to be really conscious of time.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, I think you could sum it up by saying that if you want to deliver a product fast, you need to basically have experience in developing new products. You need to have a good workflow. You need to know what you're doing. You need to know how much time you will need. You need that experience. And if you've never delivered a product to market before, that's a crash course that will not happen; you will either lose money or the product will not see the light of day.

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Or it will take a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of resources. These three factors are important. You will finally get the product, but not fast and probably not at the quality that you wish for.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Is there any other situation, case, or wrong decision-making that comes to mind that you would like to mention?

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

I didn't want to be so negative about bad decision-making because not making a decision can also be a bad thing. For example, if we ask our clients to focus on a particular list of questions that we have, and we need the answers pretty fast to work. Sometimes a message is sent or a call is made and after this call, we've got three or four days, a week, or even two weeks of silence. And that doesn't help with developing a product faster.

So, maybe some kind of agile feedback is a really good point to mention if we want to work dynamically. It's a good idea to have quick calls or emails, as well as quick responses to these emails, because these are small problems that can sometimes be solved in half an hour, but sometimes it takes a week to get the information back. So, it's a good practice to treat us, the design studio, as a partner and as a team member instead of an external company that is doing its job well. We are going to be as good as the communication within the team.

Voytek Hołysz:  

So, it basically all keeps coming back to communication as you mentioned at the beginning of this conversation and we talked about it in another episode. Communication is basically the key to success, no matter the situation. If you have bad communication, it won't work.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes, this is something that we should learn as people, as team members, and as business partners. Communication is the most important.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay. So, to conclude on a positive note: if you want to succeed in developing a new product, keep your communication quick and accurate.I think that's it. Do you think there's something to add? Any last words?

Mikołaj Wiewióra: 

Finally, I know people will want to know how much it will cost, but we cannot tell without an example. We didn't want to do this because we wanted to make it more general so as to better understand the process and the time. So, that money is simply a byproduct of this time.

Voytek Hołysz:  

Yeah. So, if you want to know the budget for your project, simply contact us.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Yes. 

Voytek Hołysz:  

Okay. Thank you very much.

Mikołaj Wiewióra:  

Thank you.

 

mikolaj.webp

Mikołaj Wiewióra is a senior designer at Mindsailors. He has extensive experience in leading teams of designers and engineers on all stages of the design process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

voytek.webp

Voytek Holysz is the COO of Mindsailors with 15 years of experience in running a business in creative B2B services, marketing, sales and video production.

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