...and you don't have time for them all!

You've decided to create a new product and are looking for a design agency. You've prepared your brief with all of the pertinent information. You email it to a few companies, and... you get quotations ranging from left to right. What's the deal with that?

Balancing design, function, and cost is one of the greatest difficulties in new product design and development. It can be challenging to design a product that is aesthetically pleasing and capable of performing its intended function well enough to meet client expectations while still keeping production costs at bay. To do this, design firms are frequently compelled to make design choices and feature tradeoffs.

For example, design teams may need to choose between two design solutions with significantly different pricing points, or they may prefer one design over the other due to manufacturability or weight constraints. Designers may need to simplify designs in order to save production time and costs while still satisfying the expectations of customers. This can include things like eliminating unneeded pieces or consolidating numerous parts into a single simpler part. Creating trade-offs between design complexity, performance, cost, manufacturing time, and other considerations can be tough, but they are necessary for developing effective products that meet both design needs and financial restrictions.





But do designers make these judgments on their own? Absolutely, but only based on your initial criteria. If the brief you submitted to all of those companies was even vaguely ambiguous or allowed space for interpretation, that's exactly what happened—they interpreted it according to their criteria.

There are a million ways to construct a product, and if you don't have your mind made up about why and where you want to go with it, the design process can turn out to be a "death by a thousand cuts”.



Even if you'll find the best design firm in town, if you don't already have your criteria in place, you'll start burning money the moment you walk into their office.

If you intend to develop a personal medical device, for example, specifying its functions, dimensions, desired manufacturing and market cost, and general look and feel is insufficient to begin working on it efficiently. However, it is sufficient to start spending money. What you should concentrate on are the essential design criteria that you know (or you assume) will persuade your client that your product is the one they want to go with.

If you don't have those design criteria, your design firm may look for them for you and present you with many possibilities to evaluate. This will, of course, cost you time and money, which you will spend at a design firm that will make a business decision for you. Unless you’re actually after research work, this doesn’t make much sense.

What kind of criteria are we talking about? Keep in mind that there is no fixed set to choose from, and they are unique in each circumstance. With that medical item in mind, your criteria could be, for example, that it be extremely durable. You could sell it as virtually impossible to damage by a novice user. Or, durability aside, you could require it to be as tiny as feasible.

Picking one of these criteria and informing your design firm about it will drastically transform their viewpoint and drive them down the proper rabbit hole, saving you time and money since day one. They will take a completely different approach to building a robust device than they would to designing a small and exquisite one.






You can be confident that the end product will meet your expectations once you've chosen your design criteria, right? Wrong! The design process is iterative. It is a process of discovery, verification, and ongoing decision-making. If we try four things, two of which turn out to be bad for us, one of which will be satisfactory for us, and one of them will be completely different, with the potential to blow our minds when developed further, which path should you follow? Do you go with the safe choice or do you risk pivoting the product, or simply risk finding out you were chasing a mirage? You have the last say. If you don't feel equipped to make that decision, your design firm will, but only based on the design criteria you provide.

This voyage of discovery might be daunting at times. Especially when you consider how much weight each minor decision holds and how changing your mind could cost you an avalanche of additional time and money. That is why you must establish your design criteria from the beginning. Updating them as you go is arguably the worst way to approach product design.

You must accept that the design process might generate fresh information, new perspectives, and new options, and you must select which to dismiss, which to implement, and which to save for the future. Because who says you have to implement every cool feature at once? No one. No one says that; that would be horrible advice.






You must keep your eyes on the prize. Remember that your business aim is precisely that: a business goal. It is not the device's size or color. It must either work tirelessly in a factory basement somewhere, or sell well and make a profit. When you're on that discovery ride with your design firm, don't treat a present decision as if it were life or death. Maintain your focus on your ultimate objective and consider whether this decision will bring you closer to it or not. Look a few steps ahead to determine if you should take a step back and pursue a different route before taking a few more steps in the wrong way.

The challenging decisions you may confront while developing may not only be difficult, but they may also feel personal at times. Remember, they are not. You are not the product, and the product is probably not intended for you, so don't quarrel with the criteria you select and focus on your eventual destination.



You should have a product in your hands at the end of your design firm's work that will allow you to fulfill your business plan. It should be functional, appealing, and meet your design criteria. That may not be what you expected when you started the procedure, but it should suffice for the time being.

After you publish your new product, you will begin collecting genuine feedback from non-biased users. Such feedback will frequently surprise you! With time, you'll combine that feedback with your product development knowledge to launch version 2.0 of your product, which will be better than version 1.0, but still not the holy grail you're looking for. And you can stay in that development loop for as long as you decide to, without ever finding the grail. That is the circle of life in industrial design. We aim only to get as close to perfection as possible.

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