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What is the best way to source new product design ideas?

Crafting innovative products isn't just about understanding the mechanics of design; it's about igniting the spark of creativity that fuels groundbreaking ideas. This article is your guide through the sometimes murky waters of product ideation, especially designed for product designers, startup founders, and those charged with the responsibility of new product development. Whether you're wrestling with a creative block, seeking to broaden your brainstorming horizons, or aiming to refine your planning prowess within the constraints of industrial design, you've come to the right place.

How to overcome a Creative Block?

The first hurdle in sourcing new product design ideas is overcoming the creative block. Here are some strategies to help clear the mental cobwebs:

  • Change Your Environment: Sometimes, a change of scenery can stimulate new ideas. Whether it's working from a café, taking a walk in nature, or rearranging your workspace, a new environment can provide fresh stimuli for your brain.

  • Limit Your Options: Paradoxically, too many choices can stifle creativity. Try imposing constraints on your brainstorming process, such as limiting your design materials or setting a "what if" scenario.

  • Collaborate and Share: Engaging with other creative minds can spark new ideas. Brainstorming sessions, workshops, or even casual conversations can open up new perspectives.

Tackling a creative block can indeed be challenging, but exploring less mainstream, niche online tools and sources can offer fresh inspiration.

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3D illustrations by Ayumi Tan from series "Art Blocks" at The Inspiration Grid

Here are some unique tools and platforms that might help ignite your creativity:

1. Artbreeder

A platform that leverages AI to blend and morph images, allowing users to create unique, sometimes surreal visuals. It’s particularly interesting for character design, landscapes, and abstract art.

2. MUBI Notebook

Although MUBI is well-known for streaming, its Notebook section offers deep dives into film art and analysis. It's a great source for visual storytelling inspiration and exploring cinematographic styles.

3. Designspiration

Similar to Pinterest but focused more strictly on design, offering a vast collection of images to spark creativity. You can filter by color schemes, making it a handy tool for graphic design and branding projects.

4. This is Colossal

An art, design, and visual culture blog that features a wide range of creative work from around the world. It's a great place to find inspiration outside your usual channels.

5. The Inspiration Grid

An online magazine celebrating creative talent from around the world, offering inspiration in graphic design, art, illustration, photography, fashion, product design, and more.

6. A Soft Murmur

If you find ambient sounds helpful for your creative process, this site allows you to mix various ambient sounds like rain, waves, wind, and more to create the perfect background noise for working.

7. Creative Boom

An online magazine and network community that celebrates, inspires, and supports the creative community. It features interviews, inspiration, tips, and resources for creatives.

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Images by Tokyo-based illustrator Yuki Uebo at Creative Boom

8. Typewolf

A must-visit site for web designers and typographers, showcasing how fonts look in the wild, giving you real-world typography inspiration and ideas.

9. Niice

A mood board creation tool that’s great for brainstorming sessions. It pulls in visuals from various sources, allowing you to create a visual brainstorming board.

10. Are.na

A platform for creative individuals to collect, share, and connect ideas. It’s less about polished final products and more about the process and inspiration behind creative work.

11. BLDGBLOG

An exploration of architecture and the built environment, this blog delves into topics that intersect architecture with science fiction, history, and technology, offering a unique perspective on design.

12. The Noun Project

For iconography inspiration, this platform offers millions of icons created by a global community. It’s great for visual communication projects.

13. The Marginalian

An inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more. The site dives deep into the creative process of various artists and thinkers.

Exploring these tools and sources can provide a wide range of inspiration, from visual and design-focused to conceptual and philosophical. Mixing up your sources of inspiration can help you break through creative blocks and find new paths for your projects.

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Pages from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium — a forgotten masterpiece at the intersection of poetry and science — at The Marginalian

How to find creative inspiration?

Consider drawing inspiration from indirect competition or exploring exotic markets to broaden your ideation scope. Analyzing products or services outside your direct niche can reveal unexploited opportunities and offer insights into solving problems differently. For instance, studying how businesses in emerging markets overcome constraints might inspire innovative design solutions that appeal to your audience.

Broadening your ideation scope when designing a new product involves exploring diverse perspectives, experimenting with different methodologies, and utilizing a variety of resources to inspire creativity. Here are some effective methods and online resources that can help:

Here are a couple of methods that might help you broaden your ideation scope:

1. Cross-Pollination of Industries

Look at solutions from industries different from your own. For example, if you're in tech, explore how problems are solved in the hospitality or healthcare sectors. This can lead to innovative crossover ideas.

2. SCAMPER Technique

SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. Applying these prompts to your current ideas can help generate new ones.

3. Mind Mapping

Start with a central concept and expand outwards with related ideas, words, and images. This can help in making unexpected connections. Tools like MindMeister or Coggle can assist with digital mind maps.

4. Design Thinking

Embrace empathy, define your problem, ideate without constraints, prototype quickly, and test. This iterative process can help expand your ideation by focusing on user needs. IDEO's Design Kit provides resources and tools for each stage.

5. Trend Analysis

Use platforms like Trend Hunter or Springwise to stay on top of current and emerging trends. This can help in identifying new areas for innovation and understanding consumer behavior shifts.

6. Customer Journey Mapping

Understanding the user's experience from first contact through the ongoing relationship can reveal unmet needs and opportunities for innovation.

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Obraz autorstwa Freepik

If you’re more of a “tools’n’sources” person, you can check out these online resources:

1. MURAL or Miro

Online collaborative whiteboarding platforms that enable real-time brainstorming sessions with teams, regardless of location. These tools offer templates for various ideation techniques, including mind maps and empathy maps.

2. InVision Freehand

Offers a collaborative canvas for teams to ideate and brainstorm. It's particularly useful for designers for sketching, wireframing, and getting instant feedback on ideas.

3. OpenIDEO

A global community where people work together to solve complex challenges. It's a great place to see how others approach problem-solving and to participate in challenges for inspiration.

4. Behance

Showcases latest projects from various creative fields. It’s a great way to see what's new and innovative in design, providing inspiration for aesthetic and functional aspects of product design.

5. Google Scholar and JSTOR

For a more academic approach, these platforms offer access to scholarly articles and research papers across various fields. They can be invaluable for understanding the theoretical underpinnings of design principles or consumer psychology.

6. Pinterest

Not just for DIY and recipes, Pinterest can be a vast source of inspiration for design concepts, materials, and innovative products across all industries.

7. Reddit

Subreddits like r/Design or r/ProductDesign can provide insights into current discussions, trends, and challenges within the design community.

Exploring these methods and resources can significantly broaden your ideation scope by exposing you to new ideas, trends, and perspectives. Combining traditional brainstorming techniques with these modern tools and platforms can lead to a more innovative and creative design process.

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Image of the Tea Mug designed by Mindsailors at Pinterest

Where can I find creative people like me?

Creative communities across the internet offer invaluable resources for inspiration, networking, and showcasing work. Here are some of the most vibrant online hubs, sorted by product-related industries, where creative content is aggregated, shared, and discussed:

Furniture Design

  • Behance: Offers a vast collection of portfolios from furniture designers worldwide, showcasing innovative designs, concepts, and prototypes.
  • Dezeen: While it's more broadly focused on architecture and design, Dezeen's furniture section is a great source of cutting-edge furniture design and innovative materials.

Automotive Design

  • Car Design News: An online magazine and community specifically focused on automotive design, offering insights, interviews, and a showcase of concept and production vehicles.
  • Core77: Has a transportation section dedicated to the latest in automotive design, featuring concept cars, innovative materials, and design strategies.

Consumer Electronics

  • Yanko Design: Covers a wide range of design disciplines but is particularly strong in consumer electronics, offering a glimpse into the future of tech with prototypes and concept designs.
  • DesignBoom: Their technology section features innovative consumer electronics, showcasing how design intersects with the latest tech trends.

Medical Equipment Design

  • Medical Design Briefs: An online publication focused on medical devices and health technology, providing news and reviews on the latest innovations in medical equipment design.
  • Core77: Not just for automotive, Core77's medical design section highlights the best in healthcare product and service design, from wearables to hospital equipment.

General Creative Communities

  • Dribbble: A community of designers showcasing their work. It's a great place to see the latest trends in web, graphic, and product design.
  • Pinterest: While known for DIY and lifestyle content, Pinterest is a vast repository of creative ideas and designs across all industries.
  • Reddit: Subreddits like r/design, r/IndustrialDesign, and r/DesignPorn aggregate creative content from various design fields, offering insights, critiques, and discussions.

For Inspiration Across Industries

  • The Dieline: Focuses on packaging design but is a great source for understanding trends in branding, materials, and sustainability across various product categories.
  • Designwanted: A curatorial site that features a wide array of creative work from art and design to interesting product innovations.

These communities and websites are just the tip of the iceberg but offer a solid starting point for exploring creative content in various industries. They can provide inspiration, trends, insights, and networking opportunities with other creatives worldwide. Whether you're looking for cutting-edge automotive design, innovative medical equipment, or the next big thing in consumer electronics, these platforms have something to offer.

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Lyle’s Golden Syrup rebranded packaging at The Dieline

Bringing It All Together

Embarking on the journey of new product design is both an exciting and daunting venture. By employing strategies to overcome creative blocks, resetting your perspective through broadened horizons, and tapping into the vast resources available online, you're well-equipped to navigate the ideation process. Remember, every great product starts with a spark of creativity, and with these tools at your disposal, you're never far from your next big idea.

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