You are in a desperate need of an earphone and standing in front of the electronics aisle at your local electronics store where each product is an exact replica of the other. So how do you decide which one to pick? 90% of the time the decision is taken based on an attribute such as price. When your brand’s product is exactly like the competitor’s, customers opt for price or color, and you end up losing out in more ways than one. One way to stand out is by focusing on product design. The time and thought put behind product design are, invariably, transferred on to the customer. Trust us, when we say, “customers can feel the love!” The right product design can strike just the right chord with the customer and make all the difference.
Definition, Please! What is Product Design?
Product design can mean different things to different people. People use the product design interchangeably with industrial design, user experience design, process design, and experience design. Truth be told, product designing overlaps with all of this. Wow! That can be confusing. But, don’t worry, we will break it down for you.
Product vs. Industrial design?
Making the distinction between industrial design and product design is a tricky one. Try looking up the definition of the two, and you will see a lot of similarities. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, industrial engineers/designers were responsible for creating a limited number of very, very expensive products. They were like artists of all things manufactured. However, once mass production of goods became possible, the definition of design expanded. Today, product design alludes to consumer goods, software, and the digital realm, while industrial design refers to designing of products and processes that require some sort of industrialization to produce (cars, buildings, aircraft, etc.). Sure, there are a lot of parallels between the two, but an easy way to think of it is to consider product design as a category of industrial design, just how dermatology is a subset of the medical field.
However, one thing remains constant: Design, at its’ core, is about problem-solving.
If design is about problem-solving, then think of a product designer as the captain who navigates the ship towards finding the best, value-added solutions. A product designer juggles multiple responsibilities, from researching the latest customer insights to creating and testing prototypes, and finally, working with marketing and sales to launch the final product.
While the design process might be different from a company to company basis, the overall framework of product design remains the same. Let’s understand the elements of great product design - Product Design 101.
1. Vision it Out!
A great start point for any project, not just design, is knowing the “why” behind it. Having crystal clear product vision and strategy, guides and motivates the entire team involved. Bringing a product to market or upgrading features is a strategic process that needs to be carefully managed. Without a clear vision of the same, it’s unlikely that you will see success.
2. Be Sherlock: Gather Consumer Research & Insights
In order to be the best problem solver for your user, you need to know their pain points and challenges. Do your research by conducting user interviews and questionnaires, industry trade or SWOT analysis, and market surveys to read the user’s mind and walk away with an understanding of not only the current but also the future customer trends, and requirements.
We, at Analogy, tapped into our global data of consumer insights and conducted affinity mapping, to create and deliver clever product and packaging for a top FMCG brand’s deodorant and perfume line. The research process can be lengthy and time-consuming initially, but it will save time and costs in the long-term as fewer changes will have to be made. Plus, taking the time to gather customer insight might help uncover new business opportunities!
3. Sum up the Learnings via Brainstorming
“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” –David Ogilvy
After getting to know the audience and uncovering their pain points, it’s time, to sum up, and share the learnings and brainstorming with the team to get everyone “invested” and on the same page. Vigilant brainstorming allowed Analogy’s design team to come up with a refreshing solution for a pharmaceutical client that was seeking to foster doctor and patient relationships. Instead of going the usual digital way, Analogy designed a 3D pop-up, interactive coffee table book that could be used to educate patients about the benefits of staying healthy.
4. Design & Prototype - Create & Recreate
The goal of designing and prototyping is to be able to quickly create and test the product before sending into full-blown production mode. Advances in 3D printing have not only reduced costs but also made it possible to prototype within days, if not hours. Wireframing, storyboarding, and sketching are some of the tools that can be helpful in this stage. Our designers at Analogy used a combination of sketching and rapid prototyping to test the usability of our Loft Apple watch and phone stand. The result was a unique product, made from a single piece of cast metal, that didn’t share similarity with competitors, and yet, did the job of keeping all accessories together and charged brilliantly.
5. Testing & Validation - Do it Right & Last Forever
Imagine designing a product that meets all the customer “must-haves”, but does not make sense to the consumer or has major usability issues. Isn’t that a heartbreak inducing situation? Testing and validating your product design enables you to gain quick feedback and account for any necessary tweaks. Cellairis challenged Analogy to come up with a slim and protective cover for Chrome books used in K12 schools. Intense ideation and testing went into creating the final material that was aesthetically pleasing and could pass the crucial impact drop test.
In a Nutshell
Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how something works.” Design today is about solving a problem and adding value to your end user. It is important to remember that the product design process does not end at the launch of a product. It is an on-going process where shifts in technology, customer demands, and trends will continue to drive the journey. With every company battling for customer loyalty and brand recognition, your product design is essential to making you stand out.
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