Frequently asked questions about product design

Frequently asked questions

How can you achieve quicker innovation in a large corporation?

Typical issues that slow down innovation might be strict reporting to management, teams not daring to take risks, slow decision-making processes and falling in love with the wrong projects.

Small team approach
We have seen in some of the multinationals that we work with that an autonomous small team could help. A dedicated team that acts as a startup. Create such a team with just a couple of people, allocate budget to the team, a separated work space, the freedom to report only the absolute minimum to management, and the freedom to take risks and fail early.

Partially outsource approach
It is also possible to create a team that is a combination of a few people from the company and a few people from an external design firm. The actual development takes place in the premises of the design firm, out of direct sight of the company. Only a few people know about the project.

When you stick to the principle of a small team, free to make mistakes, free to experiment, with a strong mission to solve a problem, with the atmosphere of a startup, innovation will come at a much quicker rate.

We are happy to share
Which strategy works best for your situation depends on a combination of factors. Next time you consider to achieving more and quicker innovation, just give us a call, we are happy to share our experiences with you.

Should we protect our design and innovations?

The problem companies experience is that somebody else might have the same innovation or design, or worse, might steal the innovation. Still protection with a patent is not the only option you have.

Early stages
In the very early stage of an innovation, when it is not much more then an idea, we recommend to share. It is the only way to test if the idea potentially leads to value. You could use an NDA that can be signed before going into a conversation with potential partners about the idea.

Other options you might consider is registering the design rights or the brand name, which is much cheaper then a patent application. Or you might follow a strategy of ongoing development, being a step ahead competition, claiming you are the original. As soon as you published your innovation, you can not apply for a patent anymore, but on the other side nobody else can patent it as well. Make sure you can prove the date of first publishing your innovation.

Do not automatically try to protect every idea
When you stick to the principle that an idea by itself rarely represents any value, you might get great new insights about your idea when sharing with others. Because it is valuable not to fall in love with an idea and fail early if it is not such a good idea in the first place.

When you get reassurance from others that the idea has potential, then investing in design, development and manufacturing of your idea will lead to value. When you would bring the product to market, eventually copies of your product might appear on the market after some time, especially when you are successfully selling the product. The question is how bad that is. Do you want to be focussed on innovation or on protecting?

In other cases protection of the innovation with a patent is useful, especially if the technology was expensive to develop, if your company has the cash to protect the innovations in worldwide courts or if you intent to sell your innovations or company to a large investor or multinational.

We are happy to share
Which strategy works best for your situation depends of course on a combination of factors. Next time you consider developing a product and you struggle with the right strategy of protection, just give us a call, we are happy to share our experiences with you.

What does it take to start developing own products?

This question pop's up sometimes when talking to companies. Is it possible to turn a trading company into a company that is creating innovation?

New mindset
There are indeed a few problems to tackle when starting developing for the first time. It is really rewarding, but developing requires a different mindset. Product design and development typically is more risky then just branding standard products. It requires more funds both for design and for investments in manufacturing tooling. And potentially it is easy to loose focus and start without a solid strategy.

Keep it to one product first
We recommend that you first start with only one product. Many times we see that companies get enthusiastic and when the first project kicked-off they want immediately to develop the next couple of products. You will need a new mindset. A mindset of creating, instead of selecting an OEM product and re-brand it into your own. Creating takes more time, creating gives freedom to do things differently. But this freedom comes often with a lack of strategy and focus, leading to long projects, high risk and lots of investments made.

When you stick to creating first one product your risk will be limited. You will learn to deal with the new mindset of creation meaningful new solutions for your clients, and it gives you enough possibilities to manage the project successfully, not only the design part, but also into manufacturing, certifications and logistics.

We are happy to share
As for how easy it will be to transfer your company into an innovating company is of course hard to say, it really depends on your former experiences, your team, your resources and risk levels that you are used to take. Next time you consider to develop a product, just drop us a line by email, we will be happy to tell you everything we know.

Could this product become a success on the market?

Mainly start up companies ask this question. The problem for a start-up firm is obvious, there is only one product to enter the market first. Maybe a second one will follow soon, yet the large uncertainty of how a first product will do it in the market is making them nervous.

Nobody could predict
Unfortunately we can never answer this question. We can only say that we see potential, or maybe we do not see so much potential. Yet that is just an opinion, nobody really is able to predict how much people will embrace a new product. Also our experience of running over a hundred projects, seeing some products succeed on the market, seeing other not entering the market and some failing, can in no way help to predict anything about a new product.

Limit the risks
Still you can try to limit the risks for your company. For instance by running user tests in a very early stage, sharing your thoughts with people, by trying to get out of your comfort zone, asking other people then the ones around you that might tell you they like the product because they like you. Keep iterating your business model, do not think only in terms of selling your product, test also idea's about sharing, renting, leasing or a complete service model where the product is a tool to render a service to people.

When you stick to the principle of trying to fail early you can limit your risks. Try to find a balance between creating a perfect first product and a 'good enough' situation. Entering the market earlier with a product that is good enough is mostly wise. It will give you a lot of new input from a larger group of users and will make version 2 much better.

We are happy to share
Which way is the best for you depends on your product. A medical device will most likely have a higher risk profile, it will need more development and needs to be nearly perfect before going into clinical trials. A sports product might have a different profile. It also greatly depends on your network, experience and intended business model. If you consider developing a product and you would like to know more about your situation, just give us a call, we will be happy to tell you everything we know.

Could my company afford hiring a design firm?

Both small and large companies ask the question whether they could afford to hire a design firm for a project. The problem here is that a company may be unexperienced with the design process and the reasonable costs that come with it.

Freelancer or design team
It is indeed hard to understand how many hours should be spend on a design and development process to come to the desired result. Hiring a single freelance designer may solve the problem and get a result. Hiring a design team may also solve the problem, and might get a higher quality result.

Try to estimate the complexity of the job. Sometimes companies hire a junior designer for a job that demands an experienced senior design team. You could consider working with an unexperienced designer in the case of a simple packaging or a very simple product, which is not strategically important to your business. If the product is more complex and of more strategic value, then hiring a design team is definitely recommendable. The question is not really about if you can afford to do that, but if you can afford not to do so.

Strategically important or not
Sometimes companies take a short-cut to just get some quick sketches and skip the design process. Or go with the inexperienced on a project that is strategically important and complex. Mostly what follows is a bad product launch, costing tooling, promotional materials, web services, sales teams, logistics, material purchase. And damage to the brand. An established design firm will not skip the design strategy and development and will not just deliver design sketches. Like a doctor will not skip the diagnostics and just deliver medicine.

So maybe it is better to stick to the principle that you will need an experienced design team for strategically important products for your business.

We are happy to share
If you feel that you have trouble understanding the complexity of a design job, whether you would need a single designer or a full design team, you are most welcome to give us a call. We are happy to share our experience and help you further deciding which approach would be best for you.

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