Inventing something is easy. At least, once you have the idea. Getting the idea into reality is the real challenge, and that is industrial design. Industrial design is the process of making an idea into a physical object, being able to manufacture your idea on the scale that it requires in the marketplace and making sure that your product is functional, durable and usable. Industrial design is part of the manufacture of virtually every product brought to market in modern times and yet most of us have little or no idea what it is or how it works. A vast majority of people will never have even considered that industrial design exists, and yet we all interact with it virtually every minute of every day.
The difference between good and bad industrial design
Just like almost anything else you can think of, it is possible to do industrial design badly. I do not only mean that the product does not work, although obviously that is the very basis. Other potential pitfalls include:
- That the product becomes too costly to manufacture or too expensive for the consumer;
- That the product is manufactured to inferior quality and does not match consumer expectations;
- That the product is not how the inventor envisaged it.
At any stage of the industrial design process, poor decision making can risk the entire future of the product in question. A poorly made or over-priced product will fail in the marketplace, regardless of the merits of the original idea. Countless unknown products and ideas will have fallen by the wayside due to poor industrial design. It is also crucial that communication between the designer or inventor and the industrial design firm is clear and regular, to ensure that the end product fulfils all of the original intentions, or you end with a product which, at best, is a disappointment to the original inventor, and at worst a complete failure due to not achieving its original purpose. To ensure the best results, there should be regular communication at all stages, including discussion of all aspects from the basic form of the product, up to the materials, price-point and colouring. A company called Alskar, based in the Netherlands, have a particularly strong approach to this with what they call “Look-in-the-kitchen” sessions to make sure that they have a clear view of the vision involved in the idea and product. They are aware of the importance of vision in the industrial design process, to ensure the strongest end product possible. In fact, on their website www.alskar.com, that particular company makes some excellent points about the process, talking about strategy, vision and innovation, exactly what I believe industrial design is, or should be, all about.
What to avoid
The last thing that you want as an inventor is to put your work in the hands of someone who does not understand or care about the product that they are preparing for you. Avoid companies that have unrealistic time-limits, appear to have a very large number of projects going on at the same time or who do not seem interested in knowing how your idea or vision started. They may seem experienced, cheap, or efficient, but if they are not focussed enough on your project and your vision, the end result will almost certainly not be what you were hoping for. Invest time and money in a company who are excellent communicators, like Alskar, to ensure the best result and the best final product and to give you and your vision the greatest chance of success in the future.