During product development many companies approach Industrial Design and Engineering as separate phases of product development. The project usually starts with Industrial Design and once that phase is completed, the project is transferred over to engineering with minimal communication between the two groups. Many companies even go so far as to use separate companies for ID and engineering, which further compartmentalizes the two groups.
Most Industrial Designers start their product development process by defining the problem. This usually involves ‘The user needs…’, ‘the ergonomic requirements are…’, ‘the client would like …’ or ‘The market segment uses the following visual cues’. There are occasionally constraints like “the motor is this big” but those are often regulated to the second tier. When this ID process is followed, the final industrial design concept is finished before it transferred over to engineering. This is often a very painful process in which the client has fallen in love with an ID concept, and engineering tells them they can’t have it, and the design must change. Industrial design often has minimal input on the changes, and ID intent is lost before the product reaches production. This results in a lot of wasted ID creativity and hard work, along with client money.
This situation can be eliminated if the process is changed. At Goddard we feel strongly that Id concepts are important, but ID should really be judged by the products that end up on the store shelves. To that end, our ID group starts with the standard research of user needs, environment, product market and ergonomics, but we also ask our engineers to explain the technical aspects including safety regulations, manufacturing techniques, COGS and any other technical constraints on the product. This streamlines the ID process by eliminating concepts that do not meet the technical requirements of the project. This also shows us where the boundaries are so that we know exactly how far we are pushing them. To further accomplish this, our engineers develop the internal components and mechanisms in collaboration with the Industrial Designers. By the time we reach a final ID concept, we know that it meets engineering requirements because we also have a final engineering concept for the internals. This makes for a seamless transition to final engineering, streamlines the process and preserves the Industrial Design intent all the way to production.
Darwin Keith-Lucas, Industrial Design Manager GTI Inc.