How Does an Idea Become a Product?
Millions of products launch every year but the process behind how they all come to be is often mysterious. How does an idea become a product? What is going on behind the scenes?
In our What is Soft Goods Design? post we shared a broad overview of the product development cycle that we follow for each project at Interwoven Design. In this post, we’ll walk through our specific studio process in detail, breaking down each phase of our workflow to provide insight into how a design studio functions, and how a good idea becomes a great product.
Our design process embodies the true nature of collaboration. Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, our fearless leader and the founder and principal designer at Interwoven Design, leads our team to achieve ambitious goals throughout the design and product development life cycle. By approaching industrial design with a start-up mindset we can iterate quickly, constantly informed by user testing and feedback that allows us to create innovative and functional wearable products like the Apex Exosuit.
Design Research & Analysis
We conduct design research and analysis that includes key requirements, physical constraints of the product, marketing objectives, examples of similar solutions, materials inquiries, aesthetics, and preliminary fabric research. Using this research as a jumping off point, our team explores additional aesthetic research, including trend, silhouette, texture and colors.
Collaborative discussions to brainstorm product features and technical options based on market and technical research can be highly generative. All ideas are then put forward and distilled into a single product goal.
Market research includes observational research, existing products, comparing features, benefits and capabilities, determining how price and performance compare across the current market, and first-hand teardowns of competitor products.
Planning & Design Concepts
The planning phase is a collaborative and internal effort to initiate the product development process. From a detailed definition of the product scope to the initiation of the creative design process, this includes concept creation, color development, materials research required for the full product, and silhouette sketches for both the apparel (as we do a lot of products that are worn on the body) and industrial design.
Product Scope & Management
Defining the scope is a collaborative effort to create the product vision, finalize the list of product requirements, and establish a product roadmap wherein every required feature is tied to a user need.
We provide textile (apparel and soft goods), product and technology design solutions guided by research. Multiple solutions are presented at this stage. This phase includes preliminary fabric research and the establishment of a product technology platform for the client brand as well.
We create a series of ideation sketches and alpha (first round) prototype mock-ups for conceptual solutions. These proof-of-concept prototypes are created quickly and consist of looks-like and works-like models to promote rapid iteration. The goal is to test and iterate as fast as possible to get to the best solution.
We provide refined conceptual designs that have been selected from the sketched concepts. Detailed drawings of each of the selected designs are presented in multiple views and rendered with a high level of detail.
Alpha Prototype Mock-ups
Two to three proof-of-concept alpha prototypes of the conceptual designs are developed. Materials are identified and low fidelity alternatives are used where needed. Each subsystem is prototyped independently with each iterated upon two to five times until it meets the chosen requirements. An aesthetic prototype can be created if requested by the client.
We make a collaborative effort with the client to choose the final subsystem implementations to be used in the beta (second round) prototype. The final product offering is determined and the final design is triggered. This final stage is often where the most difficult decisions are made between functionality, cost, and aesthetics.
This phase involves the development of a fully functional and looks-like pre-production prototype that matches the list of requirements. It involves two to three iterations of design, development, testing, and redesigning, depending on the product and client needs. CAD files are created for rapid prototyping, preliminary mold making, and pattern making.
We coordinate the hand-off of the design and prototypes to an internal product development or production team. We can also work directly with a manufacturing partner to facilitate the transition from high fidelity prototype to mass production.
As the work is in progress through manufacturing, I will remain available to give on going support the product through its final stages of development and consult with respect to whether what is being sourced, manufactured and delivered is in conformity with the specifications and of suitable quality.
We maintain an ongoing client relationship throughout product manufacturing. This relationship can include any or all of the services listed here. Ongoing relationships are structured as a monthly retainer agreement.
o Project management with manufacturing partner
o Continuing design innovation (R&D)
o Company technical advisor
So, that’s how an idea becomes a product, at least in our world of industrial design. Do you have an idea for a great product that you’d love to see brought to life? You just might want to reach out to us! Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!