Is Less More? Avoiding Product Overdesign

Product design for manufacturing is the creative, technical and sometimes very expensive process to generating new sources of revenue; this is also my current dream job pursuit. The whole reason I got into chemical engineering was to (half-jokingly) design the most delicious cookie for a big food company. And, while my original expectations of throwing flour and sugar into bowls at various quantities and executing “quality control” for every batch isn’t necessarily part of an ideal design process, my passion to become a product developer has not dwindled. For those who do (and do not) share this same drive, I’ve collected some tips on how to avoid major “don’ts” in designing.

  • Don’t fix what ain’t broken: Or simply, don’t make something that isn’t functional. Yeah: glittery gel pens, plastic sporks, and hoverboards are all really cool at first thought and glance. They excite intrigue into the initial market exposure, but when it comes to sales the items are not flying off the shelves. Why? Because these ideas/products don’t make our lives easier, but rather they force the end user to modify their actions to accommodate this new tool. DON’T. A new product should allow for the end user to intuitively manipulate this new resource to complete their task more efficiently and/or effectively.
  • K.I.S.S.: as mentioned above, a great, new tool should be easy to figure out. Product designers like to use the phrase, “simple, yet elegant” and that’s a wise focus to maintain throughout the design process. Determine the agreed-upon function(s) of the product based on input from your entire design team at the beginning and keep revisiting these desired outputs of the product throughout the design process so that your team doesn’t add extra whatchamacallits that don’t serve the original purpose.
  • Try, try, and try again: one of my professors, Dan Oster, introduced me to a great video about the Marshmallow challenge, which is famous and widely known in the supply-chain management community. What I loved about the kindergarteners in the video is how they handled the challenge by being perfectly ok with knocking down their tower to restart their design from scratch in order to build better. This mindset, to hold onto your dream loosely and be open to adjustments while being tenaciously persistent toward reaching your goal, put the kindergarteners into the champions place for the challenge worldwide.

There’s certainly many other “don’ts” along with plenty of “do’s” when it comes to product design, which I’ll discuss more in upcoming posts. However, focusing on these concepts through the product design process will help keep your team on track and within your timeline. Let me know about a product that you through was a great idea, but wasn’t able to make your life as easy as you hoped for. Also, check out the following blog posts on the problems and how to avoid them with overdesigning a product:

1) The Pursuit of Perfection: Are You Overdesigning?

2) Overdesigning Products ino Failure: the SENZ Aerodynamic Umbrella

3) A Simple Tool That Could Transform Your Product Development Strategy

4) 3 Most Common Product Development Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

My good friend, Judy Harlow, requested information on how to avoid over-designing a product. This blog is my first response to her request.

Video credit: Tom Wujec: Build a tower, build a team from TEDTalks

Photo credit:


  1. […] more to my previous post on avoiding product overdesign, new products need to also be prepared for manufacturing appropriately or are manufacture-able, […]


  2. […] continue my introductory series on product design (see my first two posts: Product Overdesign and Harmony with Manufacturing), I wanted to delve into the question I find most difficult to […]


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