Product Design Continued: D.I.Y.

To 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 answer when it comes to creating something new: how do you get the idea for a great-selling product? Obviously, a new product should satisfy a known need, like trash cans, or, even better, satisfy an unknown need, like the iPod. But, finding an elegant, simple, and innovative solution to fulfill that need can be the hardest step to accomplish. This begs the question: where are the muses when you need them?

If you’re trying to come up with a great product to fill yours or others’ needs, there are several places you can start. The traditional route within the product design industry is through research, (internet searches, market surveys, adding modifications or differentiating elements to current products, etc.). This route has proven successful in generating ideas in the past when there was less selection options in the past, but the ability of coming up with something new that hasn’t already been made into something has severely diminished with the increased availability of all public information being literally a pocket’s reach away. To truly come up with something that no one else has thought of and created it, one will need to think outside of the (digital) box.

My first suggestion for at amateur product designers will be to create a list of ways that your life can be made easier, (ie. have chores made easier to complete, help make memories more memorable, make your significant other change out the toilet paper when it’s empty…no, just me?). From this list (which can get long surprisingly quickly), pick the top three that have the strongest need for your life, (it’s ok to be selfish at times). After identifying the greatest needs, I recommend three sequential approaches to finding a solution to your need/problem: 1) be resourceful 2) be open and 3) be patient.

Finding alternative uses for tools you already have in your toolbox can be huge savers in your time and money banks. Plus, it’s just, plain satisfying when you realize “I don’t need to go to the store to spend more money? Awww, yeah!” However, you have to make sure you use these tools in a safe way; using tools beyond their intended use can create, obviously, unintended consequences. Make sure that you keep an open-mind to find a tool you already have that can safely fulfill your new need, but if you can’t find one available at home or in stores that can safely accomplish your task, then maybe an alternative step to your current process needs to be considered. Adding or modifying a current step in your process can be the easy solution you’re looking for to satisfy your need.

If modifying your actions still doesn’t create the solution you’re looking for, then it’s time to be patient. It’s amazing how much your brain still works subconsciously to solve your problems. For me, I get my most “A-HA!” and brilliant ideas when my mind wanders as I go to sleep. I have a notebook on my bedside table ready for me to jot down an idea whenever I come up with one that I can’t pass up. Find the times/environment when and where you’re most in your “zen” moment and make sure you have a memory tool nearby at those times to record all your fantastic product design ideas.

Let me know on Twitter via @KaitCook18 how you get your best ideas for improving on a product.

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