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You have an idea - now what?

From initial idea to first draft specification - are you doing the right things?




More times than I care to think about over 30 crazy years designing products, I've run into the same old mistakes being made over and over again. Let's start at the beginning with your "idea".


You have an "idea" for a product, and let's assume (ahem) that you've done your due diligence and know for a fact that your idea is better than, or adds to, a product already on the market. That in itself many times get's one into trouble. Everyone wants to believe that they've come up with a truly new, original idea, believe in it so much that they don't research the market. The first thing I, as a designer will ask you is, who is your competition? What product area are you going after? I tell people all the time, you can so this yourself, quickly, without paying a dime; Amazon and Alibaba.


Inevitably, if I'm given the task, I can find a product that already does what yours does, or something very close, on Amazon or Alibaba. Does that make it a bad idea? Of course not! What it does tell you is that there is a market for your idea (GREAT!) and that you already have competition (not so great). What you have to decide is, does your product add anything to the mix, or greatly improve on a product? This is what the industry calls "value added"; it's the thing that makes the consumer (your target customer) think to themselves "This product offers something extra that the competing products do not" and make them want to purchase it, right now, not later. This, by the way, will also be what a potential distributor or licensor of the product will look for.


So now you've done some research, and ready to move forward. First thing to do is get some 3D models done in CAD and 3D print them, throwing in any of the myriad little electronics modules available, right? WRONG!


The first thing you do is write a specification for the product. This, I know, sounds daunting. But in reality, it means nothing more than jotting down a list of "features", sketching out what you think it might look like (you don't have to be an artist - that's the job of an Industrial Designer), writing out short paragraphs of ideas. It doesn't have to be perfect; you can add or subtract at will. What it does do is give everyone involved something to work towards during development. Far too many projects died an early death because everyone wasn't on the same page from the start.


Once you've created your "spec", you're now onto a prototype. Jump over to the post on this, often mistreated crucial step in your product development.





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