Product designers are often intelligent and talented people who use skills gained through experience to produce eye-catching, worthwhile, and saleable goods. But sometimes, it’s possible to spend huge amounts of time and money on something that isn’t right, or doesn’t work as intended.

Product Design Mistakes to Avoid

Sir Clive Sinclaire captured everyone’s attention with the ZX Spectrum — a home computer that anyone could use — but his follow up, the C5 vehicle, failed miserably because people feared being wheel-to-wheel with a forty-ton truck in a small lightweight three-wheeled car. The product clearly needed a safe street infrastructure akin to bicycle lanes to run in, and the world neither had it nor was ready for it. Even the best product designers sometimes become trapped by a few very common mistakes, but understanding those mistakes will keep you in good stead when thinking of new products.

1. Misunderstanding the design brief

Unless you are a true inventor working on your own, you may be working on projects that come down from the head of design, sales, or the marketing department, telling you that there is a perceived hole in the market that you’re in a position to fill. In these cases, the designer will probably have a design brief — a document that details the perceived product or what the customer wants. While the design brief is usually fairly descriptive, it may not have everything needed, and much of the actual product mechanics may be left to the designer. It is at this point that personal preferences may come into play — endangering the original concept of the product. Whether through a Stage-Gate design system or regular meetings with stakeholders, make sure that you are designing what the brief asks for.

2. Design for the market, not for yourself

Personal preferences can play a big part in product design, which makes it all too easy for a designer to allow their own wants to migrate into a new product — ignoring the fundamental message from the market. What you want is not necessarily what the market wants or needs. Unless you are following the design brief to the letter, you should think about business development strategy.

3. Make design a team effort

Generally, having more people involved at the early stages of design can help make a more robust product. This allows many people of different backgrounds to provide input and ask questions at every stage. In challenging decisions, the whole team can reimagine the design and interrogate every aspect — ensuring that the whole product design process has been thoroughly thought out. Providing that the members of a team have a vested interest in the product, or sufficient experience of the market, involving people is of paramount importance.

4. Avoid the “me too” mind-set

It is very easy to look at a product and think “I could have designed that”. Good ideas and designs are always obvious in retrospect. The real skill of the designer is to be original and spot the opening in the market that needs or wants a new product or device. Unless you can come up with a truly unique take on something already in existence, you will be entering a market that is already satisfied. Copycat products are generally seen as just that – something that is not the original. The ultimate prize for any innovative designer is to come up with an original design that stops people in their tracks and sells satisfying amounts.

Product design is a fascinating and fulfilling experience, and to see your product rise from first discussions into something that you can hold and use is a truly wonderful feeling. Conversely, to spend months and possibly years getting a product to the cusp of market only to be told by other interested parties that it isn’t actually what they want, or it’s not as good as the one on the market, can be crushing. By following a few simple rules, you can make the product design process exciting and financially satisfying.

Pivot International is a product design, development, and manufacturing firm with strengths in software development, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and industrial design. If you are interested in engineering a new product or updating an existing product, contact us at 1-877-206-5001 or request your free consultation today.