Product Design – Part 1

By Mike Anderson
Published on: April 7, 2017

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This is a 6-part series.

To Read Part 1 – Vaporware Wars – Go here.

To Read Part 2 – How Products are Chosen for Development – Go here.

To Read Part 3 – Product Development – Investigation – Go here.

This is the step where real engineering work on the product begins.  Unless you work in product development daily, you’ve probably never realized just how much there is to do for even the simplest product.

Engineering encompasses two main disciplines: Hardware (includes electrical design and mechanical design) and Software (this includes embedded software or firmware, system level software or application layer, user interface, and any device applications such as iPhone or Android).

The Mechanical design is influenced by the electrical design.  We can’t have a package that is too small for what needs to go inside it, and there is no reason to have a giant box with very little inside it.  Knobs, jacks, connectors, etc. take up a lot of real estate, and very often end up driving the overall size.  Electrically, all those connectors and knobs must be mounted on a circuit board along with any indicator lamps or displays – whose location is again usually driven by the desired appearance.

Which brings us to where the marketing department comes into play.  The final look and feel of the product is decided by them.  Often the product is part of a family or line of products and a consistent look is important for managing the brand name.

This process is iterative with lots of give and take and back and forth between the engineers, marketing, the product manager and even the sales team.  Customers are often asked to provide feedback during this process as well.

I can tell you from experience that some of those meetings that decide the final feature set, or location of connectors or lights – and even the color of those lights, can get heated.  That’s what happens when passionate people are trying to decide exactly what will be built.  This step is also what makes products late, and why a final product may look different and have different features from what was originally shown.

In the product development world, the software team is much like the integrator in the home-building world.  That is, they are the last guys in, and the last guys out … and they are often required to adjust or change something on the fly to achieve the desired result.  All while the customer is breathing over your shoulder because there is a party scheduled for tomorrow night.

In the next article, we’ll explore the software team’s contribution in more detail.

In the meantime, let your suppliers know you are available and willing to help them build better products by providing feedback utilizing your vast experience and knowledge.  Most importantly, when you make that offer – follow up.  There is nothing more frustrating for a manufacturer than to have someone promise to provide feedback, and then never “have time” to open the box once the product is shipped.

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson

Mike is the CEO of AVidea Group, a firm that provides product development service for consumer technology companies. Previously, he was founder and president of TiO, and worked in the industry for notable manufacturers Russound, Niles Audio and JVC. He holds an MBA from Cal State.

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