What is Tangible Product Development?
A tangible product is anything a user can touch and feel. A building, gadget, vehicle, clothing, etc. can all be defined as tangible products. The process of taking the idea of such a product to its physical/tangible form is known as the process of tangible product development also referred to as the industrial/product design process. These products are usually developed by design professionals working in close collaboration with professionals from other fields such as engineering, marketing, business development, branding, and more. A typical product goes through multiple processes including design, development, prototyping, testing, fabrication, and more.
What is the importance of a Tangible Prototype?
A prototype is an early model of a product created to test and validate the idea. It exists as a proof of concept and is used to evaluate and visualize the new design in real-time. It is the step between the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.
Physical prototypes are the most crucial part of any design process. They are used frequently in all design disciplines and by several design professionals from architects, engineers, industrial designers, and even service designers. Prototypes are usually made to test the designs before investing in the mass production of the product.
A tangible prototype or model of the product is used to check if it works as a solution to the problems already defined and discussed by the designers during the concept/idea stage. Instead of going through the entire design cycle based on a supposed solution, prototypes allow designers to validate their concepts by putting an early version of the solution in front of real users and collecting feedback as quickly as possible.
Prototypes often fail when tested, thus showing designers the defects that need to be corrected. Due to the early failure of prototypes, they help in avoiding the waste of energy, time, and money in implementing weak or inappropriate solutions.
Further – From Prototype to Final Product
The real journey of idea execution starts after a successful prototype is developed, tested, and approved. Now is the time for mass production so the product can move past the idea stage and reach its potential users. After the prototype has been successfully tested, a production prototype is created. This is the last confirmation before designs are released for mass-production tooling.
For a product to be manufactured at all, highly detailed instructions need to be made for the product. The manufacturer doesn’t know where each bolt and screw needs to be, what the thickness of the material needs to be, or what sort of material is to be used unless these instructions are given to them. It is the role of an industrial designer to create these instructions and provide the manufacturer with everything needed to make the product. Hence, Industrial designers are an essential part of this process that do several things from updating the look of an old product, to making something more ergonomic, user-friendly, or aesthetically pleasing.
The problems, complexities & pain points during the journey
1. In the Ideation Stage - Ideation is the capability for generating, developing, actualizing, and communicating ideas. Ideation is an essential part of the design process, both in education and practice—and it’s at the heart of the Design Thinking process. However, many problems can cause this stage to be inefficient.
a. Lack of experience - As fun and casual as it may seem, ideation is serious business and requires some experience to be effective. It is helpful to start by getting a better grasp of the fundamentals before diving in. Ideation requires focusing on the user and problem statement, keen awareness of group dynamics, and purposeful steering.
b. Unfriendly Workspace - Doing ideation sessions in cubicle offices is a no-no. Ideation sessions may need to switch from large group interaction to team spaces very quickly, thus requiring a space that could be easily reconfigured. The space needs to be hierarchy free, well-lit, ventilated, and free from external distraction or interference.
c. Unclear Goals - A huge no-no is diving into ideation without clear objectives. Ideation sessions without one or more clear goals/problem statements will result in only a waste of time. When setting goals for the ideation, you need to remember that people naturally incline towards issues that are within their direct line of vision and influence.
d. Lack of creativity - A closed mind will not be able to build on external stimuli. Ideations function best when all ideas can be expressed equally and then later mixed up in unconventional ways. Some organizational environments are so entrenched in statistical data, logic, and rationality that people end up losing their ability to think out of the box.
2. In the Design & Development stage - Product designers can face various challenges during the design development cycle. Especially if you’re fresh out of design school and working on building something of your own. These challenges can have a major impact on how your ideas and designs turn out to be. Some of these challenges for beginners can be:
a. Expensive digital tools and software – It can be quite expensive for a young designer to be able to afford an expensive computer along with the relevant design software to be able to visualize their idea. This can result in inefficiency in the workflow and inferior quality of the final design. The only option they are left with is to get a job and work on their idea part-time. In most cases, this can cause a detachment from their big idea and eventually a disinterest.
b. No access to mentors or project guides – Unlike in design school, the availability of design mentors and guides in the real world is scarce. It’s a search-and-chase game including cold reach outs and constant follow-ups that can take up a lot of time. Even then it is not guaranteed for the guide to be a perfect match.
c. No access to a creative studio workspace – While design college provides a holistic environment that encourages and supports creativity, the real world is quite different. In most cases, a designer will find themself in his/her room tinkering on ideas. Often these tinkerings die out before seeing the light of day. Having access to a creative workspace with other creatives is equally important for the idea to flourish.
3. In the Prototyping Stage – This crucial stage of the design process is also the most challenging. It requires access to several resources to be a success however for a young designer working on his/her idea, it can be very difficult to be able to get these resources easily.
a. Limited knowledge of prototyping processes – Unless taught and practiced in person, prototyping can be a hard task to be good at. Knowing how to carve foam vs carving it by hand are two very different things. If your design school gives little to no importance to tangible prototyping and its processes, there is a good chance you’ll struggle in the industry as an industrial designer.
b. Limited access to prototyping tools and machinery – While a college is filled with relevant resources a student might need to build their project, the real world does not. Everything needs to be paid for and bought even if it’s for just one-time use. A design student right out of college has limited access to such machines thus causing a hindrance in his design process.
c. Limited access to prototyping materials – Similar to machinery, sourcing materials can also be a task. From knowing where to find the right supplier, to get the right size, to negotiating a cost that works for you, the industry is highly unorganized. There is not a single on-point resource ecosystem that makes all these things readily available to the ideator.
d.Limited access to technical support by experts – Prototyping can also be dangerous in some cases as the process could require the use of heavy machinery and tools. Safety is crucial in this scenario hence it requires guidance from technical experts to be able to prototype safely.
4.Manufacturing stage – This last stage of bringing a product idea to life is a hassle. A young designer in most cases is unaware of possible manufacturing techniques and where to find them. These challenges further complicate the idea execution journey.
a. Uneducated marginal labour – The Indian industrial scenario is filled with small labor shops that specialize in metalwork, woodwork, etc. However, these marginal laborers are merely craftsmen and/or machine operators with no formal education or design background. Working with them as a young designer can be difficult due to obvious communication gaps.
b. Fabrication houses only cater to large MOQs – Most manufacturers will only consider orders in large quantities. While this is understandable from their pov, large quantities won’t exist without a working prototype. It is important to create a real sample piece first before going into production.
c. Unorganized spread of manufacturers around the city – While there are several manufacturers available in the city, knowing where to find them is difficult. They are spread across several industrial areas in small shops or large sheds. For a young designer, being able to find trusted and verified manufacturing support can be a daunting task.
Simplify your Idea Execution journey at Collab Therapy
At CollabTherapy, we aim to bridge this resource gap by creating a seamless direct link between the ideator and all their idea execution needs. A one-point resource ecosystem to help creatives design, develop, prototype, test, fabricate, and seed their ideas.
The Co-design Space by CollabTherapy is India’s first collaboration workspace for creatives to help them build a tangible product. The space offers a range of facilities under one roof such as Ideation Rooms, Creative co-working, Computer workstations with design software, Prototyping Lab, Materials Inventory, and Fabrication Support. A perfect workplace to take your ideas from sketch to prototype and further without going through the hassle of looking for resources around the city.
Are you a design student, freelance designer, engineer, startup or just a hobbyist with an idea you’ve been tinkering on? Visit www.collabtherapy.in to become a member today and get complete access to our co-design space & its facilities to make your ideas a tangible reality.
Co-design Space Located at:
B-67 3rd Floor
Mayapuri Industrial Area Phase 1
New Delhi 110056