Embracing Your Highly Productive Industrial Design Partners

In industrial design, you always have industrial design partners. Great designs are always created by the collective effort of individuals willing to share their knowledge, creativity, and insight with the dedicated purpose of attaining the elusive perfect design.

I have designed more than 300 products and thousands of plastic parts throughout my career. I can confidently say that no product design can be credited exclusively to one person. Every product and project has always included at least one, or frequently several individuals at various stages throughout the process.

In any project, designers establish a vision, and they create the pathway to attain that vision. Designers must remain nimble and open to ideas at every development stage. Plus, they must concurrently filter this information with a strategy and set of objectives focused on developing an elegant, simple design.

This decision-making process requires a fine balance of objectivity and subjectivity—with the sole purpose of striving for the simplest elegant design solutions.

Who are your vital industrial design partners?

They are individuals within a company who might be involved in marketing, sales, manufacturing, finance, engineering, technical service—and most importantly—end users. Well-planned design projects include an initial set of product specifications based on information derived from all these perspectives.

As the design develops, key individuals from each of these departments should be included in milestone review meetings. Collectively, they review and critique decisions that could affect the ultimate marketplace success of a product. Great designers elicit insightful comments and encourage individuals to share their knowledge with the group. This information should be appreciated and evaluated based on the overall product performance objectives.

Successful designers diplomatically interact with the group by demonstrating a clear vision and leadership. Contributing individuals should be comfortable in expressing their views without fear of embarrassment. Conversely, a designer’s goals and objectives should be constantly communicated to the team from a position of leadership.

Highly productive meetings will include healthy debates where opposing ideas that can be objectively analyzed by the team. These meetings can be exciting and dynamic and often result in a flurry of fresh ideas from stimulating idea exchanges. Typically, dozens or even hundreds of viable design solutions can be derived from these meetings if individuals feel their roles in the development are meaningful.

The designer’s role in these meetings could be compared to that of a conductor leading an orchestra. His or her responsibility is to coordinate and encourage the group to work in a unified, cooperative manner toward a common goal.

Unfortunately, most design projects are not conducted in this fashion. Designers who lack vision or personal skills execute many projects without the benefit of group input. Conversely, projects can be hampered by an excessive number of unproductive meetings that are cluttered with meaningless conversations and the lack of any significant suggestions.

Hopefully, the short editorial may encourage some of you to seriously consider how you might plan your next project and manage those who are your industrial design partners. If you feel like contacting me for any suggestions or questions call or email paloian@idsys.com.