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You don't need an industrial designer, do you?

Supplier: Bortz Product Design By: Gary Bortz
12 June, 2014

Why would you contract an industrial designer when all you think you need is a CAD draftsman? A CAD draftsman should cost a little less, saving you money. You would get your job drawn up and you should be ready for production. But, are you really saving, are you getting an "edge"?

We recently handled a few projects for which the clients had originally Googled a CAD draftsmen. It was the use of the word "CAD" as one of our search keywords that landed them at our site.  After an initial consultation we were able to demonstrate that for a little extra in the cost of employing an industrial designer there would be significant gains further down the track. How so?

One client had a project that they already manufactured through an expensive and laborious method. The part was currently being NC machined out of acrylic and their brief was to convert the part into an injection moulded version. This was a good idea and the cost savings in the long run would be tremendous. Certainly a CAD draftsman would be able to handle this.

They had met with a few companies to get quotes and a feel of who they felt comfortable to work with. In our meeting I stretched their brief by asking questions such as, "Why would you keep the styling the same if you no longer have the same constraints", "Why not create a unique brand image" and "Why not use some of the required moulding features in a more stylistic way"? Essentially we helped crystallise and shape their brief so that they stood to gain more than they originally realised they could.

 We won this project and value added to the client's product through taking a more holistic approach to what was initially a simple "redraw for injection moulding". It also turned out that our extensive experience with injection moulding provided the solution of moulding the entire product in one part thereby eliminating the cost of extra tooling and assembly. None of the other companies they had approached had provided a solution that consisted of less than 2 parts.

The praise we received from the client on completion was really satisfying especially knowing that we had delivered more than they had expected when they conceived their project.

In a second case, we were approached by a newly formed company that wanted to launch their first product and had an extremely tight deadline. They wanted to get "something cobbled together for a trade show in under a month".  Their concept involved combining two products from a 3rd party supplier – or so they initially thought.

At our first meeting they showed me two pictures and said "take this part from here and that part from there and put it together". Simple and I am sure that a draftsman would be able to do so, no problem. They then continued to say, that they were not sure of the size of the internal parts or if they could get them, but could they get a block style prototype for this trade show overseas in 3 weeks.

Always loving a challenge we stretched their initial perceptions of what they wanted to achieve. Surely if you were building your own unique brand, you would want a product that did not look like a cobbled together version of someone else's. If you have the opportunity of making your own moulds, why copy the form or layout of your competitors?

If the product was performing a similar function to others on the market, then it would require some unique selling features that would stand it apart.  We were also concerned that just throwing anything together and sending it off to a trade show could be counterproductive and create a poor perception of things to come.

To our clients credit they quickly saw the value add industrial designers bring to the mix and although the cost of design would be more, what they stood to gain would be greater.

The project kicked off immediately and within a week we had a totally new concept of layout and styling. They contracted an electronics engineer who quickly laid out a PCB with components we agreed could provide the format we were after. We 3D CAD solid modelled the design and had a rapid prototype produced. The product was assembled with the PCB and almost immediately shipped off to the trade show in Europe where it was enthusiastically received.

Having supplied our photo-realistic images, 3D pdf's and a rapid prototype (that looked and felt like the real thing) to their international distributors had built the client credibility. They were able to promote and test their product, get constructive feedback and achieve this is an extremely short time, looking very professional while they did it. They were taken seriously and they had a product with unique selling features and brand image.

As industrial designers we take a holistic approach to any project. We are experienced through having developed many and varied products, and are knowledgeable in many materials and processes. We help build brands, reduce costs, incorporate sustainability requirements and manage projects. 

These are some of the tangible and intangible benefits or "edge" that industrial designers can bring to the mix. A small cost for a sizeable return. So, do you need a designer? I would say, if you are looking for an advantage, an edge, the answer is definitely yes.

The next time you are developing a new product or revamping an existing one, give an industrial designer a call – it will be a good investment.