The Art of Creating Great Products A great way to designing is to have a detailed knowledge of the who consumes your products and how they use them

By Rohan Batra

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Having a product design philosophy is the cornerstone of any design or product development department. Whether you are designing apps for smartphones or the next best running shoe, it is important to have a set of principles laid down to ensure you create a great product that sells well.

Five product design principles :

Function vs Form

When developing a product one of the most difficult questions to wrestle with is whether the product needs to exist at all! The key to answering this question is to look at what function the product must perform and decide whether it is adequately suited to that function. For example, a tennis shoe must be lightweight, comfortable, provide support to the player during lateral movement and also face up to the rigours of long hours on court during tennis matches and training. The decision on shape, materials and construction will all be determined by these needs and only once the functionality is designed the form or aesthetic will follow naturally.

Iteration, innovation and invention

When deciding on products we must ask ourselves, is it an iteration, an innovation or an invention? Every product portfolio needs all of these versions of products to grow a sustainable business.

  • Iterating your bestselling products allows you to improve them every season and grow your core business.

  • Innovating by introducing new materials, technologies or manufacturing methods adds freshness, improves quality and can lead to keeping your products relevant to the market needs while also is a great strategy to build the future core bestsellers in your portfolio.

  • The invention takes time and is hard to do but it is the most important. Companies that invest in research and testing of materials, technologies and new ideas will always ensure that they keep one eye looking ahead to build a future pipeline of amazing products.

Is it simple?

Complexity is the enemy of a great product. It is truly amazing how most of the most successful companies will derive the most success from the products that have the best ease of use, are the easiest to manufacture and solve a very simple problem for the consumer.

The best design, as laid down by many legendary product designers such as Dieter Rams, Frank Lloyd Wright and Johnathan Ive, is as little design as possible.

You must always seek to develop products that reduce complexity and add innovation at the same time. The classic example if the introduction of the introduction of knitted uppers in footwear. By knitting fabric into a one-piece pattern and reinforcing the stress points with multiple layers of knit, footwear manufacturers have not only reduced the number of components and processes needed to construct a shoe but also benefitted from better fitting, lightweight footwear with a clean minimalist design.

The designer and the producer must interact

When designers design beautiful products conceptually there might be some real-world friction when the product has to be taken to market. Do the manufacturing processes exist that can execute the design or do the materials behave differently in real life versus in the design lab.

The designers have to have real-world experience of how manufacturing works, the tolerances of various materials. In apparel, concept designing can fall flat if the patterns to create the garment cannot be efficiently cut, or are too complex to assemble into a sample. Often the beautiful 3D digital will look clumsy or worse may not be able to be produced effectively for volume.

Having designers that work directly in the factories where the products are produced or UI designers working with coders is a great way of ensuring you don't have major problems in a new product that causes the project to be scrapped. Problems can be ironed out and the development moves forward as both sets of experts solve problems simultaneously.

Are you designing for your core consumer?

When designing a functional product, it is of the utmost importance to have in mind who the core consumer of that product is and whether they already exist as a core consumer for your company.

A great way to do this is to have detailed knowledge of the who consumes your products and how they use them. Gathering this data and comparing it with the functionality planning in any new product is a great way to test new products success before launching it.

Involving the marketing, design, product development and business teams at all stages of product development with a structured review process will also help formulate the plan of how to properly position the product with the end consumer. Sometimes, if you are selling through retailers or channel sales partners, their involvement in the development process will be very useful, however, the success of a new product with caution as sales channels can only tell you what is happening today, not what might happen in the future, for that you need to depend on consumer feedback, understanding how functional or easy to use a product is and trusting your gut instincts.

Wavy Line
Rohan Batra

MD, FILA India

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