I confess: the first attempt at product design was a complete failure. It was rather frustrating. Until I found this quote:
What happens before getting it right and looking smart? Getting it wrong, experimenting, and learning, UNTIL you get it right!
(If you feel that you need some context for what follows, read Building a Brand Means Venturing in Uncharted Territory, if you haven’t already done that.)
Here I am! Taking my first step towards transforming my idea into reality: designing the first products of the MLC1948 brand. Great day!
So, I took a big block of white paper and a pen, sat down at my desk, and realized that I can’t draw. I mean, I can’t possibly draw anything artistic. I can perfectly sketch technical drawings and any other drawing that’s math related, but not artistic. Maybe I should start by taking the Product Design 101 course?
Was that little detail going to curb my enthusiasm? No, not at all. And, after all, I don’t need any artistic drawing. I want to design some nice bracelets, and I can do that perfectly with a technical drawing. What I need to know is sizes, forms, and materials. I’ll leave the aesthetics for later. That’s what I would call pragmatic product design.
(The logo design was the easiest part – thank you PowerPoint. But that was only because I wanted a minimalist design. And minimalist it was.)
(With the risk of opening too many parenthesis: even this simple part of brand design was a little messed up by the product design part. But more about this in a later episode.)
With a (vague) idea about what materials I need, I started searching the internet for supplies. How long could that take? Hint: a long time when you have only a vague idea about what you’re looking for.
To make the long story short, it took me a while to find the supplier who could deliver the quality of leather I was looking for. Then it took a longer while to figure out what kind of other materials I needed. But, the time spent searching was time well spent and I was happy with my initial selection of suppliers.
Needless to say that, beside the leather and the stainless steel accessories, nothing else was looking exactly how I imagined. I have ordered a decent variety of semi-precious stones to add to my bracelets and when I received them I could only burst out laughing: the colors were not exactly how I had imagined them and they were also almost microscopic (or so I thought) compared to my expectations.
No worries, all was good in the end. The colors of the gemstones matched the colors of the leather and the sizes were perfect to add a touch of elegance and light to an otherwise clunky leather bracelet. At least, that part of my product design session went well.
Needless to say, I was happy. It was a step forward. Time-wise though, there were not many reasons to be happy. I have estimated that my quest for supplies, the time needed for product design, and the creation of the first samples would be no more than a week. Three weeks later, I only had a couple of bracelets made.
Something was no quite right.
The first models of bracelets were looking pretty good, I have shown them to some of my friends and they were polite enough to say that they quite like the design, but there was still something bothering me.
And then the foggy thought became crystal clear: who is this product for and why would they buy it?
The business books all say that you have to design the product with the end customer in mind, right?
And this is how, after my two little steps forward, I had to take one big step back and figure out the answers to the two big questions above.
At this point, I have to say that my shinny enthusiasm was down a notch, but this wasn’t either something to make me think about giving up. Things only started to become more interesting.
Because I’m an optimist, here’s my take on what happened: the product design phase of my project was not successful by any standards, however, the questions that popped up about what I want to achieve, set me on a better path for the future. Provided that I manage to find good answers.
But more about that in the next post.