Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Product Design Brief–The Link to New Product Success

imageProduct designers are artists who have the unique ability to turn ideas into visual reality.  They bring products and graphics to life, adding their unique stamp of creativity, going beyond solving the functional need to attracting the most consumer appeal.  Success in design has been instrumental to the success of organizations such as Apple, Audi, BMW, and so many others.

Designers Look to the End User First

Successful innovators include designers on the core team to ensure that both product and communication design is well integrated into the entire product development approach. Designers are naturally left-brain thinkers, and tend to approach a project visually, with the end user in mind.  

I spoke with Vince Juliana from Juliana Design in Exton, PA. Vince does incredible work providing creative design solutions and development support from concept through manufacturing.  I asked him what he wants to know prior to undertaking the early design work for a project. 

“For me, the end user is typically a very critical part of the equation when designing any product. With a basic understanding of the purpose a product serves, I immediately want to know who it is intended to be used by and how they are expected to use it. Addressing the product design as an “experience” for a user requires that attention be paid to not only its ease of use and style but also its use within the context of the environment it is intended to exist. Talking with users and making a visit on site is quite valuable when defining your design and performance criteria for a new or updated product.  Also, including a good understanding of what a typical user wants to accomplish with your product will usually lead to the ultimate goal of optimizing its function and value.”

The Design Brief

So how should a marketer, inventor or project team brief the designer to allow them the freedom to get the best results? In other words, what are the key elements of a good design brief?   A good brief should contain the following topics and answer these questions:

  1. What does this product do?  What does it hope to achieve?  What need does it satisfy that isn't being satisfied already?
  2. Who is the target audience (end user) for this product and what problem are they having with existing products in this category?
  3. What are the most important functional elements of the product to the end user? 
  4. How will this product likely be packaged?
  5. How and where will this product be delivered and sold? 
  6. What is the anticipated cost of materials that will eventually be used to build this product?  This allows the designer to gauge intricacy of the design and likely materials.
  7. Are there one or two constraints that are not obvious (consumer issues, customer issues, profitability issues)

After the project is underway, Vince looks to accomplish the following to bring the team’s idea to life:

“Once a concept has been defined, there are several phases that occur toward a final design. Design development, prototyping, testing, engineering and manufacturing integration phases are designed to streamline and optimize the design for a successful launch. Considerations are made to insure that the design can be manufactured, that it can be assembled and serviced and that the final manufactured design will meet the design criteria established at the outset of the project.“

The designer brings more than artistic talent to any new product development project.  His or her input is needed at all phases of the project.  The brief is a critical link that ensures there is a core understanding of the project intent, the end user desire, and then provides the freedom and room to experiment towards turning a good working idea into a great end-user experience.

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