Good Design Awards 2017

The Outerspace team love to make things.

We particularly love to make things that push the boundaries of what a product can do, and have a positive impact on people’s lives, which leads to commercial success.

Three such products, the Fusion Guitar, and the Robo C2 & Robo R2 3D printers were recently recognized for design excellence at the Good Design Awards.

The 2017 Good Design Awards were held in Sydney Australia after a lengthy and extensive evaluation process involving more than 35 international design experts.

Fusion Guitar

The Fusion Guitar is an all-in-one electric travel guitar. Built in battery, amplifier and speakers make it very portable. For new users, it takes the hassle out of researching and selecting gear. You can simply pick it up, turn it on and play. It also has iPhone integration which lets you watch video tutorials while you play, and puts the best guitar teaching apps literally at your fingertips.

Advanced players who already own gear are attracted to the convenience of the world’s first truly portable electric guitar to play anywhere, anytime. Real-time signal processing combined with guitar apps like JamUp let you create unlimited effects – it’s like having a full rig and recording studio wherever you go, so you’re always ready when inspiration strikes.

The Good Design Awards jury commented,

“The Fusion Guitar represents an innovative leap in this product segment. Beautifully executed design with a simple user-interface makes this a highly desirable and game changing product. It ticks every box in the criteria and adds a few more.”

Fusion Guitar at the Good Design Awards > 

See the guitar in action >

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As the number of contracted and freelance designers in the career place rises, so does the demand for strong wifi and good coffee. According to an independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union & Elance-oDesk, There are 53 million Americans — 34 percent of the U.S. workforce — working as freelancers. As the study states, “Simply put, that’s a lot of people living and working in a new way.”

 

So how has the job market reacted to this shift in employment set up? It has created the CoWork. A coworking office is a place where individuals who work mostly in an isolated setting can work alongside each other at desks or private offices. These individuals rent out space and pay on a monthly basis. This style of office renting is great for companies just getting their feet off the ground, or for freelancers who want to connect with members of their community.

 

If you’re looking for a guide to find the perfect coworking office for your company, check out or list of spaces in San Diego below!

 

Ootbox CoWork

Website – http://www.thinkootbox.com/

Address- 6640 Lusk Blvd., Suite A200 San Diego, CA 92121

Benefits include a ‘think lounge’, 24 hour access, and kitchen beverages along with many others.

 

VentureBeach Cowork

Website – http://venturebeachcowork.com/ Format- Month to Month after Initial Membership. Open floor plan, and private offices. Perks include a large event space, Audio-Visual Equipment Rental, and access to the kitchenette.

 

Ansire Innovation Center

Website – http://ansirsd.com/

4685 Convoy St #210, San Diego, CA 92111

An office space well-equipped to handle science based businesses with a full lab accessible.

 

Co-mmunity Creative Space

Website – http://co-mmunity.com/

Address-  1228 University Ave #200, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest)

Benefits; free tea and coffee, business essentials, private meeting rooms, and dedicated desks

 

Union CoWork

Website – https://unioncowork.com/

Locations in Encinitas, North Park,and Downtown SD.

Perks; 24 hour access, fixed rate all inclusive, mailing address, pet friendly, community events, kombucha and beer on tap, free coffee, bike friendly, and conference rooms available to all members.

 

Swoon Cowork

Website – http://swoonwork.com/

Address-  4636 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116

Benefits; 24/7 access, free coffee, fast internet, mail service, controlled access, tv moniters, and open seating

 

NEST co work

Website – http://cybertechnetwork.org/aboutcybertech/

Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNbSMC1WCsA

1855 First Avenue, Suite 103

San Diego, CA 92101

Perks; coffee shop inside, local artists, houses over 30 tech businesses, and well connected

 

Desk Hub San Diego

Website- http://www.deskhub.com/san-diego

Address- 2159 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

Perks; inclusive pricing structure. wifi, print and copy, unlimited Conference Room Access, community events, member directory, fully stocked kitchen, company signage, mail service 24/7

 

The Vine SD

Website – http://thevine.irvinecompany.com/

Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNbSMC1WCsA

101 W Broadway, Suite 1105, San Diego CA, 92101, USA

Benefits; 24/7 access, dedicated desk space, conference rooms, phone rooms, collaborative space, high speed internet & WiFi, printing, filtered water, shuffleboard

 

 

Downtown Works

Website – http://www.downtownworks.com/

Address- 550 West B Street Fourth Floor San Diego, CA 92101

Benefits; premium coffee and tea, local craft beer on tap, pet friendly, weekly happy hour, large phone booth, conference rooms

 

 

We Work B Street

Website – https://www.wework.com/

Address- Comerica Bank Building, 600 B St, San Diego, CA 92101

Amenities; Super-Fast Internet, business, class printers, unique common areas, bike storage

micro-roasted coffee, front desk service, private phone booths. community managers

daily cleaning, craft on draft, fresh fruit water, office supplies, 24/7 building access, professional & social events, mail & package handling, and a global network

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Have you ever heard about a conference just days after it happened? Worry no more! To keep you on the up and up, we created a list of all the exciting design-related events happening around the world in 2017/2018.

 

Women + Design Summit

San Diego, CA

May 12, 2017

Don’t miss out on this new event, and the chance to foster relationships with some of the most impressive women in design! There will be speakers, panels, sessions, workshops and more. Some highlights include insights from Ti Chang on her transition from Industrial designer to Entrepreneur, and stories from Diane Allen retelling how she managed several interior design projects for Nissan Design America. The Summit will be lead by Megan Neese, chair of IDSA board of directors. The Women and design Summit promising to be an inspiring event with incredible speakers and a great venue. I wouldn’t miss it!

 

The Maker Faire

San Mateo, CA

May 19-21, 2017

Hosted in the fast paced world of the Bay Area; the Maker faire is ready to send ripples through the water. This event has countless options to customize the participant’s experience. With day passes, weekend passes, discounts, and activity based registration, there’s no excuse to keep you from participating in part, or all of the happenings! You can find their ticket price options here. The Maker Faire boasts a variety of music, educational workshops, show and tell, science workshops, electronics talks, and equality discussions. This festival has something for everyone. With free admission for kids, and a wide range of presentations, it is truly an event for young and old alike!

 

The ING Creative Festival

Dubai, UAE

April, 2018

This creative mecca is an event for the decades! At the price of only $270, you can participate in this three day event and the biggest hurdle is getting yourself to Dubai. The event offers incredible speakers and inspiration. At the 2017 conference, the ING conference hosted over 28 talented speakers including creatives from Disney, Google, Design Matters, National Geographic, the MOMA, Pixar, Nasa and IBM; to name a few. Beyond impressive speakers, they even had interactive workshops ranging from screen-printing, to restaurant branding and leatherworking.  Individuals can also sign up as volunteers or for internships, so no matter your financial situation, you have options to get to the festival. This event is the complete package, offering a huge range of information and diversity. Sign up for the ING festival to listen to the most creative people in the world tell their stories.

 

Milan Design Week

Milan, Italy

April, 2018

If you’re looking for an adventure and vacation, along with some design inspiration, then Milan Design week is for you! The Milan design week encompasses the programs of the salone del mobile – the annual international furniture exhibition staged at the halls of rho fiera; and fuorisalone – a set of events distributed in different areas of milan, sure to inspire. What’s not to love about a design centric trip to Italy?

 

SXSW

Austin, TX

March 9-18, 2018

South by Southwest is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas.. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year. It is now a huge platform for tech innovations and design. The 2017 conference boasted speakers from Otterbox, Naked Juice, IBM and Adobe. The conference is a great way to learn a little about the startup culture, design, and technology.

 

What Design Can Do

Amsterdam, Netherlands

May 23-24, 2017

What Design Can Do (WDCD) was initiated in 2011 as a platform to showcase design as a catalyst of change and as a way of addressing the societal questions of our time. In 2017 and 2018, WDCD focusses its attention to climate change, definitely the most urgent issue humanity faces right now. WDCD is challenging the creative community to contribute to the solution to its own capacity. WDCD promises to be an uplifting activism event and a great chance to meet passionate people.

 

99U Conference

NYC, New York

June 7-9, 2017

(Sold-out) Sponsored by Adobe; the 99U conference gives career advice, pep-talks, and useful resources to get designers out of the creative rut. The 99U Conference is a one-of-a-kind live experience that inspires creative professionals to bring their ideas to life and shape the future of the industry. Speakers include Ian Spalter; head of design at Instagram, Alex Schleifer; VP of design at AirBnb, Scott Belsky; founder of Behance, and many more talented individuals.

 

NeoCon

Chicago, Illinois

June 12-14

This event draws in over fifty thousand design professionals and hosts over 100 free seminars. Keynote speakers include Arianna Huffington; founder of the Huffington Post, Jessica Green; famous scientist, and John Ronan; founding principal of John Ronan Architects in Chicago

 

IDSA International Design Conference

Atlanta, GA

August 16-19, 2017

This conference will culminate with the grand IDSA International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) 2017 Ceremony on Aug. 19.The IDSA conference promises to have some of the most compelling speakers at the intersection of design and business along with studio and other offsite tours, great parties, and family-friendly attractions.

 

London Design Festival

London, England

September 16-24, 2017

In it’s fifteenth year running, this festival will be an exciting event! The London Design Festival is an annual event, held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world and as the gateway to the international creative community. One of the things that makes this festival unique, is the amount of art installations that will be created for the event. In 2016 there were at least six, large scale, installations across the city from well-to-do artists that you wouldn’t want to miss.

 

World Design Summit

Montreal Canada

October 16-25, 2017

At this ten day event, attendees with come together to foster cooperation and enhance their own professional development. There are six themes for the Summit, divided into 108 subcategories, so there will be no lack of information! The six themes are; design for beauty, design for the earth, design for participation, design for sale, design for transformation, and design for extremes.

OTRS BLOG

The role of the designer is evolving at such a fast pace that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of which creative person oversees what. In terms of design job titles, is there a difference between an interface and interaction designer, or a graphic designer and a visual designer? The answer seems to lie in the details…

Until recently, I figured that most design job titles meant fairly similar things. If someone called me a product designer instead of an industrial designer, I would go with the flow because they’re probably similar in function, right? Wrong! Some design job titles relate to others; while certain design roles are worlds apart. I recently moved in with an interaction designer and I realized we have very different strengths. I peeked over her shoulder to see what she was designing last week and I was met with a screen full of words and symbols I didn’t understand. That was the moment I knew that all designers’ positions cannot be lumped into the same category. Although we might be taught similar fundamentals, each designer gathers very specific strengths unique to their industry.

 

An Interactive and All-Too-Long List of Design Job Titles

Web Designer- the we-mean-business designers. To speak curtly, web designers do the stuff that visually-based designers can’t do. Their role ranges from graphics to coding — usually including some proficiency in HTML and CSS. Web design also overlaps with web engineering in the broader scope of web development.

User Interface designer- the designers of the future. User interface designers can be considered a subcategory of web design. Most interface designers work exclusively in web and app design, or in other words, digital platforms. Interface designers are still in charge of putting together colors and typefaces that are visually pleasing, but more than that, they work behind the scenes to understand how their designs will look on actual apps and websites. To do this, interface designers are commonly proficient in HTML and CSS , sometimes even JavaScript. These designers speak the language of wireframes which is quite complex.

User Interaction designer- the smartie-pants. Interaction design is about shaping digital interfaces for use that is engaging and well-thought out. How consumers behave informs this design process. Most day-to-day tasks include crafting layouts and interactive digital prototypes. And, they spend some time on research and establishing a visual design language. The main platforms interaction designers use are Axure, Sketch, and Invision.

Industrial designer- the designers of physical things. A derivative of the name, one could assume that these kinds of designers should be found in an industrial warehouse soldering metal piping. Or, at an industrial work site, constructing a massive bridge with complicated geometry. Funnily enough, this is not the case! Industrial designers actually design a wide range of consumer products and equipment, from big to small. They start at the beginning of the design process with design research, then sketch-up concepts, build prototypes, and use CAD modeling to bring their inventions or innovations to life. Some industrial designers work closely with manufacturing and engineering, while others are looser and more conceptual with their work. Overall, this field incorporates designers who visualize a product and help it become a reality.

Service designer- the thinkers. Service designers or designers who think like service designers are the individuals responsible for car-sharing apps and grubhub-style food delivery systems and programs. While taught the same design thinking as other designers, their curriculum diverges and focuses on navigating the complex and intangible future of design. How can we provide experiences that center around a user? These are the designers who use ample amounts of sticky notes. Sticky notes, journey mapping, surveys, oh and blueprinting. Lots and lots of blueprinting. Journey mapping refers to how the customer interacts with a service, and how this action is perceived by others. Blueprinting encompasses all the business functions such as deliveries and operations, ‘core to surface’. If you like research, then you’ll like this field.

Graphic Designer- old school new school. These designers were once the pioneers of visual communications. Graphic designers are first taught the fundamentals of design: color theory and typography. Graphic designer’s projects generally include a variety of logo design, branding design, layouts, infographics, digital lettering, and occasionally hand-lettering. They are known to create brand logos consistent with a brand language. They also know the Adobe Suite like no other. Typically, they are found hammering away in Illustrator or Photoshop on their massive desktop display with a Mac interface. The mediums they usually design include banners, magazines, and other physical deliverables.

Visual Designer- the jack of all trades. Visual designers are a fairly new occurrence around the design world, usually wearing many hats and playing different roles. They are often found in a boardroom with executives debating over marketing layouts or brand aesthetics. Beyond the digital world, sometimes visual designers work with displays and interiors, as well. Most importantly, visual designers help brands find their voice and unique perspective.

In summation, there are many types of designers who shape the world around us; and this list of design job titles merely breaks the surface! Since the majority of this posting is opinion-based, we at Outerspace would love to hear your thoughts! If you have expertise in a specific category, let us know what it means to you.

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Product design is an ever-evolving industry. To maintain success, your organization needs to not only be aligned with current trends, but also contemplate with how these trends will shape the future and what new behavior is likely to follow. As you adjust the approach of your future designs to account for shifting consumer paradigms, take these 7 emerging themes into consideration.

1. FLEXIBILITY

Stay flexible enough to blend into the consumer’s lifestyle.

Products will need to adapt to changing social, family and work environments. Think about the different mindsets of your target consumer. Those who are considered materialists will value flexibility and control. They will demand products that feature built-in adaptability, such as a dual purpose or modularity.

A new breed of post-materialists will be more concerned with autonomy and self-expression. They are more experience-oriented, preferring to “do things,” rather than view them.

2. TRANSPARENCY

Informed consumers will pay attention to all aspects of your product.

Gone are the days when the public didn’t have visibility into the components and processes used to make your products. The rise in post-materialism has driven the need for complete transparency, giving consumers unprecedented access to product information.

They will want to know more than just “what’s in this?” and “where did this come from?” You will need to be accountable for the choices you make. Relying on low-cost tactics that don’t take the environment and social preferences into account won’t appeal to consumers who are taking a broader perspective than price alone.

Companies will earn the trust and respect of the marketplace by offering details on how products are produced and whether the production facilities operate ethically. Honesty and altruism will go a long way to winning over consumers, who now have a greater voice than ever before through social media.

3. SIMPLICITY

Products that are streamlined and make life easier will win over consumers.

Less is more. And that trend will continue, as people demand smaller, faster, simpler products. The aging market will seek intuitive solutions that cut down on clutter. Personal communication devices will need to interface with other consumer goods.

Smart technology already gives you the power to extend the cycle of your clothes dryer remotely using your mobile device. Simplicity will be key for an increasing number of consumers who are interested in products designed to aid multi-tasking. Products that reduce complexity and eliminate hassles will win.

4. EMPATHY

Gaining favor with well-informed consumers will require you to empathize, not patronize.

As environmental and community issues continue to move to the forefront, organizations will need to prove that they have a genuine understanding of what’s going on and want to make positive impact.

Profitability, while always a top priority, will need to make room for social awareness. Brands with a conscience that focus on doing good in the community will appeal to consumers and have a better chance to thrive.

How you come across to the public will be critical. Businesses that put out patronizing messages that underestimate the importance of social awareness will quickly fall out of favor. You will need to formulate a sound communication strategy that expresses your commitment to the community and environment.

5. EFFICIENCY

From how a product is made to how it is used, efficiency will play a significant role in the years ahead.

More time, less effort. Businesses and consumers alike will be seeking ways to boost efficiency. It will have to happen the right way, however. “Responsible” efficiency will have a global impact over the next 20 years.

From your organization’s perspective, implementing new technologies that help to reduce waste, energy use and unnecessary steps will bring efficiency to new levels.

For all consumers, finding products that help accomplish more in less time will be paramount. Materialists will be looking to enhance their lives by earning more income per hour, performing more tasks at once or enjoying more instant gratification. Alternatively, post-materialists will be seeking ways to make better use of both time and natural resources. A new, sustainable attitude to efficiency will arise in society.

6. INTEGRITY

Changing values will redefine status and it will no longer be all about the money.

In today’s marketplace, there are a wide variety of products and services classified as “aspirational.” That label is likely to be viewed differently in the near future.

Price and exclusivity will be de-emphasized. In the same way that a highly popular Hummer vehicle is increasingly viewed as an inefficient gas guzzler, people owning other status products that abuse dwindling natural resources will be seen as ignorant.

This seismic shift in status will only continue, as the affluent opt for environmentally products over luxurious ones.

7. MATURITY

Products will need to evolve to address the needs of the aging demographic.

While previous generation held traditional values, the aging Baby Boomer population is the first to largely think materialistically. This considerable generation will continue to redefine social norms, moving toward greater independence and competence.

Progressive, growth-oriented Boomers want to be self-reliant and do things themselves. They are remaining mentally and physically active, working beyond the traditional retirement age, which is increasing their bank accounts and buying power. Ultimately, more seniors will be able to enjoy longer lives with a higher-quality lifestyle.

This aging demographic will create endless opportunities new design innovations catering to those in their golden years.

As product designers, success lies in thinking a step ahead and understanding which trends will cause long-term behavioral shifts. Adhering to these 7 themes will help you take a closer look at what’s happening now—and predict how it will shape what happens next.

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The start of new product development can be an exciting and very busy time. Prior to beginning, you may have your doubts—a lot of thought, worry and wondering. Should I do this? Do I have time for this? You’ve made the commitment. Now what? Here are a few things to do very early on in the product development process that will make the months to come much more successful.

 

Get your business plan in order

You may have run some numbers to help you decide this product development makes sense. If so, great! You’re on the right track. If not, now is the time to bring together whatever information you have into a single document. Include a general description of your product, what problem it solves and who your primary target customer is.

Gather reviews of all competitor products, or products that are in any way similar to yours. Summarize this section with your intended selling price and your best estimate of how many you expect to sell in the first month, in six months and in 12 months.

Now that you have a good idea of what you are going to create, it’s time to think about how you are going to get it into the hands of your customers. If your product is an app, start talking to app developers and get a quote from them so you know how much money it will cost to complete the development process.

If your product is something physical, talk to a product design firm and get them to give you a quote. Even if you are comfortable doing a large portion of the design work yourself, or you plan on doing this internally using your own company resources, it is still worth getting a product development quote from an outside group. This can help you get a better understanding of the money required to complete development, or may even expose some problems or opportunities you have not previously considered.

An additional benefit of obtaining outside quotes is that you are also likely to get a preliminary schedule for how long the product development may take, and when you will be expected to make payments along the way. If your product requires tooling or compliance testing, you will be able to get rough estimates of the magnitude of these costs, as well as when they are likely to be due.

This information can be then summarized and added to your product development business plan. Create a timeline for your project, and add key milestones and expected payment due dates.

At this point, you should have costs for the design and tooling (if required), which is a major component of the costs. But it’s not everything.

Do you have a good idea of your production costs? For physical products, it may be worth engaging a design firm to complete a small preliminary project to give you an accurate estimate of production-per-unit cost. This can often be extended to include estimates for shipping, import duties and warehousing.

Consider what risks are relevant to your product development. Talk to an Intellectual Property attorney to find out if you should patent your idea. If so, add in costs required for this to your budget and key filing dates to your timeline. Think about what insurance you might need and make allowances for that also.

With your product defined and a plan to get it made, think through the basics of what it will take to drive sales and marketing. Do you have a clear idea for how your product will be sold? Will you be using existing sales channels or relationships (if you have an existing product) or, if this is new for you, are you going to sell via your website or maybe Amazon?

If you are going to create a website and sell directly to your customers, build in costs and time for your sales platform to be developed. You’ll also need to consider how you will drive traffic to your website.

Spend a few hours getting familiar with how Facebook ads, Google Adwords, Instagram ads, etc., work, and figure out how much money you will need to spend to attract one customer to your site who then proceeds to make a purchase.

This important piece of information is your Customer Acquisition Cost. That will form a key element of your budget. These tools also give you an idea of the approximate amount of traffic you can expect to generate, which is useful for understanding the size of the potential audience.

Also, think through the other costs associated with selling, such as your sales platform fees, credit card merchant charges, postage and even returns into the cost of each sale.

Now you should have a pretty complete picture regarding how long it will take to go from product development to product launch and how much money will be required.

You’ll know how much it will cost to make and what you plan to sell it for. You can summarize these numbers into a basic spreadsheet and calculate the total revenue you expect to make each month, as well as the profit you can expect to make.

Make sure you’re making enough profit. If not, go back now and figure out what needs to change to get this right. Maybe your manufactured cost of goods (MCOGS) or your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is too high, and you can figure out how to reduce them. Maybe the planned sales volumes are too low and the product development is not worthwhile in the first place.

Now is the time to identify these things and develop a plan to either address them, or maybe shelve the idea and move on to something else. Spending a little bit of time creating a plan for your new product development is of immense value and will put you on the right path to make the most out of your potential opportunity.

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Deciding to outsource your next product development project is a big deal. There is a lot at stake – both for the company in general and for the person who has to make the final decision.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when your are trying to decide who you should work with.

 

Communication and Responsiveness

The most important part of any relationship is communication. By the time you make your final decision, you should have a good idea of what it’s like to work with the various design firms you have explored. Which ones feel the most “in-sync” with your organization? Does the firm respond quickly, or does it feel as though they always take a little longer than you would like?

Any level of concern will be amplified once you get into an intense project, so pay attention to it now. Remember that a design firm will be on its very best behavior during the quoting phase and early stages of the project. Only the very best firms maintain or exceed this quality of service once a project is underway. If things are bad in the early stages, assume they only will get worse later.

 

Recommendations

As much as we like to make decisions as a group, the final call often comes down to a single person’s view. If not, a joint decision likely will be based primarily on one individual’s perception. Try to get several other view points about what it’s like to actually work with the potential design firms. Acknowledge that your company is taking a risk by outsourcing, so do what you can to mitigate and address that risk now.

If you can’t get any solid recommendations from trusted sources, think of other ways you can address this risk. Maybe you could engage the firm (or even multiple firms if your project is big enough) for a short trial project. This is a great way to see what it’s like working with them – and also to get some work done in the process.

 

Learning

When outsourcing anything, especially product design, think about what you can learn along the way. The main objective is to get your product out the door, but make the most of the experience and pick up new skills along the way. You will find you get the very best outcome when you are involved in the process – so absorb as much as you can.

Don’t be afraid to invite their design team to come and work with you and your team, or ask to work at their firms’ location. Close-quarters development helps you learn as much as possible, and it’s great for forming positive working relationships.

 

Network

Outsourcing to a well-qualified design firm also will grant you access to its network of suppliers and industry contacts. You know from your own experience how long it takes to build a network of trusted partners, so access to their network is of huge value. Make sure you ask about the firm’s business connections when selecting a firm, and think about how these new contacts could be of value to your company.

 

Partnership

Consider the long game. Are you at risk of outgrowing your proposed design firm in the near future? Maybe you’re a large company and even though this project is small, there may be larger ones later. Are you going to need to add another firm later, or do the firms you are considering have larger teams that can be added as needed? There is a huge benefit in having your outsourced design team in-sync with your company and ideally grown together over a period of time.

Ultimately, outsourcing any project comes with a measure of risk. It’s up to you to do the necessary research and take the proper steps to maximize the return on your investment and minimize the chance of failure.

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3d-printer-inarticleIt’s a fact: 3D printing is the technology of the moment, and it’s gaining popularity and momentum across every potential use, from lifesaving applications to manufacturing to entertainment.

It makes perfect sense. 3D printing offers manufacturers a wide variety of benefits, including lowered manufacturing costs and new material combinations that could help revolutionize their products.

But how do you know if it’s time for you to buy a 3D printer for your business or project? Sure, you’ve been thinking about it non-stop and you can already picture how and why you might use it, but there are practical considerations before you take the plunge.

 

We’ve put together some points to ponder while you decide whether or not now is the time to buy a 3D printer:

 

The Coolness Factor

No question, a 3D printer will up the coolness of your company. It will draw attention and telegraph the idea that you and your team are ready, willing and able to embrace trends and new tech.

At this point, one major benefit of deciding to buy a 3D printer is that you’ll get a jump on your competition. And a more practical (but still cool) benefit is that you can create prototypes quickly and efficiently, or lower your production costs by as much as 70%.  You will find 3D printers in a wide range of companies now, they are no longer the tool reserved exclusively for design firms or specialists.

You can produce on demand rather than guessing at quantities and filling warehouses, creating less waste. What’s cooler than that?

 

Pricing

As 3D printing technology becomes more mainstream and more available, pricing is getting more affordable. In fact, over the past few years, 3D printer prices have come down substantially in price.

As you figure out how much you’re willing to pay, make sure you consider:

  • What type of printer you need (FDM or resin based?)
  • The size of the 3D printer (How big an item would you like to be able to print?)
  • Where you’ll put it (How much room do I have available?)
  • The cost of replacement parts and maintenance (Do I want open source or not?)

A cross section of all these considerations should give you a range of what you can afford, and, as mentioned above, the abundance of choices now on the market means you should be able to find one with a price tag that’s just right.

 

Quality

Be aware that that affordable price tag may come with…a price. We all know sometimes you get what you pay for, and in those cases, you could be paying for a subpar item.

A low-quality 3D printer is not worth the investment, and it’s not worth your CFO’s wrath to keep replacing an expensive piece of equipment every two years.

So follow these simple steps to make sure that if you’re getting a good deal, it’s the real thing:

  • Do your homework and shop around
  • Read consumer reviews
  • Talk to any colleagues who might have experience with 3D printers

 

Ease of Use

Not everyone was born with the tech gene that allows him or her to understand and dominate every mechanical beast they ever encounter.

And there is nothing wrong with that—you will find big differences in usability between the different brands out there.  Many now offer wifi connectivity and an app for your smartphone that makes printing much easier.  Again, check out the reviews or request a demo to see if it feels right for you.

 

So is now the right time to buy a 3D printer?  What you get for your money is always improving and it’s hard to see cost being a barrier any more. Use our suggestions to decide, and, in the meantime, you can read other helpful tips and ideas about how to optimize everything for your design projects in our blog.

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It’s all in the planning. Especially when it comes to producing your new product. There are so many variables to consider, so many steps from inception to production. You don’t want to be surprised at any stage by unexpected costs, malfunctions, or quality and safety issues.

By creating a thorough test plan, you’ll be ready for what may come, and while you may not have the answers at every stage, you will have the advantage of having the possibilities laid out in front of you.

This can result in changes and contingency plans before you even start production.

 

So what is a test plan?

It’s a document that will outline everything from objectives, target market, internal beta team, and processes for your product. It will outline the strategy you’ll use to ensure that your product or system meets its design specifications.

Many inventors don’t realize that there is so much potential for variation—the product may not perform the way the prototype did or parts may be different than specified requiring assembly changes, among other issues.

And then there are the end users. Will consumers use the product the way you intend them to? What if they drop it?

A test plan keeps you on schedule with all the testing you’ll need, and it keeps you in mind of all these possibilities.

 

How do I use a test plan?

Start with the specifications, requirements, product definition, environmental and usage conditions.

Your test plan may influence product cost and technical capability, so you’ll want to implement this plan early in product development as a guide throughout the life of the product.

Outline what areas will need testing and what problems could arise. Plan on having to course correct as you discover flaws and malfunctions.

Some of the areas to test include:

  • Functional tests
  • Initial EMC scans (for FCC regulation)
  • Mechanical fit test
  • UL review
  • Button life test
  • Connector plug in/pull out test
  • Defect definition (minor, major, critical)
  • Aesthetic testing
  • Abuse testing
  • Manufacturing validation tests (to make sure you can build fast enough to meet demand)

The test plan also gives you insight into the length of each testing cycle, so you get an idea of how long this phase will last and when mass production might begin.

 

Remember, one test is not enough.

Don’t underestimate the number of cycles required to effectively perform reliability and life testing.

Through each iteration, your prototypes will mature. That means your testing strategy will evolve as well, and you will need to prepare for that.

For example, you may consider building an arbitrary number of prototypes and use them for investor pitches and press demos. These can disappear during the events, leaving you only a few prototypes left for actual testing, which may not be enough with which to do anything statistically meaningful.

Your test plan can help you define the right number of marketing prototypes while leaving you with the room to adjust as testing continues.

The testing phase can be stressful and time consuming. But that test plan you created before you started this process will be your guide. At each step, you can assess and make fixes and move ahead. Without it, your process could grind to a frustrating halt, costing you money and time.

So make a test plan and stick to it. You’ll be very glad you did.

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There is nothing to fear when it comes to implementing a process for hardware development—except forgoing the process altogether. Process is the one thing that will stand between you and chaos. More importantly, it could mean the difference between a successful multi-million-dollar company and bankruptcy.

Yes, it makes fiscal sense to have checkpoints through new product development. But before you even get there, you owe it to yourself—and your product—to subject it to early checks and balances.

So, knowing the implicit value of having this process, what are the ideal guardrails? Here are three things you cannot move forward without.

 

1. A clear definition of the problem your product will try to solve.

Before you ever build, you need to know exactly what you’re building toward. This clarity will inform everything, including how your product looks.

Unlike with software, hardware development does not afford you the luxury of iterations. Essentially, you have one chance to get it right.

Therefore, you must start with a complete scope of the problem and a sound and tested idea for a solution to create a proof-of-concept prototype.

This is your rock-solid foundation, and the part of the process where you bolster your likelihood for creating a product that hits its mark.

Take the time to interview real people who could be potential customers. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. Don’t talk about your product or solution; just let the conversation flow naturally.

You’ll get a great deal of mileage out of what you find, as you’ll see in the next step.

Get your product to market quickly. Save Time and Money with Our Product Development Brief Template.

 

2. A true assessment your product’s potential for success. 

Don’t fall so in love with your idea that you’re blinded by the realities of a bad investment. Take a view from afar and get other perspectives. Now is the time to think it over and really evaluate the product’s merit.

Too many product entrepreneurs jump in with fervor when a cooler head would be beneficial. It’s important to be honest with yourself and your team here.

Once you’ve completed your assessment, it’s time to dig deep and do the research in the real world. Do as much market analysis and discovery research as you can.

Things to consider:

  • For B2B: Know which stakeholders make the decisions, how they purchase products like yours, and why this is a high-priority problem for them
  • Know what brands your potential customers or users like, where they live and their purchasing habits
  • Find research to support how much consumers would pay for your product
  • Have a customer base defined and a total customer base size
  • If raising venture capital, show how these numbers equate to $100M of revenue within 5 years

It’s also important to build user personas—fictional profiles of your ideal customers.

Those unfiltered conversations you had with potential consumers can provide anecdotes that inform the entire design process.

Use as much information from them as you can and build very detailed personas. Since these people represent your target market, you’ll want to know as much as possible about their needs and habits.

Skipping this could mean a great product that is targeted incorrectly, or fails from a business perspective. User personas will help keep you on track.

 

3. A well-defined design process.

As mentioned above, this is not like software development, which can follow a different and sometimes faster path to completion. Hardware requires and more planning that software dev does, simply because of the large number of things that need to come together. These include manufacturer selection, tooling fabrication, part procurement, prototyping and debugging.

You will need to build to find and correct problems and unwanted side effects—these don’t show up in isolation, so there’s simply no other way.

For this reason, the design phase should be carefully mapped out, with a check at the end of each phase to make sure moving forward is warranted and that you are in fact ready to move.

Some companies prefer a less organized methodology with the reasoning that it will use less overhead. Don’t believe it. A tiny mistake in design or a poorly QC’d part can bankrupt you.

Your product idea deserves to be treated like the innovation it is, so don’t skimp on any area of its development. Stick to a process, plan, budget and give each step due diligence. The result could be a product that changes how we live.