Bringing a product idea to life is an exciting journey for any business. We’ve experienced the enthusiasm firsthand that comes with envisioning a new product and bringing its development to market. We also understand the daunting and complex reality between the first lightbulb moment and the final result. It’s important to properly estimate the time, care, and budget needed to turn your vision into a finished product on store shelves.
Allocating too little to certain phases of design and development could derail your entire project. But invest wisely in key stages and you greatly increase your chances of launching a successful, profit-driving product.
So how do you know where to allocate those precious budget dollars? How much should you spend on industrial design versus engineering versus prototyping? Planning isn’t the most glamorous part of the process, but proper budgeting sets you up for a winning product.
Beyond Design leading a market research session to identify and review stakeholder needs.
Market Research and Discovery (10%)
Before you even begin designing a product, you need to understand the competitive landscape and your target customers’ needs. After all, even the best-designed product is futile if consumers aren’t excited about it. By dedicating 10% of your budget to market research, you’ll jumpstart your project on the right foot. This stage should include:
- Competitive Analysis – Study products that already exist in the market. What are their features, technologies, materials, aesthetics, pricing, and value propositions? Answering these questions helps you identify gaps, opportunities, and differentiating factors that are sure to make your product stand out.
- Ethnographic and Qualitative Research – Interview and survey potential customers to gain insights that statistics alone might miss. Gaining insight from real people is irreplaceable when trying to design a product your audience will want and need. Are there any makeshift solutions they’ve devised to fill a market gap? Identifying points of frustration or difficulty they encounter can lead to innovative products that respond to their unique pain points.
- Target Customer Needs and Wants– Create hypothetical buyer personas representing your ideal customers. Include demographics like age, income, education, location, and household status. Outline their values, attitudes, pain points, and product needs. The more specific you get, the better understanding you’ll have of your market.
Extensive market research ensures you design something users truly want. It also reduces risk substantially by giving you abundant data to support design decisions.
“Big Ideas” from a Beyond Design brainstorming session.
Brainstorming and Concept Exploration (20%)
The conceptualization phase is all about generating ideas and exploring possibilities before honing in on a design direction. This stage should account for about 20% of your budget and include the following key steps:
- Idea Generation– Think of this as a brainstorming workshop. At Beyond Design, we use our proprietary SDP (Strategic Design Process) to generate a wide variety of creative concepts. Start by listing product attributes and desirable features to expand thinking. Then filter your ideas to reveal the strongest concepts.
- Human Factors and Ergonomics – Construct sketch models to quickly validate the product configuration, size, and proportions. Test them with users from different key audiences to optimize comfort, usability, and accessibility. It’s important to design a functional and user-friendly product before adding aesthetic elements.
- Visual Exploration– Develop the form language, physical shape, textures, and aesthetics that bring your concept to life. Prioritize how it looks, feels, and functions as a tangible product, all while ensuring it aligns with your brand identity.
Taking ample time for creative exploration prevents you from locking in on a single idea too early. The goal is to explore a broad range of possible solutions before narrowing your focus.
Designers refining CAD engineering files to prepare for product manufacturing.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Breadboard Development (25%)
Roughly 25% of your design budget should go toward creating digital and physical concept models during the computer-aided design (CAD) and breadboard development phase. The steps you can’t miss in this stage are:
- CAD Design – Create 3D computer-aided design models to create the product design virtually. Simulate real-world behavior under different conditions like stress, impact, and thermal changes. By modeling the functionality virtually, you can narrow in before investing in materials for the physical prototypes.
- Breadboard Prototype Models – Build simple handmade prototypes using craft supplies, 3D printing, and electronics like Arduino kits to test functionality, scale, and usability. Focus on quick iterations for functionality and ergonomic evaluations.
- Testing and Validation – Gather as much feedback from prototypes as possible. You want to build quickly, fail early, learn from your mistakes, and then reiterate to make newer and more improved models. Leverage comments and critiques to fine-tune the design earlier rather than later.
Investing in iterative prototyping reduces errors and avoids costly redesigns late in the process when changes become a bigger headache. By validating your design extensively at this step, you can head into the next phase with confidence.
Manufacturers using automation to assemble products.
Engineering & Design for Manufacturing (DFM) (25%)
Thorough engineering on the front end is crucial to ensure your product passes manufacturing validations and quality checks. Because it sets your product up for efficient production and reduces the risk of defects down the line, it’s important not to cut corners. Allocate 25% of your budget to Engineering and DFM for the following steps:
- Manufacturability Assessment – Work with manufacturing engineers to closely evaluate your design. Are there any complexities that would complicate manufacturing? Identifying unneeded challenges and proactively simplifying the design upfront will help to streamline production.
- Material and Process Selection – Vet several material and process options like metals, plastics, casting, stamping, molding, etc. Striking the right balance between technical requirements and manufacturability will ensure a smooth transition into scaled manufacturing.
- Tooling and Mold Costs – For plastic and composite parts, injection molds are expensive but critical. You need to allocate appropriate funding for tooling to support your anticipated production volumes.
Investing in thorough engineering on the front end sets your product up to meet quality and performance standards. Proper budgeting for engineering ensures your product can successfully transition from prototype to production.
Designers assembling product electronics and 3D printed parts.
Documentation and Prototype Models (20%)
The final 20% of your budget should go towards comprehensive documentation and higher-fidelity prototypes as you finalize the design. Be sure you account for:
- Part and Assembly Documentation – Create meticulously detailed drawings documenting every product component for manufacturers. Account for dimensions, tolerances, materials, finishes, fasteners, etc.
- CFM&G Documentation – Produce a complete CFM&G spec guiding Colors, Finishes, Materials, and Graphics necessary. You also should include textures, fonts, and branding aligned with your identity and target audience.
- Alpha Prototype Models – Fabricate high-tolerance models for demos, testing, and final concept validation. For final validation, it’s recommended to perform extensive stress tests to detect any defects before the start of production.
Investing in robust product documentation and alpha prototypes will help ensure alignment and communication with manufacturers. This is your last chance for design tweaks before tooling and production.
Designers reviewing product documentation and prototype schematics.
Partner with Experts For Your Product Design (100%)
By breaking down your budget appropriately throughout the design process, you can allocate suitable resources for each stage without overextending.
The process doesn’t end once your product is fully designed, either. Additional investments need to be made in regulatory compliance, factory tooling and programming, production planning, marketing initiatives, and distribution logistics to get your product to market successfully. However, few companies have all this expertise in-house.
That’s where an experienced product design firm like Beyond Design can add value. Our team guides you through the development process from day 1 through production and beyond.