Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ahh! Ideation sketches and Design Process. Just what we like to see!

As a designer I truly enjoy seeing the sketches that are the physical representation of ones thoughts. They represent the breadth of considerations that the designer is cognizant of while researching, designing, engineering, and prototyping solutions. Those that are not designers are usually blown away by the range of ideas that are considered when developing a product or solution. Zach Hastings has served up another great project for us to learn from. As I look over the process boards available in his digital portfolio I am presented with a well considered process that conveys what lengths a designer must go to in order to deliver a mindful product or solution.This project was undertaken by Zach while in College at The Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston Massachusetts. The project, as it reads, was presented as a branding exercise. Where Zach was to develop the branding for a hand held vacuum for the cordless power tool market. The brand that was selected was DeWalt.A term that is used to describe brand identity in terms of its physical manifestation, is its Form Language. The form language of a brand, as it pertains to Brand Identity, are the physical embodiments that a family of products has established across all of its product offerings. Color, something a majority of consumers use to initially identify one brand or product offering from another, is very often used by a company to establish the initial visual relationship a consumer has with their product. I could delve into Color Psychology and how color can have a very strong affect on a consumers decision making process, but I will leave that for another article. Though I did want to make you aware that color is a strongly held consideration of Brand Identity.Case-in-point is the DeWalt Brand. The color combination of yellow/black is a very strong identifier for their brand, which they have Trademarked. Those that have seen the array of brands that are available within the power tool segment would not confuse Makita and DeWalt. Color is not the only Brand identifier. As I said the physical attributes are key to properly presenting the form language of a brand. And the logo isn't what I mean by physical embodiment. The physical attributes or characteristics of a product seek to inform you, the consumer, what features and benefits one solution offers over other options. Which are more often than not sitting right next to each other on the shelf. To keep with this specific example Zach has put together a set of detail images that illustrate exactly what I mean. He has tagged them Brand Identity and shows detailed images of how form language used in his design solution echos those of DeWalts existing products.In terms of research, Zach delved into both the DeWalt Brand and the hand held vacuum segment. Some of the questions he asked were. Who was already in the segment? What do those solutions do well? What do they do poorly? Price points and capabilities? Are they comfortable to hold and use? Do they cause undue stress or strain? What components are housed within the device? All of these factors, and many more, play a part in the development of a product. In an effort to truly understand the product he was developing Zach purchased a hand held vacuum and took it apart in order to understand what components he had to work with and how they might resolve some of the design consideration for him. Designers need to be aware of nearly every aspect of the product development cycle. The five W's (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) and everything else that comes along with those questions.The final solution is the physical representation of all of the research, testing, engineering, and other discoveries that occur during the product development process. In the final model shown above, Zach has used the tools and materials available to him in order to accurately present his design concept in the most faithful way possible. A prototype is neither an example of how the item will be manufactured nor an example of the specific materials that the actual product will be manufactured with. The final solution is a consideration of the needs of the market. The cost of the item as it relates to production and the value the consumer places upon it, amongst other considerations. If the market place is already saturated by hand held vacuums for the cordless power tool segment. Then the target consumer is less likely to make a purchase, which renders the entire exercise an adventure in R&D and not a profitable one that most companies are likely to endeavor upon.