Seven Things to Look for in a Product Design Partner

 

Any company which is looking to produce a new product or concept can always benefit from an extra pair of expert eyes during the development process.

This is especially true with smaller start-ups and entrepreneurs who have the funding to make their ideas a reality, but perhaps not the technical expertise that they need.

In these instances, many choose to outsource at various points throughout the process, so we’re going to take a look at some of the qualities which you should be on the lookout for in a design partner, to help you separate the ones who really care about bringing your product to life and adding value to it, from the ones who are just in it for a quick pay packet.
Skills

Firstly, identify what kind of skills your design consultancy possesses. Nowadays it’s increasingly likely that your product design is going to need to combine a large number of skills, such as the product design itself, electrical engineering/firmware, and mechanical design engineering skills.

The Internet of Things phenomenon means that more and more devices and products are being connected to the internet, and this is another design consideration that you may need to consider a partner will be able to deal with.

While some design consultancies will offer all of the skills you need under one roof, others may need to outsource certain aspects, so check that they have trusted partners themselves if this is the case.
Do They Match Your Business?

It’s important to take into account the size of the consultancy that you’re going to working with and how it matches up with the size of your own business.

It’s easy to assume that a much larger product design company will be the best option, and while in many cases it may be, you may find you work better with a smaller and more focused team.

This can come down to things such as how well you get on with the staff at the design consultancy you’re working with, how flexible they can be and how quickly they respond to your queries and questions.
Experience

Many design consultancies don’t showcase case studies of their work as they are tightly bound by contractual agreements with their clients, to protect their confidentiality, but if you can find some examples of previous work that they’ve carried out, it’s a great indicator of their experience and quality.

Try to see if they’ve worked with products and companies similar to your own, and ensure that they have a decent knowledge of your industry too.
A Genuine Interest

While it can be hard to gauge, it’s important to try and assess how much the designer actually cares about you and your product.

A good designer should show passion and an interest in taking on your product because they want to take on the challenge, rather than just treating it as the next job.

As we’ve said, it’s hard to tell, and largely based on gut feeling, but if your designer isn’t asking the right questions or it just doesn’t feel right, you might be better served opting for someone else.
A Wider Understanding of the Project

Even if you only require a design consultant for one stage of your design cycle, it’s important that they show an understanding of the whole process, from inception to launch.

Even if your designer only specialises in one aspect of the design cycle, they should be able to point you in the direction of some trusted partners who can assist with the rest of it.
Do They Ask Questions?

While you ultimately want answers from your design consultancy, it’s also important that they ask plenty of questions too.

Once you give them a brief, a good designer should be asking plenty of further questions, about the bigger picture of the product, how it will be manufactured, how it will be sold, who it’s being aimed at, and so on.

While it might seem intrusive, or even rude, this is all part of the designer’s job, and will ultimately help them to do the best job they possibly can.
Communication

As with any business relationship, good lines of communication are key. Who will you be working with, and who will be your point of contact?

Lots of aspect of product design can be very complex and confusing, so it’s important that there is a clear reporting system in place that will let you known exactly how things are progressing, without getting bogged down in the techy details.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to judge what sort of a fit a design consultancy is going to be with your product and business, and while it can sometimes be a lengthy process, many times it’s actually quite straightforward!

For more information on what to look out for when choosing a design partner, check out this blog post from Cambridge Design Technology.


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