Top 5 Lessons From a Product Designer

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Thanks to Design Anthology's Josh Jeffress.

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Josh Jeffress is the principal designer and co-founder of Newcastle-based Design Anthology, which offers product design consultancy to clients who’ve made something great but aren’t sure how to brand it. Josh recently gave us some solid advice on how to re-consider your product with the all-important lens of marketing. Here are his five lessons for crafting something that’s sure to resonate.

1. It’s about more than just product design
It’s about the brand, the strategy in which to get it to market as well. We also do branding and marketing, so very early on in the conceptual phase, we engage a branding agency to develop a logo or initial branding strategy. The main thing we try to do with our clients is say, “You have this whizz-bang gadget, but how are you going to market it? What’s your strategy? How are you going to get people to know about it so they’ll buy it?’”.

2. It doesn’t have to be your lifelong dream
I wasn’t aware of this area [of work]. And I think that’s very common. It’s a very unknown industry. To be quite honest, I stumbled upon it, I went travelling for five months by myself and decided that I had to get out of my trade [Josh worked in fitting and machining], and I stumbled upon it. I was looking at mechatronics [technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering], and saw industrial design, and thought that looked interesting.

3. Business is important
I think the thing that was missing in our education is the link between industrial design and business. It’s not just airy-fairy, “I’m going to come up with something that’s beautiful”. It’s very calculated and I would have done more study in business. I think the one thing industrial design teaches you is research. I think that’s definitely given us an advantage with business.

4. Get a mentor
I’ve had a few people that have mentored me. We started off in a business growth incubator when we started our business. And we specifically chose that path because of one of the board members that was there. He has a lot of experience with successful businesses and is very willing to share his knowledge. I think, in business, if your approach is good, then people are willing to help and give advice, and they’ll share what they’ve learnt.

5. You don’t have to be in a major commercial centre to be successful
We’re in the Newcastle area, which is about an hour and half north of Sydney. Newcastle is a great place, but we are terrible at promoting ourselves. A lot of good things are happening in Newcastle. A lot people rode the coal-mining gravy train – but now that’s coming to an end, and it’s driving a lot of innovation. The good thing about Newcastle is that it’s a real community. We [also] do a lot of business in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but we do a lot of Skype, and the technology’s good.

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