How To Design a Product and Ensure it Sells


From idea through to finished product.

Newcastle-based product design company Design Anthology works with clients from idea concept through to finished product, ticking off great branding and a marketing strategy along the way. Principal designer and co-founder Josh Jeffress takes us through the company’s design process – from a client’s lightbulb moment to physically creating a product, and making sure it will actually sell.

“When we talk to our clients, we take them through our process first up, and offer them our services phase by phase – we tailor our services very much like an architect. We do things pretty differently [from other design companies]. We offer workshops to all our clients – it’s to do with making sure that everyone’s on the same page. There are so many benefits to [the workshops] before we even start the project, because the customer has done that due diligence and they’re really on board.”

“We run two workshops. One of them is tailored to individuals or businesses that have a brand-new idea. We try to get them to establish what they want to do, what they’re trying to offer the market, what the sell price is and what the key benefits are – all the really critical information to start the design process. Mostly we say: ‘Identify who you’re selling to, why they want it, why they’d pay money for it, what features they want, and what it’s going to do for them.’ We walk through that process, and then we start talking about how many [of the product] they want to make and how big their market is. We also have another workshop, which we do with companies that are already manufacturing; they might want to refresh their product offering, they may want to make it more efficient, they might have rebranded and want to add new features. We’ve got about 33 points with which we evaluate their current offering, and then we come up with suggestions.”

“Sometimes they don’t pursue the idea, because it’s flawed – which is good, because it’s saving them a lot of money. [The workshop is] a bit of an insurance policy. Alternatively, out of that process, we’ll [sometimes] come up with an alternative idea. We stop at that point, and give them a report that says, ‘This is your idea, this is your target market, this is how many we’re going to make, these are the key features that it includes.’”

“If we’re making 10, or 1000 or 100,000 products, that changes the way we approach the concept. Sometimes we’ll do custom furniture, or mass-produced medical products; they all have different criteria. We’re very pragmatic about product design, because you have to give people a concept through which they can make a viable product. You don’t want to give them an awesome concept, [if] they can never manufacture it. So when we’re developing the concept, we’re already starting to think about how we’re going to manufacture it, what kind of materials we’ll be using, what processes we’ll be using.”

“We tell our customers to go out and do some market research for themselves. We’re big on validating the idea. We give them the concept and then say, ‘You go out and test whether it’s actually worthwhile pursuing.’ So they’ll talk to clients, they’ll do focus groups – or they’ll pay us to do that, depending on how big the client is. We’ve suggested to our clients a few times to do Kickstarter campaigns – not to fund it, but just to get feedback, to make sure our pitch and our offering was right.”

“Basically concept validation is testing that what we’ve developed in the concept can be transitioned into a real product. Sometimes we tweak [the concept] a little bit. We’ll do a bit of fine tweaking and then, depending on what we’re building, might make a test rig or prototype to test an idea, check the ergonomics and make sure [the client is] happy with the overall packaged layout before we proceed into the next phase.”

“Now we detail all the intricacies of the product. We look at all the fine details and make sure we get them right so we can then mass-produce it. That also includes applying the brand and finishes, and all those extra details that make a product more appealing. We do this stage in-house.”

“We do another prototype to establish that all the design detail is correct. Sometimes products need to be certified, so we’ll start the certification process here. We functionally test, making sure all the components fit together like they should, also making sure all the hardware that needs to be integrated fits as intended. A lot of the time we’re working around the electronics – so the holes have to be in the right place, and the buttons have to be in the right place.”

“At this point we produce all the documentation, so production drawings, production-ready 3D models, specifications, finishes, all that sort of stuff. We’ll develop that and put it into a package, and either the client runs with that, or we start selecting manufacturers. With the manufacturers, you’ve got to be very specific in what you require. We put a lot of work into our documentation, and we’re very specific in what we require, product- and time-wise.”

“Tooling takes between eight and 12 weeks, and what we’ll get from the manufacturer is an ‘off-tool’ sample. They make the tool, and put some plastic into it and send it to us to make sure it’s all good. We have the option to make some adjustments. If we approve it, everything gets finished, and you’ll get a sample, with the finishes applied, and then it’s into production. We say to [clients], ‘The drawings and the specification are your contract, if you get delivered product that doesn’t conform, then you don’t pay for it.’”

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