The Hand-Off from Initial Product Concept to Design


I was just talking with our good friend and frequent collaborator Jim Pelletier at Angle Development ( Jim runs a boutique product development firm based in Boston. Their foundation is deep knowledge of mechanical engineering with a strong dose of industrial design flair. They do beautiful work and their “turnover packages” make our job much easier.

What prompted our discussion was the challenge we face when deciding when it’s time to “jump in” to a new hardware project. While we know intuitively when it’s too early for EastBridge (“we have a pencil sketch and made a scale model out of cardboard”) I wanted o explore when the design team should launch.

Jim feels that in order to step off on the right foot, the following guidelines/checklist may prove useful to complete before you reach out to your development team.

You should come to the developer with a good idea of what their product “is” and “does”. This involves:

  • • An understanding of the market segment(s) their product belongs within (even if they’re pushing the boundaries of this market).
  • • A sense of who their customers are (demographics, abilities, intelligence, unmet needs/desires that the product will fulfill).
  • • A proven-feasible core technology for the product (*).
  • • An (at least rough) idea of what features and functions of the product will include.
  • • How their users might use/interact with the product.
  • • Consideration for the safety of the user, other stakeholders/bystanders, the environment.
  • • An understanding of all applicable regulations/testing/certifications required for the product (in all intended markets).
  • • A basic marketing/sales strategy (including a target cost-of-goods and project time line)

These would generally be communicated through a product requirements document (or PRD), a functional prototype or other embodiment of the core technology, and a project plan. None of these would need to be “set in stone”, as they will all invariably change as the project progresses. However, a good developer won’t be able to propose a decent product development process without these items.

(*) The assumption here is that the design team generally doesn’t engage in basic R&D or core technology development. However, depending on the type of product, a skilled design team may be able to make suggestions for resources that specialize in the earlier phase of the overarching process.

All logical and good stuff. Next month, we’ll highlight what your manufacturing resource needs for a smooth hand off from the design team.

Jack Daniels

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