A step-by-step guide to turning an idea into a product
This guide will take you through the main stages involved in turning an idea into a product. There are no hard and fast rules as every product is different particularly if it is innovative and hasn’t been done before. It is important to understand how development of the product integrates with manufacture, marketing, patenting, packaging and finance and investment and so this guide will take you through a little of that as well. So if you have a new idea for a product then this is the place to start!
The fundamental aim of the Commercial Viability stage of work is to ascertain whether or not the project is feasible. Lots of people and businesses have an idea for a new product everyday in the UK but very few will actually be viable or will make it to market.
In order to achieve this several important factors are considered and key questions asked:
1. Does the product fulfil a ‘real’ need?
2. Is there a potential market for the product?
3. Can the product be patented or protected through other forms of intellectual property?
4. Is there similar technology available and if so how applicable is it to the product? Can this technology be used? How much research and cost would this technology require to be fully utilised?
5. What are the costs associated with producing the product? In order to determine this we work with our partner factories to reach a ball park cost.
6. How much time and therefore budget will it take to develop this product?
In some ways, coming up with a new idea for a product is the easy bit. Now comes the hard work. The outcome of a questioning process like this is that our clients are enabled to manage the risk at the outset of product development. Most agencies develop the product before assessing its viability. At D2M we want to do this first so our clients can refine their business
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Product design consists of transforming an initial product idea into an appealing and viable product that can be manufactured. It is often necessary to commission a professional product
designer with strong creative ability and an excellent knowledge of engineering materials and manufacturing techniques in order to develop an idea.
The product design process should involve:
• Research into materials, technologies and similar existing products
• Innovative concept development through sketching and initial Computer Aided Design (CAD) models
• Detailed design for manufacture and consideration of materials
• Full consideration of usability and ergonomics
• Product styling
• Functional mechanical or electronic development, if required
Innovative product design will often help strengthen your patent application. It is not usually possible to protect an overall concept; instead, most patents protect the method by which an idea carries out an overall concept. Product design refines and improves how an idea works and is therefore often integral to achieving strong patent protection
Strong Intellectual Property protection on new ideas for products may also be key considerations before moving beyond this milestone. Don’t forget to also start thinking about how the design can reflect your brand and also an initial look at packaging can help ensure that sensible decisions are made now to make all this cheaper and easier further down the line.
Prototypes are an essential stage in developing an idea so that it is ready for presentation to industry or manufacture. However prototyping can be very expensive and so it may well be prudent to establish interest in your idea before embarking on the prototyping process.
In most cases design work needs to be completed before a prototype can be built. This design stage will result in a 3D virtual (CAD) model that can be used to check basic form and function. This virtual model can be rendered to look like a real product and used to assess interest from companies and investors prior to prototyping
It’s so much more than a logo. Your brand is essentially who you are – your story, values, personality – and what your customers feel (and say) about you. Here at D2M, we believe in fully understanding and capturing the essence of the brand behind a product in order to best communicate it in a meaningful, clear and consistent manner. Now is the time to turn your new product idea into a branded product for launch.
This stage includes:
• Brand Strategy Workshops
• Brand Architecture
• Brand & Product naming
• Brand Identity
• Brand Guidelines
It could be fun and lively like Tango; serious and reserved like British Airways; a luxury brand like Bentley; or sleek and cool like Apple. Retailers will expect your brand to have been carefully constructed and to be reflected in your packaging, website and promotional material.
It is also good to review at this stage from a marketing perspective to ensure that the final product is inline with what consumer wants and how your team plans to market the product. Don’t get carried away with the new product idea and miss what is it your customer actually wants. Focus groups, online surveys and talking to potential buyers at this stage can make all the difference between success and failure.
Now is also the time to think about brand placement on the product and the packaging. Involve your team or outside agency responsible for these elements to ensure that nothing is missed before going into the expensive and time consuming pre-production stages of development. It might be that some simple design changes now can make the product easier to box, pack and ship savings valuable margin once the product is launched.
This is where your product really comes to life! It can be exciting, daunting, frustrating and infuriating all in one day. But with a cool head and some expert guidance your product will be manufactured correctly and you’ll be one big step closer to profiting from your idea.
You are not the first entrepreneur following this path. You will probably make some mistakes during this process. Learn from these, be reactive and don’t give-up. Depending on the type of product you may have to produce your goods in a foreign country to get a more competitive price. Duty rates, shipping costs cultural issues and communication all become challenges to overcome.
You will need to choose a factory to manufacture your product idea. One way to do this is to hire a sourcing agent who will act as a middleman between you and one of their trusted manufacturing partners. Such an agent would be responsible for quality control, international transfers and negotiating with the factory.
Another alternative is to source a UK manufacturer. This option carries the significant advantages of enabling you to negotiate directly with a factory and to conduct research into that factory’s reputation, but it is often expensive and there are many types of product that are simply not manufactured in the UK (for example, textile-based products, cheap plastic products and consumer electronics). It is therefore often necessary and cost-effective to source manufacturing abroad.
Whichever option you choose, it is important to have samples produced before placing an order, to ask for and examine references, to research any factory under consideration and, ideally, to visit that factory.
You will need organisation and patience. Your product has never been so close to the market. But prepare yourself to have to a few hiccups along the way.
Our tips for your production journey:
• Get as much advice as you can
• Be prepared and well planned
• Dedicate time and don’t expect it to all go smoothly
It might be that your new product idea is a textile based concept. Textile products are developed in a similar overall fashion but often don’t require 3D computer aided design but more prototyping is often needed instead. This is partly because computer programs struggle to mimic how different fabrics and construction techniques will react in real life. The development of fabric based products often requires more sourcing time as the textiles themselves have such a huge part to play in the function and quality of the final product. Find out more about our textile product development services here.
Product development is a hugely exciting involved undertaking. Each project’s journey, from sketch to shelf, is likely to be different but overall the process of refining a product roughly involves the same stages. It is a difficult thing to do and most people will require the help of a professional designer or design agency to do it well. Once the product is developed, the next step is manufacture but that is the subject of a whole other article…
Article written by Phil Staunton, founder of D2M Innovation ltd.
D2M Innovation has helped hundreds of people and SME’s develop and manufacture their exciting new products.
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