Product Design in the Digital Age

Traditional methods for product design are quickly becoming obsolete. The concept design and blueprints that could have taken hours of hard work by hand are now done with ease and speed through 2D and 3D modeling software. The multiple physical prototypes that would fail due to errors in the design are now digital representations, saving a lot of effort and money in building them.

With that in mind, it is safe to say that designing new products with the help of digital tools is the best way to go, no contest held. Money isn’t an issue either: there are a few cheap and even completely free alternatives to the industry giant that is Autodesk; that is, of course, provided you can work with their particular limitations and quirks.

Even so, there are a few things to keep in mind, when working with these digital tools, to ensure that you are indeed creating the best design you can. The first one is especially relevant for those who choose to design their products on the digital realm first, instead of the physical one; it is simply to never lose sight of the fact that said product will eventually need to be turned into a reality; a physical product for you to sell or enjoy.

How can this be a problem? Well, let’s see an example: AutoCAD, for instance, has almost infinite capabilities when it comes to 3D modeling. It can create all sorts of geometric figures made of just about every material you can think of.

The problem with near-infinite options for digital modeling and prototyping is that you can forget that your real life budget and capabilities may not allow for so much indulgence. The 3D concept may look beautiful, but transforming it into a physical object may be too expensive or require too much finesse. In the words of Wilferd Peterson: “Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground”.

This leads us to the next thing to keep in mind: KISS, as in the KISS principle. What is it, you may ask? KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. It means that you must try and reduce your product to its most simple, or basic, form. This, however, shouldn’t be interpreted as cheapening your product in terms of quality, of course. It is merely an advice not to add complexity where complexity isn’t needed.

Have you ever heard of Santiago Gonzalez, a 14 year old child prodigy? If you haven’t, you’re encouraged to watch the video below. During one of the scenes, Professor Bakos mentions the concept of “beautiful code”, which Santiago later describes as keeping the code you’re programming “short and concise”.

This same principle should be kept in mind when designing a product. It’s not enough to build a product that is functional, but you must try to simplify the systems that make it work, rather than adding complexity where it isn’t needed.

About Shai Atanelov

Shai brings his strong analytical skills and in-depth knowledge of usability methodologies to our team. His performance as a project manager, leader and facilitator for cross-functional teams helped him acquire skills required in the design and development of websites and applications.

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