From a Great Idea to a Finished Product
Every great product starts as a great idea. However, there are always far more great ideas than there are great products. We work with you to assess the potential of your idea and to transfer it from being a concept into a reality. This can start over a coffee and continues through a journey that will ultimately see your product designed on paper and as a 3D computer model.
While our discipline is design, we are also businessmen. Making sure that your design is commercially viable is part of the assessment process. This includes meeting international best practice and working with you to ensure you maximise your return from the development investment.
The Product Design Process
There are two main disciplines involved in the product design phase of a new product development project:
- Industrial Design – an ‘outside-in’ approach that combines the knowledge of ergonomics with artistic skill to create attractive, user-friendly, innovative products.
- Mechanical Design – an ‘inside-out’ approach that is focused primarily on how the product functions.
To achieve truly great product design, these two disciplines must be in balance. At Procreate, we benefit from having both disciplines under the same roof. It allows us to focus on delivering excellence across the board to ensure the products we design fulfil every aspect of the design specification and can be manufactured efficiently and reliably.
This is a consultative process and the development of prototypes at relevant stages of the project gives our clients the ability to take a hands-on approach to considering the options available to them in terms of how the product looks, functions and will be manufactured.
Once a concept has been finalised Procreate also has the expertise to drive the tooling process which ensures that the design you have signed off on is what you will receive off the production line. This has also led to Procreate having a greater involvement in the manufacturing process than most design houses. You can have confidence in our ability to deliver on what we design in the most cost-effective and environmentally efficient means possible.
Design research is concerned with the processes or technology the design may require in order to satisfy the customers' needs.
Your research may focus on:
- new technologies that could be beneficial in the product development
- understanding and quantifying the market for a proposed new product or products
- examine similar products to those being designed
- work to understand how a specific design challenge may have been solved previously
- how to improve the design this time around.
Whatever your research requirements, the Procreate team can help you.
We use design research tools to provide useful information that can add depth to any product development. Whether it is researching a potential product market, technology or history, design research enables us and our clients to fully understand, verify and leverage this knowledge throughout the design project.
The design specification is a detailed plan of the requirements for a product's design. Focusing on the function of the product, it addresses questions such as:
- What is the purpose of the design?
- Form and aesthetics - how will the product look and feel? What style will it have?
- What functional characteristics must the product have?
- What are the user requirements for the product – what does the person using your product need to get from it?
- What is the scale of production – is the product mass produced, batch produced or done as a one-off?
- What is the budget and what restrictions might that impose?
- What is the timeframe and available resources?
Model Making & Prototyping
The purpose of a good prototype is to provide a functional, lifelike depiction of the product that can be used to test aspects of the product's design during the design process. Prototyping techniques vary depending upon both the product being designed, and the stage of the design process that the prototype is being used for.
We are experienced in producing prototypes using a wide variety of materials and techniques such as SLA (stereolithography), CNC machining and foam models; we work with a variety of specialist sub-contractors to highly customised prototypes where required. Prototypes can provide an invaluable tool to help refine a product's user-interface, aesthetic or other attributes. This can occur at almost any stage of the design process – from examining a range of different concepts to testing functionality and assessing how you might finally manufacture the end product.
Not all our designs are prototyped but it is something we strongly recommend, particularly if there is a relatively high cost of manufacture. While we can make a lot of assessments using 2D and 3D modelling, nothing beats the hands-on assessment of a product's function and form that you get from physically touching it.
Money spent in prototyping is often ultimately saved by making the design even more cost-effective to manufacture going forward. It can also be critical to secure investor funding as a physical form is far more finance-friendly than just a great idea.
There are many examples of product designs that have been 'found out' at the manufacturing stage because the design has not taken sufficient account of the manufacturing process. Our ability to combine design and engineering expertise under the same roof eliminates these issues.
Our design solutions take account of the engineering and manufacturing requirements to ensure that manufacturing can be as efficient as possible. Our product creation process is both more rigorous and faster - enabling you to move from concept to manufacture more efficiently and with a high level of product reliability built in to the design.
Procreate offers a service to manage production runs for clients. Our knowledge of manufacturing processes makes this a logical extension for many companies who do not have this expertise in house. We typically get directly involved in managing low-volume, high-value manufacture runs, and can facilitate the manufacture of high-volume production through our network of suppliers.
Procreate’s familiarity with the design makes it logical for us to continue managing the product delivery. This considerably de-risks the product manufacture for our client.
Procreate has strong working relationships with a wide variety of suppliers locally and internationally. This gives us access to an enviable range of manufacturing options and allows us to identify the most efficient and cost-effective means of supplying raw materials and physical manufacture of the products we design.
Procreate can organise tooling for the components it designs and has a range of talented suppliers in NZ and overseas. Tooling is very much an ‘unseen art’ and is an absolutely critical part of most modern product manufacture. Commonly Procreate gets involved with projects requiring tooling for plastic injection modelling or thermo forming but we have suppliers who offer the full range of alternative manufacturing processes and materials as well.
Creating a ‘tool’ or mould is a highly expensive and customised process, so getting it right the first time is critical. At Procreate we start considering the tooling options and constraints right at the start of the design process. This high level of attention to detail then extends through to the prototyping stage where tooling requirements are fine tuned.
Our deep understanding of the engineering requirements of tooling and the impact that it has on the manufacturing process has been part of Procreate’s success story. It is an aspect of manufacturing that most people never get to see – but it can have an enormous impact on every aspect of the product’s look and feel, including its ultimate cost.