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Industrial design for a hardware startup

Is industrial design essential for a hardware startup? When should you engage product development bureau? How much time do you need? See the answers (and suggestions) in the post.
Making researches on US market for Raccoon.World, I talked to dozens of Americans to find out the reasons why they would (or wouldn’t) buy Raccoon.Clip. And the design is one of TOP-5 things mentioned. But when to start doing it and how to manage time and resources if you are a hardware startup? I tried to collect main questions here. Some answer may appear too evident, but do not underestimate their importance. According to communication with technological startups, often little things become a stumbling block and cause a delay of the project’s entry into the market.

Is the design essential for hardware startup?

When it comes to market expansion, product design can become a significant thing. But functionality still keeps the first place (thanks, God!) when you create emerging technologies. Your future users are smart enough to understand that your company is in the beginning of its journey, and it is okay to ask them for a review of a functional prototype (а prototype that demonstrates the functionality of the final product but has a different appearance). But take care of getting the finalized product when you enter the market (even if you do it via Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other crowdfunding platform). You must have a ready-to-use product, without compromises.

Should I start my product development with industrial design?

No, you can’t sell the design itself! But bright appearance can help you to attract visitors to you website, Facebook page or Kickstarter project. Their final decisions still depend on a product functionality. All the same like in a real life: you can become attracted by a good-looking person but appearance definitely won’t become the main reason for long-term relationships.

How to create first prototypes of a gadget?

As I mentioned above, it is not necessary to think about final design at the first step of product development. At Raccoon.World we simply printed bodies for our first prototypes on 3D printer in our office. It gave us possibilities to update the form factor as often as we wanted, and it was many-many times cheaper. Even taking into account the cost of a 3D printer and that we hired middle level 3D designer for a part-time.

When should I hire product development bureau?

The right time is when you finished all your researches and testings and are going to enter the market. Please do not search for a cheap design companies. Remember that you will have only one chance to be estimated by your audience. And if the first packages will come with shaky, poorly assembled devices, you will immediately lose all the chances to get your market share. So take care and hire a full-cycle hardware product development bureau that specializes in your branch.

How long does it takes to get the final prototype?

One of the reasons the technological startup shouldn’t make the design the first part of product development is that it is a quiet complex and long-termed process. Dozens of sketches to choose from is just the visible part of an iceberg. The industrial design doesn’t end with a good layout, it starts with it. Then the team comes through next “circles of hell” like 3DCAD modelling, specification of color range, materials, surface texture, drawings, development of internal structure, checking the build process, prototyping and corrections, corrections, corrections… In average it takes at list 15 weeks to get the final variant. Add user testing you probably will held 2 or 3 times during design development — and you get 4 months from the beginning till the end.
As for Raccoon.World, we are now on the final stage of appearance confirmation. I will share it with you in details in the next post.
If you have any questions — respond on this post or email me abezrodna@raccoon.world.
P.S. Do not forget to recommend the post if you liked it and follow Raccoon.World to get more advices on hardware startups, gaming and VR/AR!