How We Think About Product Development

Our thoughts on good design have been greatly inspired by the timelessness and simplicity of Vitruvius’ three key principles for good architecture:

  • Firmatis (Durability): Must stand up robustly and remain in good condition.
  • Utilitas (Utility): It should be useful and function well for the people using it.
  • Venustatis (Beauty): It should delight people and raise their spirits.

With the goal of achieving these three principles in every product we design, we have spent a lot of time considering various development paradigms and workflows over the years: agile development, SCRUM, lean manufacturing philosophy, Six Sigma quality management, human-centered design, design thinking, and chaos engineering. Some design firms treat these like religions, while others dismiss them as nothing more than buzzwords. Our struggle with existing design strategies and workflows has been many, such as:

  1. Agile and SCRUM are very software-centric. What about hardware products?
  2. Traditional systems engineering added a lot of non-value-added work. Great for large systems that will be maintained for 25-100 years. What about products that have to get to market fast?
  3. Six Sigma was great for large companies where the benefits outweighed the overhead incurred. What about small and nimble start-ups?
  4. Our team is geographically dispersed, so paper-driven processes won’t work. Can we be completely digital for engineering, project management, and customer support?
  5. Security always seems like an afterthought. How can we bake security into the product design process?
  6. We respect that we only have this one planet. What are the impacts of the product when it reaches the end of its design life? Can this be recycled or disposed of safely and with minimal environmental impact?

Our goal has always been to build products for our clients that are durable, useful, and beautiful. And to do so quickly and on budget while blending traditional craftsmanship skills with modern tools. To that end, we chose to develop a unique and now-proven design workflow that incorporates the best ideas of the legacy paradigms while modernizing for digital-only design and fabrication.

The EYE CHART! A more engineering-y look at our design process. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it looks!

Our “Secret Sauce” Design Flow

We breakdown most of our design projects into the following 9 steps:

  1. Figuring Out The Problem To Be Solved:  Requirements development, “ideation”, identify use cases, identify constraints, rough order of magnitude cost/schedule analysis, and technology maturation determination.
  2. Exploring Potential Solutions: Market studies, conceptual analysis and design; functional analysis, feasibility studies, rapid prototyping & mockups. top-level system architecture.
  3. Refining the Big Picture: Proof-of-concept, form/fit/function prototypes, iterative design/test loop, short-duration builds. Finalize requirements, cost/schedule, architectural designs, and use cases.
  4. Design the Solution: Detailed design and engineering; build your Bill of Materials (BOM), identify dependencies, generate documentation, develop testing/verification/validation procedures, and refine the design to be manufacturable, sustainable, secure, testable, etc.
  5. Build the Solution: Leverage our in-house fab lab to manufacture as much as possible in-house. We also work with our global partners to fabricate assemblies and components that require more complex industrial tooling. We then do the final assembly of the looks-like/works-like prototype. Prepare final Design for Manufacturing (DfM) documentation; BOM, CAD packages.
  6. Test the Tech: Unit testing and integration testing; verification of technology, design, and engineering; validate failure modes analysis.
  7. Test the Product: Validate the solution, user acceptance testing, and livetesting in real-world environments. and system optimization based on feedback.
  8. Hack and Harden: Assess any cyber and physical vulnerabilities that can be potentially exploited and design/implement solutions.
  9. Prepare for Manufacturing: Low-volume manufacturing to help refine the BOM, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), M/ECAD packages, and source code. Lastly, we can put you in contact with industry-leading manufacturing partners to guide you on the next steps if you’re goal is mass production.

Success Means Thinking about the Future

Building a prototype is one thing. Building a product that can be sold requires more than just a good idea; it requires solid planning for all the other actions that turn a prototype into a product. We help you prepare for that monumental leap for your business by thinking about manufacturing and assembly from the very beginning. Some of these considerations that must be balanced include:

  • Design for Manufacturing
  • Design for Cost/Procurement
  • Design for End User: Aesethics, UI/UX, ergonomics
  • Design for Testing and Inspection
  • Design for Assembly
  • Design for Safety
  • Design for Sustainability and the Environment
  • Design for Logistics
  • Design for Disposal
  • Design for Security (Cyber and Physical)
  • Design for Hackability
  • Design for Maintainability and Repairability
  • Design for Upgradeability

Empowering Our Clients

We are big believers in open source. We encourage clients to consider open-source licensing for their products. However, we understand that the business model may not work for everyone. Rest assured, we take intellectual property (IP) rights seriously. Our clients own their intellectual property. We do not retain any IP rights. All designs give you access to the following and more:

  • Feasibility studies, specifications, and evaluation reports
  • Schematic / PCB / Gerber files
  • CAD design and fabrication files of all mechanical components
  • Bill of Materials (BOM)
  • Software/firmware source code
  • “Looks-like” and “works-like” prototypes
  • Project documentation and final assembly instructions
  • Test plans and reports
  • Video tutorial and professional product photography
  • Technical and artistic illustrations