Well-designed products make life easier by solving problems. Extraordinary products introduce new ways of doing things. Well-designed consumer products are a pleasure to use – they are aesthetic and intuitive. Imagine how life would be if the first iPod had been less intuitive or functional. Creating consumer products should deliver three things: ease of use, functionality, and beauty. To learn how to design great consumer products, I spoke with “Product Whisperer” Tracy Hazzard.
Tracy Hazzard is CEO of industrial design firm Hazz Design and the co-designer of many consumer products you buy at retail stores every day. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and for more than 20 years she has been creating for companies of all sizes, pushing them to rethink their product lines in order to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. Tracy also co-hosts the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast and is a regular contributor to Inc. Magazine.
Below, Tracy shares her 7P process to successfully designing and launching consumer products after providing a little background:
- Prove It – concept has a market
- Plan It – best plan for project
- Price It – competitive products and margins
- Prototype It – design and prototype
- Protect It – provisional IP protection
- Predict It – sales forecasting
- Produce It – make it real
What is “right-fitting” a product or service?
The concept of the MVP – minimal viable product – places too much emphasis on minimal. It’s the least you can do for someone and I want to provide the most value that someone cares about. So I call it maximum valuable product. I don’t want to embed it with tons of bloat and tons of features just to be feature-heavy, but I really want to have it have the maximum impact value, the maximum design impact that my target consumer wants. That is what it means to “right-fit” a product.
What are the steps to product right-fitting?
There are 7 Ps to right-fitting. The first is Prove It. We’re proving that the concept has a market — that the right product and the right market have a match together. We start with a hypothesis with what we believe might be the key feature, or one or two of them, and we test each and see how they work and how they resonate. Prove It is market research, competitive research and social research.
That’s where we really lay out the best plan for the process. We plan out on paper all of the launch process for that product. We spend a lot of time on this step making sure it’s dialed in and right.
We haven’t made anything yet and we’re already figuring out the price, but that’s because if you can’t get the right price, then it’s not a right fit. Price makes choices for us in materials, it determines the key design criteria and key product criteria that we’re going to go forward with. It also influences what we keep and what we don’t in the other features.
We try to work in almost any material that is necessary for the product. So if it’s got fabric on it, it’s got to be upholstered and we use an upholstery shop. We have built our own sort of resource team there, where we can have pretty much anything. So we can have glass made, we can have plastics made, we can see inside something, we can laser-cut something, we can bend metal. We can do whatever we need there, including paint it so it looks right.
We don’t go for patenting unless we absolutely have to. We’ll file a provisional at this stage. With the retail cycles in product categories, you want to wait as long as possible before you start revealing details.
One part of this is forecasting demand for the product but also considering how long is the product going to last in the market, what is the market thinking, what are other competitive products doing or planning, etc.
For retail consumer products, the important aspect is to babysit your producer. Many products are produced in Asia and you need to be there, in their facility, and make sure the product is produced as you expect. You can’t do this by web conference. I can’t tell you how many times it would have been disastrous if we hadn’t been on top of it, including products coming to the US completely unusable.
Overall, Tracy notes, that product design requires a lot more than just thinking up a new invention. “Hope is not a plan,” Tracy says, because sometimes, $100,000 of tooling later, if you didn’t have a plan, you may have a great product with no money left to market it. Always plan a product through to the end stage, the successful launch, not just the design.
Listen to the interview with Tracy Hazzard on The Everyday Innovator Podcast.
image credit: visitdenmark.com
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Chad McAllister, PhD is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow him on Twitter.