I can’t think of anything more deflating then an engineer or finance person telling me the design, I’ve poured my heart into, is un-manufacturable or too expensive. To get through this roadblock try comparing it to a game like tennis. You come up with a design, and send it over the “net” to be reviewed and evaluated. Your design hasn’t “scored” until the “ball” stays in their court and they agree it’s worthy of production. It’s your responsibility to not make any compromises, and maintain a level of design leadership. When your unrestrained design breaches the “box” of restrictions, you can either stand firm, or look for alternatives that meet the boundaries. If you stand firm, it requires you to resell your theme with added support and reasoning, sometimes focusing on the R.O.I. will help. If you look for alternatives, then it’s important to find those that exceed your previous concept’s level of execution.
Being a production designer is never easy, restrictions often feel like gravity pulling your ideas back down to earth, but some of the most rewarding/enjoyable designs leave us speechless. They are the ones that have some magical ability to defy gravity. I’ve always felt that our lure, as industrial designers, is to find that realistic solution for the company, yet magical-experience for the customer.
Do you find yourself compromising the original design intent often? How do you stay positive, innovative, and motivated while facing certain manufacturing restrictions?
A fellow designer, Paul, inspired this post. He recently left his consulting job, to take a direct position as a designer with one of his clients. He realized that design-leadership is not always the company’s priority. I think most of us can say, at on time or another, that we have seen our company take a path contrary to our vision (wither that’s to cost-save, wrong target customer, or just plain safe).
Now hopefully that moment of disagreement quickly passes and everyone returns to the same page, but that’s not always the case. Some of us might belong to a huge company, or one that simply has an extremely small design team. In most cases this means the I.D. department takes a “back seat” regarding major decisions pertaining to the company’s products. A designer’s first reaction may be frustration. If frustration is allowed to remain, then relationships within the working product development team can turn combative.
Along with practicing patience and persistence, here are a few suggestions for removing and/or working around these barriers:
- Visually explain your side. We’re designers, use it to your advantage. Look for new ways to visually excite team members about your product goals.
- Become the resident expert on your product. Strive to learn all aspects of the business, i.e. engineering, marketing, and finance. The more you know, the better you’ll become at discussing your goals; you’ll possibly help them see your alternate solutions.
- If you are demanding design leadership, then be a design leader. To quote from “Zag,” “people like change, they don’t like to be changed.” Look to build relationships between coworkers. It’s easier to ask your best friend to follow you, then a complete stranger. (Wow, sorry that sounded like a fortune cookie)
- Pump out the work. To search for an innovative solution means you’re not satisfied with the initial result. It may be your best solution, but you can’t know if you don’t explore the alternatives. As you set a high standard work ethic, you’ll influence others to do the same.
The walls we find in our company may be big our small, but there is always a solution to remove and/or work around them. Please, feel free to share with us what has worked for you.