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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, we talked to dozens of gamers to find out the reasons why they would (or wouldn’t) buy Raccoon.Clip. And the design is one of the things mentioned. But when to start doing it and how to manage time and resources if you are a hardware startup? Our CMO Anna Bezrodna 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 a 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 at 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 another crowdfunding platform). You must have a ready-to-use product, without compromises.

Should product development start with industrial design?

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

How to create the first prototypes of a gadget?

As I mentioned above, it is not necessary to think about the final design at the first step of product development. At Raccoon.World we simply printed bodies for our first prototypes on a 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 a middle-level 3D designer for a part-time.

When should a product development bureau be hired?

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 company. 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.

For the industrial design of Raccoon.Clip we have chosen ARTKB, a full-cycle hardware product development bureau. Guys specialize in the development of consumer electronics, are known for the design of bestselling products (iBlazr, EcoIsme, Hushme, Cardiomo, HiDeez, etc) and were covered in popular media (Mashable, Engadget, and Cnet among them).

How long does it take to get the final prototype?

One of the reasons the technology 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 modeling, a specification of color range, materials, surface texture, drawings, development of internal structure, checking the build process, prototyping, and corrections, corrections, corrections… On average it takes at list 18 weeks to get the final variant. Add user testing you probably will hold 2 or 3 times during design development — and you get 6 months from the beginning till the end.