Make like an Edison Nation designer and take note of these four steps to kickstart your design process.
So you’ve got an idea for an invention that needs some “fleshing out”. What does the design look like? What is it made of? How big is it? Where to begin? Starting the design process can be daunting, even if you’ve done it a thousand times before. As the lead designer of Edison Nation’s “As Seen on TV” product division, I like to get started by walking myself through an inspirational process that goes a little something like this:
Step 1: Surf’s up
Scour the web for anything and everything relevant to your idea. The world is literally at your fingertips. Without leaving your desk, you can check out similar products and their reviews, read blogs to learn about the type of person who might use your invention, watch videos of the problem you’re trying to solve and so on. Save anything and everything that inspires you. Using a site like Pinterest can help you to organize all of these virtual-inspirations in one place. Or, go old school and print things out to make an actual “inspiration board” like the ones below found in Enventys‘ engineering and design space.
Step 2: Magic Schoolbus-it!
This one is my personal favorite. Remember the Magic Schoolbus series? Anyone? Crickets? In these nostalgic books, a wacky teacher took kids on crazy adventures all over space and time aboard a magic bus. Take your idea on that ride, too! Momentarily imagine your completed invention in 5 or 6 very different places: on the moon, under water, in the desert, in ancient Egypt. How would it look and feel different in each of those places? How would it need to change to work correctly in all of those places? Would certain pieces become unnecessary? Is there a piece that has to be metal instead of plastic? Would it need to be taller, thinner? Envisioning these unusual adaptations of your invention will help you to zero-in on which traits are the most important, and will help you determine what factors should drive your material choices for different components. Jot down these thoughts and keep them in mind as you work through the next steps.
Step 3: Get Touchy-Feely
Don’t just look for things that inspire you visually – think about textures, sounds, smells, even temperatures that apply to your concept. A fabric swatch, a piece of tin foil, sandpaper, a smelly marker… all of these are great examples of sensory cues that can inspire the way your invention is experienced by users. For anything tangible, create a collection of these physical things in one place. You don’t have to go all out and make a whole inspiration board… even a Ziploc bag or a section of a bulletin board can serve the same purpose.
Step 4: Get out!!
Seriously, get out. Leave your surroundings. Often times, I’ve become so stumped on a design project that I give up and head out to get coffee or run an errand to get my mind off things. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve inadvertently found my solution on these trips out of the office. The way a knob turns on a parking meter, the heat of a coffee cup dissipated by a cardboard sleeve… inspiration is everywhere! Either the design-gods happened to align for me in those moments at Starbucks -OR- getting out of a solitary bubble is absolutely key to the creative process. Either way, I’ll take it!