Everyday, at any time or place, we come up with great ideas about the next great app or a revolutionary consumer product. However this is just the start of the creative process. In order to be carried out, the idea has to evolve and go through different stages. Only concepts that are properly designed, evaluated, and feasible become a finished product or service.
In this article, we unveil part of the unknown process of turning ideas into attractive decorated objects and gifts.
It all starts with an idea
The creative process is endless and its inspiration has no boundaries. Ideas are everywhere. They occur through individual thoughts or collective brainstorming. The idea for the next bestselling product can come up spontaneously around a cup of coffee or during a morning commute. It can also be the result of a lengthy research process powered by trend studies, daily life observation, internet surfing… All until the final scream: eureka!
Some of the most notorious everyday consumer products have been created thanks to completely random inspirations. It is the case of the famous Post-It note by 3M. The creator, Arthur Fry, looked for something to help him mark his music sheets. In the meantime, another 3M employee, Dr. Spencer Silver, accidentally created a weak but reliable adhesive. Mr. Fry had the idea to coat a bookmark with that adhesive. Thus was created the Post-It note prototype.
Transforming your idea into a design
One of the steps required to turn an idea into a consumer product is design. During this stage, designers and researchers define the product’s appearance, proportions, materials and composition. The goal is to apply the idea to contemporary trends and prepare the necessary data and files for the following stages.
Initially, designers study color combinations, shapes and proportions. A lot of companies and freelance designers cannot afford focus groups and extensive market research studies. Instead they take inspiration in institutions such as Pantone, which define color palettes that represent the year’s spirit and trends. In terms of proportions, designers are mindful of principles such as the golden ratio or the Fibonacci sequence. From smartphones to birthday cards, anything of rectangular shape is likely to follow those principles.
After several drafts, the design studio prepares 2D and 3D files of the designed idea. This allows the company to preview and carefully study the product’s outer shape and inner construction. Each part is analyzed and tested to ensure it can be processed into manufacturing.
One of the objectives of this stage is to define the answer to any question that can come up during the entire creative and manufacturing process.
Creating your first prototype
Once the design process is finished, it is important for the creators to get an idea what the product will look like in its final shape. During the prototyping stage, the product is created solely with a focus on appearance and proportions. The goal is to get a feel of the product in usage and practice. This helps the creators to get a clearer, tangible idea of the product: a proof of concept. Furthermore, the prototype allows marketing and sales teams a first look at the product allowing them to provide feedback.
At this stage, the relevant tooling and processes are not always available, so prototypes are created using alternative methods. Creating handmade prototypes is often expensive and time-consuming, however, with the advent of new technologies such as 3D printing, prototyping has become simple, fast and flexible. A 3D printing machine allows you to quickly create any object following the 3D models created during the designing stage.
Assessing the cost and profitability of your project
In order to guarantee profitability, each idea or new product is subjected to cost analysis. Regardless of how good the concept is, further development is not guaranteed. The probability of going through all of the assessment process and ending up with a real consumer product is indeed quite low.
At this stage, multiple factors come into consideration. The company decides which materials to use, by taking into account product specifications and costs of procurement. In order to adapt production costs to market realities, designs can be changed or simplified, by using cheaper materials or removing features that aren’t deemed necessary.
Finally, the engineering teams drafts and finalizes the Bill of Materials and other technical specifications and documents. When this stage is cleared, companies can start developing and investing into the specific production processes.
Your first set of samples
Once cost analysis is performed and the project is validated, it is time to develop the processes and tooling necessary for mass production. New tools and machines might be bought or developed at this stage.
During the sampling stage, a low number of units are made, using the exact parameters as the final product. This is done in order to send samples to quality control organisms for testing and certification. The goal is to make sure the product complies with all the safety regulations in the sale markets.
Samples also serve as a reference for the final products. If the product is being manufactured for another company, a sample is sent to them. The client company will decide whether it fits their requirements. If it does, then they return a Golden Sample or a Pre-Production Sample that acts as a reference for production. Any problems that may arise in the future will be solved by comparing this sample with the defective units coming from mass production.
If everything is running smoothly, if all of the necessary resources are set up and available, the company can proceed to the final stage.
Launching mass production
After establishing the production plan, mass production is launched. By that time, every factor has already been considered and every team involved in the product development has given their agreement. The decision to launch production has been made and is irreversible. The initial idea was transformed into a marketable product.
Following those principles, Willtech Gift has been manufacturing and exporting unique Decorated Gifts and Novelty Stationery products to the world for nearly 3 decades. Handling both OEM and self-developed items we help our clients create unique ranges of high quality consumer products for worldwide distribution in all major retail channels.
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