The following is a rough outline of the design process we use at Bemu to design new products. We share it here because we love it, find it interesting and think others might be interested too.
This step defines the constraints we are working within. It’s tempting and sometimes beneficial to design with unlimited constraints but in the real world there are always limitations. These limitations, counterintuitively often open up the design process. So, what function does this new product serve? What words would you use to describe the product or it’s context? Where will it live, that is; what’s the setting, context or market? Who will manufacture the final product and what are their capabilities? What is the constitution of the finished product, that is a one off bespoke item, a carefully crafted small batch produced piece or will it be mass produced? When is the finish product needed by? When are the final working drawings needed by? Is there scope for prototyping? What is the budget?
Over the years I have found mood boards very helpful in the design process. The design process is inherently visual so what better way to set the tone and mood of the design than creating a board that visually describes functional elements, style and context. The key to this process is that the mood of the board matches the brief which will in turn inform downstream processes.
This starts with pencil and paper. Different elements are drawn from the mood board. Scale, proportion, details, manufacturing process, fit, finish, are all taken into account when sketching. Once a positive direction has been determined we move to CAD to produce some hi-fi renderings to help visualise the product.
Once a final concept has been determined we will move onto CAD drawings. The goal of this process is to communicate the design intent to the manufacturer through fully defined drawings (or CAD models) – dimension and constraint. Drawings are complete, clean, clear and concise.
Example – Furniture Design
Design a desk for the home office. Modern, clean simple, spacious, with a touch of sophistication. Reference spindle back chair. Design time; max one week including prototype, budget to match that week. Must be easy to manufacture by any skilled craftsman. Drawers not necessary. Dark timber preference for material with a matt oil-wax finish. Exposed joinery a plus.
Then we move on to a prototype. Note this prototype pictured below has increased proportions compared to the drawings above. Problems with the design became apparent after this test. Namely too much torsional stress on the short rails. For the next prototype the long rails would be moved out to meet the legs and the bottom surface would be flattened to provide a firm grounding on the floor. This illustrates the benefits of the prototyping phase to iron out issues that were not foreseen in the conceptual phase.