As a seasoned product designer, one of the questions I am asked most frequently is “Have you ever worked in (insert industry here) before?”
And my answer is usually no.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you.
It is rare for product design consultancies to work in singular industries. Not unheard of, and the medical sector is a good example of this, but it is rare. Many designers who work for consultancies will testify, it is not knowledge of a particular sector (though this can help), but design experience as a whole which makes designers so versatile. The point I try to get across when I am asked this question, is that working over a broad range of industries makes for a more rounded designer who can bring in ideas and expertise gained from other sectors, which otherwise may not have been brought to the table.
Well rounded designer
As an example; In 2019 I was approached by a design team who were working for a London-based specialist dentist who was designing a new range of specialist dental tools for her to use in her clinics. Had I worked in the dental industry before? No. But my skills and knowledge on designing products for manufacture was the reason I was approached, not because of industry knowledge.
Product design is a process, and it is a process I am very well practiced at and have honed over the years of practice. I have been designing products for manufacture for over 13 years now, and whilst every project is different and will have curve balls pop up from time to time, it is my job to overcome them.
With the connectivity of modern life, a vast amount of information, research papers and studies available to us on the internet it is relatively quick to learn necessary background information for a new project, and particularly that of a new industry. Not all information can be gained online however, and of course first hand user research will always be invaluable.
Lending design expertise
Going back to the dental project however, I was brought onboard as an expert in design for manufacture. My experience in refining products for various manufacturing techniques as well as materials knowledge meant the skills I had were fundamental in moving this project from conceptual stage to a fully developed production ready product. In fact as I write this article, the product is being produced in a factory I sourced in Belgium.
Since working for my own design consultancy, I have worked in many different industries. The building and building monitoring industry was so far the one I found most challenging, but would I go back and design products for the industry again? Yes I would, because I learned from the projects and took away more skills and knowledge than I have previously.
When hiring or engaging a product designer, clients not only gain design services for their particular project, but also this vast amount of knowledge experience from other industries and projects.
To summarise, as a product designer our job is to lend our expertise and experience gained from past work across all industries. There are a surprising amount of cross overs. Much as a black cab driver in London will run off ‘the knowledge’ so do product designers.
Product design is a journey and a step-by-step process. It is one I enjoy taking along side my clients across all sorts of different industries.
If you have a new product enquiry, or a general question about produce design and how I can help you please get in touch using the link below.