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What is product design?

"Great companies are built on great products."

-Elon Musk

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What is product design?

The greatest products are cleverly conceived, expertly crafted, and intuitively designed. Product Design is the imaginative process of creating goods, services, tools, and platforms. There are tons of factors to consider when making a successful product, but, at its core, the goal is to fill a need. To design a truly great product is to surpass the bare necessities of the consumer and start building desire.  Sightbox Product Design Studio excels at blending marketing knowledge into product design and incorporating branding from the very first draft.

What Product Design Means to Us

We’re always moving and grooving and improving, constantly on the lookout for new ways to benefit our clients. To that end, our focus has shifted from standard marketing and branding to product design. While working on established products that had already left the design stages, we encountered a few roadblocks along the path towards product excellence. On marketing projects, some of our most significant contributions came from our help with product design. It was so lovingly embraced by our clients, even when it was not what we were hired on for! We find that the process of marketing a product becomes far more fluid when you are also involved in the production itself. When products are designed with the consumer in mind, it doesn’t take a great deal of hard-selling to get buyers excited. We found our niche, where we could make the biggest difference, so that’s where we put our focus! Product Design is what we love and what we’re good at.

Blurring the Lines of Product Design and Marketing

What do Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, a Toyota Prius, and our approach to Product Design all have in common? They are all Hybrids! Just like a disgusting bug-man-thing and a sporty-yet-eco-friendly little sedan, Sightbox’s approach to design is more powerful because it brings two important ideas together. Why should you, the beautiful and talented product creator, care about any of this? Well – because we haven’t used nearly enough comparisons in this paragraph already – it’s a lot like cutting diamonds. You’re sitting there with an earth-worn hunk of highly compressed carbon. You think, ‘ah, I could polish it this way, I could cut it that way,’ but perhaps without considering what the buyer will want. Thought needs to go into how it could be set in a ring or embedded in a lateral incisor someday. But if you ask the right questions and involve the right people, you will know exactly how to cut that diamond to be the most sparkling and valuable, making it a lot easier to sell than a gem cut without those considerations.

See Related: 5 Product Design Innovation Examples

Dare to be Different

So there’s this generally-accepted concept of Product Market Fit. In the world of startups, it describes when you design your product for a specific market. When you find the fit, the market will acknowledge it. Simply put: creating a key for a lock that already exists.

There is a level of risk and trial-and-error with this sort of product creation. There are other keys being cut by competitors, some with deeper pockets or larger scale. You may find that a lot of people are solving the same problems that you are. Sometimes, the problems being solved are too small and the market too narrow. How meaningful is the solution you have created? What makes it stand out?

The solution Sightbox Product Design Studio has coined is Product MARKETING Fit. Let’s make a better key! We can give you a sense of what the consumer perception is, how much marketing pull there might be, and the wants/needs of the consumers. We want to help you make products forged in allure with desirability embedded within. It’s important to strike harmony in the development stage.

Branding, Marketing, and User Experience weave together to make beautiful and useful products.

Icons of the Industry

As discussed in Boxlunch 22: Product Design, some of the world’s most successful businesses have made amazing and intuitive product design decisions that dramatically changed industry standards. The addition of a mouse to the Macintosh personal computer did wonders for bringing computers to the people. Accessibility was the name of the game, making the user experience friendlier and easier to understand. It’s important to build something you would actually want to use. Believe in your product, use your product. Imagine how it would look on the kitchen counters of millions of consumers by keeping it on yours for a while. If your product is a web-based platform, app, or online experience, figure out a way to put that on your kitchen counter too. It’ll help, just trust us.

The creators of Slack sure found that magical spark. They had a need for an organized messaging service and created the absolute best product to fill their personal needs. Turns out, that’s a problem a lot of people needed solving. They were able to package it up and present it to their market in a wildly successful way. Finding creative and effective ways to solve problems will draw others to the solutions you come up with.

Need It, Want It, Gotta Have It

Product Design isn’t just about need fulfillment, it’s also about sparkle and pizzazz. Image is everything, perception is crucial, and the universe is a hologram. Learn how to change consumer perception, shake up what that means, make it sexy. Make it cool. Make it a discussion. One of the best things about developing your billion-dollar idea is the glitter and sequins. Go from presenting a passive fix to enticing a burning desire – design your product to be wanted.

How does that work? How do you do that? I’m confused, start over.

At Sightbox, we know that the key is to get involved early in production. Marketing and thoughtful product design from square one results in better products. Advertising and showing off your product has often been one of the last items on the proverbial checklist, but it is an important element that can’t wait. Product development can be long and arduous, relevancy can wilt and die between when the project begins and when it ends! If you have the support of a team with their finger on the pulse of modern consumers, that can add an extra layer of security to your endeavors.

The Complete Package

One of the strangest and most successful trends on YouTube is that of the Un-Boxing video. At first blush, the idea of millions of people watching a guy in a backwards baseball cap enthusiastically peel back the tissue paper from a new pair of shoes seems… really weird. But if you think about it, it makes total sense. There’s a full story arc there: curiosity, anticipation, surprise, joy, revelry, and a satisfying conclusion. These videos feel like Christmas morning, a birthday present, or an unexpected package in the mail. Good product design means having a little slice of that cake with every purchase.

It’s so important to think about the whole experience that your product provides. If it’s a physical product, how does it feel to hold? What does it smell like? What kind of packaging makes it look gorgeous and keeps it safe? (Hopefully not one of those horrible bubble plastic things that are LITERALLY impossible to open.) If your product is digital, how is the user interface? Hopefully, your pages are aesthetically-pleasing and easy to navigate. This is especially important with products or services people use every day.

What Does it Say?

Buying things is an extremely personal practice. The products a person buys, uses, keeps, and throws away can even be a point of identity. It’s written all over things like clothes and cars, sure, but the little things too. Maybe I’m just weird, but I get a lot of joy out of knowing what kind of toothpaste my friends use, or what car freshener they dangle from their rear-view mirror. It is said that you can tell a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse. By that metric, I’m confident TSA agents have a nearly infinite fount of knowledge. Such insight must be a burden. But really, when someone buys your product, they are welcoming it into their lives. It takes up space in their home, on their phone, in their minds. Remembering that fact when designing your product will pay healthy dividends in the long run. It’s new to every user, it’s fresh in the eyes of a first-time buyer, and you surely want to make it a positive experience for them. That’s really why the services Sightbox offers are so important. We’re here to help!

So, Okay, What is Product Design?

Good product design is, in equal measure, classic and ever-changing. There is much to be learned from timeless products of a bygone era. When looking to the future, there are infinite possibilities waiting to be developed. And right now is the time to start!

Yesterday: Products that have withstood the test of time are hallmarks of what an impact awesome design can have. I just saw an advertisement for The Original Lava Lamp. That is absolutely wild to me – they were invented in 1963, but continue to prove their world-wide appeal. Staring into the hypnotic flow of colorful, suspended wax, I couldn’t help but hover over the “Add To Cart” button.

Today: The year we’re living in now was once considered a far-flung future, impossible to predict but infinitely exciting to imagine. We really are experiencing The Grand Tomorrow of yesterday. Self-driving cars, commercial space travel, and robots are becoming increasingly commonplace. Software, apps, and digital services stand in as modern-day wizardry. The biggest part is the “now factor,” building the future in the present with cutting edge innovations.

Tomorrow: Check your unkempt idea notebook, peruse those scribbled-on cafe napkins, and consider every caffeine-induced ‘eureka’ moment you’ve ever had – inspiration can come from anywhere, and we are ready when it strikes!

Would it be campy to say that, through expert product design influence, Sightbox helps make dreams come true? Probably. Eh, I’m going to say it anyway. In truth, it’s not an exaggeration – people with passion, beautiful ideas, strong conviction, and the right inspiration can make incredible things!

Keep Reading: Why is Product Design Strategically Important?

Sightbox Product Design Studio is a Product Design Agency for founders, by founders. Visit us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.