NC Product Design Co-Op Lunch & Learn #3

This event is sponsored by the RTP Product Development Guild.

Date: Wednesday, 4 Mar 09

Time: Noon until 1:30

Location: Montie Design / Studio Hagler, 400 Dominion Dr., Morrisville, NC 27560

Purpose of Meeting: Get to know other, potential co-op members in a relaxed environment.  Six attendees will have five minutes each in front of the group to explain their business.  This is an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other on a professional and personal basis.  If you would like to have your five minutes of fame, please purchase the ticket above with the time slot that you would like to have.

Purpose of Co-Op: Develop a standards-based community that presents a unified public face to the greater business community, both locally and nationally.  Potential clients see the Co-Op and understand that here is a group of design / prototyping-related businesses that already know each other and work together well.

Who Should Come: Local product design, development and prototyping vendors who are interested in working together in a constructiveand substantial way to bring more business to local design community.

This is a great way for entrepreneurs, engineers, managers, and purchasing agents to find local vendors.  If you have a need for engineering, design, or prototyping help this is a great place to not only find new vendors but personally meet the individuals running those companies.

Questions: If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Montie Roland at montie@montie.com, or by phone at 919-481-1845.

Pre-registration is Required:  Register at http://ncproductdesign3.eventbrite.com/

NC Product Design & Prototyping Co-Op Lunch and Learn #2

NC Product Design and Prototyping Co-Op Schedules Second Lunch and Learn

(Morrisville, N.C.) The NC Product Design and Prototyping Co-Op, a project of the RTP Product Development Guild, has scheduled its second lunch and learn session for Wednesday, February 18 from Noon – 1:30 p.m. at Fineline Prototyping in Raleigh.

Co-Op members specializing in areas such as software development, engineering, design and prototyping, marketing, and project management work together in a collaborative environment to focus local resources on creating products with regional, national, and international applications instead of having local companies look elsewhere for assistance.

According to Montie Roland, president of the RTP Guild and advisor to the Co-Op, momentum is building within the local product design community to pool resources in order to bring new, cutting-edge product ideas from concept to reality.

“The talent, ideas, and resources are right here in Raleigh, Durham, Morrisville, Cary, Apex – the Co-Op is the missing piece of the puzzle to bring everyone together,” he said. Eighteen industry professionals attended the first lunch-and-learn event with over two dozen expected for the FineLine event, Roland said.

According to Roland, the lunch and learn events provide a great way for Co-Op members (and potential members) to get to know each other better.  Each attendee has the opportunity to introduce himself and his company to the group, and local engineers and managers are able to meet local design and prototyping vendors, Roland said. Each lunch and learn is free to attend.

Roland said Fineline Prototyping is the perfect example of the type of company which could utilize the Co-Op to enhance its network of peer professionals. FineLine was founded with the singular mission to provide the highest quality high-resolution prototypes for customers and deliver them with worry-free service. FineLine was the first in the industry to implement high-resolution stereolithography, initially for the medical device development market.

In addition to FineLine’s core offering of high-res stereolithography, they also offer state-of-the-art selective laser sintering, and a high-strength material that they call SLArmor — a nickel-plated ceramic-filled stereolithography part that can stand in for diecast or machined aluminum in many cases.

To register to attend the event, visit the NC Product Design and Prototyping Co-Op page at www.rtpproductguild.com.

About the RTP Product Development Guild
The RTP Product Development Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. by providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This helps entrepreneurs move products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding and professional guidance. The Guild accepts applications for products, services or concepts from entrepreneurs, early stage start-ups and corporate spin-offs. More information is available online at www.rtpproductguild.com.

About the NC Design and Prototyping Co-Op
The NC Design and Prototyping Co-Op is a project of the RTP Product Development Guild.  The goal of the Co-Op is to provide prospective clients with the capabilities that they need to design and prototype their next product with local resources.  The Co-Op is made up of professionals who personally know each other and who are used to working together in a trusted network.  Whether you are an RTP company, or a company far from RTP, the Co-Op can provide the resources you need including mechanical engineering, electrical engineer, industrial design, software development, business development, rapid prototyping, prototype manufacturing and project management.

— 30 —

Media Contact:
Montie Roland
(800) 722-7987
(919) 412-0559 [cell]
montie@rtpproductguild.com

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NC Product Design & Prototyping Co-Op Forms

I thought this might interest you.  The RTP Product Development Guild is working with local design and prototyping companies to form the NC Product Design & Prototyping Co-Op.   Here are a couple of pictures from the event:

Here is the press release:

The RTP Guild Launches New Initiative with Local Companies

Lunch and learn outlines elements of forming product design and prototyping co-op

(Cary, N.C.) The recently launched RTP Product Development Guild – a local group of engineers and designers working together to improve the regional economy – held its first organizational meeting January 29 to discuss the creation of a product design and prototyping co-op.

Eighteen technology-oriented industry professionals gathered for the 90 minute lunch-and-learn presentation and discussion which led to setting co-op organizational goals, objectives, and timelines, in addition to the first membership commitments from local companies.

“Clients sometimes have a hard time identifying local product design resources. On top of that they don’t know exactly who to trust. We want to promote local design talent who have worked together to build economic momentum in conceptualizing RTP as a product design and development hub,” said Montie Roland, president of the RTP Product Development Guild.

In providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment, Roland said the Guild, through the product design and development co-op, is intended to focus local resources on creating products with regional, national, and international applications instead of having local companies look elsewhere for assistance.

Al Ely of ADR Hydro-Cut, Inc. is a member of the product development community attending the January 29 luncheon who decided to join the co-op. “It is my hope that we can convince customers that we have the talent and facilities here to handle the entire product design and development process from idea to prototype then we can keep as much business as we can here in the Triangle,” he said, adding, “If we can pull it together, we can all keep each other busy with a lot of quality work.”

According to Roland, part of the driving force behind forming the co-op as a group within the RTP Product Development Guild comes from peer professionals like Ely.

“This is shaping up to be a difficult year within the design industry. Working together allows us to reach a broader market space than we could individually,” Roland said, adding, “A parallel to what we’re trying to do is a volunteer fire department, which is contracted with the community to protect the public interest. We are in essence contracting with the RTP business community to improve the regional economy through launching product-driven companies and helping existing companies launch new products.”

The co-op – a part of the Guild – is currently accepting queries from prospective new members and is holding a series of get-to-know each other meetings at area businesses over the next six weeks. For more information contact Montie Roland at (919) 481-1845 or montie@montie.com.

About the RTP Product Development Guild
The RTP Product Development Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. by providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This helps entrepreneurs move products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding and professional guidance. The Guild accepts applications for products, services or concepts from entrepreneurs, early stage start-ups and corporate spin-offs. More information is available online at www.rtpproductguild.com.

All You Ever Wanted to Know about Rapid Prototyping (Educational Video)

The RTP Product Development Guild, working the Rob Connelly at Fineline Prototyping; has released a five part video series on rapid prototyping. It is a great way to learn about the science and art of rapid prototyping. Much thanks to Jaime Vodvarka (Guild Intern) for putting this together. Please note that there are five parts to the video. The Youtube video screen has an interface at the bottom that allows you to select which part you would like to watch.

Don Wilson, CEO of Endacea, To Lead Regional Innovation Economic Forum at RTP Tech Event

Emerging RTP Biopharmaceutical Companys Research Shows Promising Results for a New Drug Candidate for Asthma, Sepsis, and for Treatment Following a Bioterrorist Attack using Plague.

Raleigh, N.C., Don Wilson, the CEO of Endacea, Inc., an emerging RTP biopharmaceutical company engaged in developing proprietary adenosine receptor antagonists as drugs for asthma, sepsis, and biodefense, will lead part of the discussion at the November 6, 2008, RTP Tech Event at Goodnights.

Sign up for the event at http://newtech.meetup.com/115/

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Bill Seil’s Thoughts on the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

This past September, the folks at Montie Design hosted their annual Product Design Street Fair. It had the flavor of a tradeshow as it brought professionals together in an interactive environment, but by it?s design it was a little different. It offered the same unique advantage any typical street fair or block party would have, giving companies in the area an opportunity to interact on the local level. Newcomers got the chance to meet companies that were right down the street. The folks who returned from previous street fairs, found a chance to stay current with the local product development community and get acquainted with new contacts.

Montie Design works with the attending companies in one way or another, the intent of the street fair is to bring them together in an interactive environment (Download Event Guide / Program or Watch Video). This benefits the design and development community by strengthening communication in a fun and easily accessible way.

Bill Seil
Industrial Designer
info@seil.us

Upcoming RTP Tech Event, 9 Oct

Bill Cox, of ViASIC, To Lead Regional Innovation Economic Forum At October 9, 2008, RTP Tech Event @ Goodnight?s

Bill Cox, CTO of ViASIC, a developer of advanced programmable logic architectures and holder of 18 patents in the field of integrated circuit design to lead discussion about technology innovation and issues confronting the RTP high tech manufacturing community


Raleigh, NC. Bill Cox, an information technologies serial entrepreneur and CTO of ViASIC, located in Durham, N. C., will lead part of the discussion at the October 9, 2008 RTP Tech Event @ Goodnight?s.

Cox is the holder of 18 patents in the field of programming integrated circuits and has extensive professional experience in successful new ventures, such as Quick Logic and Synplicity.


?I came to North Carolina from California,? said Cox. ?I want to contribute to making the regional innovation economy in the RTP stronger, and I think I have some ideas that may stimulate a brain storming session at the RTP Tech Event.?

Cox holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His professional experience includes the creation of over a million lines of code ready to be leveraged into the development of world class tools.


The RTP Tech Event is an innovation collaboration network of companies from the manufacturing community in the RTP regional economy. ?Our economic forum features two types of collaboration,? said Tom Vass, the organizer of the event, and CEO of The Private Capital Market, Inc., located in Raleigh.


Each month, local executives from two different industrial sectors present their thoughts on technology, innovation and new product development from their own industry, in an effort to stimulate ideas for technology crossover between local manufacturing sectors. At the October 9 meeting, SIC 73, which is information technologies, will be presenting with Holly Borowy, Senior VP of BMI South, a local metal manufacturing company. (SIC 34).

After the two presentation, the floor is open for discussion about ways to improve the local economy and brainstorming ideas on product innovation.


At the end of each session, the floor is open for a budding entrepreneur or inventor to stand up and give a five minute elevator pitch on their venture. ?We call this opportunity ?Your Five Minutes of Fame at Goodnight?s,? said Vass.

Registration for the monthly event is available at MeetUp.com. Annual membership in the RTP Tech Event is $50, and there is a $10 door fee that includes the purchase of the first drink and a discount on the comedy show that night at Goodnight?s.

About ViASIC. Founded in 2000, ViASIC is a privately held Electronic Design Automation (EDA) company and the leading provider of standard-metal tools and technologies. Our patented ViaMask family of standard-metal (one-mask) fabric is a complete library for building platform ASICs or embedding single via layer configurable sections into an SoC. ViASIC also offers ViaPath, a robust physical design solution for via-configurable fabrics. Contact Bill Cox at info@ViASIC.com telephone 919-405-1345. www.viasic.com

About the RTP Tech Event @ Goodnights. Our events mission is to create more business for local firms and to increase the rate of new product development in the RTP regional economy. We call this “new business idea brainstorming.”Each month, executives from local manufacturing firms, product development engineers and people with new business ideas for new products get together to brainstorm ideas for what types of new products may be successful in the RTP market. http://newtech.meetup.com/115/ Contact Tom Vass 919 9754856.

RTP Business Brainstorming Tech Event

September 25, 2008 Monthly Tech Event: An RTP Business Network Aimed At Increasing Local Business

SIC 38 Instruments and Controls -George King, President, Triangle MicroSystems, a manufacturer of building environmental controls and fuel pump instrumentation.

SIC 36 Electrical Equipment -Bob Luddy, CEO, CaptiveAire, Commercial Kitchen Ventilation Equipment

Each month, executives from local manufacturing firms, product development engineers and people with new business ideas for new products get together to brainstorm ideas for what types of new products may be successful in the RTP market.

Part of the meeting is social networking at a fun place, and part of the meeting is structured around technology trends and markets in the nine high technology manufacturing clusters located in RTP.

It is a huge business community brain-storming session lead by the business owners and executives from both small and big business.

Our Focus On Innovation In The Nine RTP Manufacturing Industrial Sectors

We know that the RTP economy has nine different manufacturing industries. These are:

1. Information technology and instruments
2. Communications services and software
3. Chemicals and plastics
4. Pharmaceuticals and medical technologies
5. Industrial machinery
6. Aerospace
7. Hospitals, labs and specialized medical services
8. Printing and publishing
9. Wood products

You can register for the event at:

http://newtech.meetup.com/115/calendar/8204583/

Preview of the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire

RTP Product Development Guild?s Second Annual Product Design Street Faire set for Sept. 13

MORRISVILLE, NC ? The RTP Product Development Guild?s second annual RTP Product Design Street Faire will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 from 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The faire will be held outside of the Guild?s office, which is located off of Aviation Parkway at 400 Dominion Drive in Morrisville, N.C.

?Our street faire is intended to build a stronger product design community by providing a relaxed, family-friendly environment in which vendors, clients and potential clients can get to know each other,? says Montie Roland, president of the RTP Product Development Guild. ?In addition, the event allows attendees to celebrate the product design and manufacturing profession in the Research Triangle region.?

?Last year?s event saw 140 attendees and 16 exhibitors come out,? Roland added. ?We hope to build on last year?s success by increasing both vendor participation and the number of attendees at this year?s event.? We currently have 26 vendors showing off a wide variety of products and services.

There is no cost to attend the event, but pre-registration is required. You can pre-register for the event at: http://productdesignguild.eventbrite.com.

In addition to the RTP Product Development Guild, the 2008 RTP Product Design Street Faire is being sponsored by Montie Design, 101Machine, Trimech, Torque Transmission and Incodema .

The RTP Product Development Guild is a private, for-profit corporation located in Morrisville, N.C. The Guild?s mission is to improve the regional economy by providing a structured environment for product developers and vendors to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This type of open collaboration helps entrepreneurs, early-stage start-ups and corporate spin offs get products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding or professional guidance. Guild membership and project submission information is available at: www.rtpproductguild.com.

BarCampRDU 2008

BarCampRDU 2008 was a lot of fun. According to the official website (http://www.barcamp.org/BarCampRDU):

A Bar Camp is an unconference where people interested in a wide range of technologies come together to teach and learn. Unfamiliar with the un-conference format? Heres the idea in a nutshell. Rather than having scheduled speakers, everyone pitches sessions the morning of the BarCamp. Those sessions are put on a schedule, and lots of little groups form for intense group learning. Everyone is expected to teach, to talk, to participate. Yeah, its different from a regular conference – but it works!

The idea of an unconference came together when people realized the best times they were having at conferences were the times between sessions – where people with like interests could meet ad hoc. The goal of BarCamp is to facilitate this type of interaction for an entire day. We supply the food, the space, the wireless, the projectors – you show up to teach and learn.

Much of the discussion at the event involved startups and early-stage projects.

Picture From BarCampRDU 2008

It is important to note that many (if not most) of the attendees at BarCamp are involved in the software, either online or shrink-wrapped. Our firm normally deals with physical projects that involve long lead times and very high prototyping costs. At BarCampRDU many of the projects, or concepts being discussed, revolved around software products that could be prototyped in a weekend. This is a stark contrast to the extremely high prototyping costs that we see associated with many mass-produced physical products.

BarCampRDU 2008 Image

There was definitely an excitement to the conference that showed through in the interactions between the attendees. This is the type of event that provides encouragement, advice and resources for budding entrepreneurs. It is my opinion that we need more of this type of event to help fuel imaginations and sheer force-of-will behind the next wave of product-driven companies.

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com

What is a Robust Product?

Todays client generally wants a product that is economical to manufacture, elegant, and robust. Robust products have an advantage in the market place. This is especially true in this age of the easy accessibility to user reviews over the Internet.

According to the Wikipedia,

Robustness is the quality of being able to withstand stresses, pressures, or changes in procedure or circumstance. A system, organism or design may be said to be “robust” if it is capable of coping well with variations (sometimes unpredictable variations) in its operating environment with minimal damage, alteration or loss of functionality.

Why is robustness important? Robust products perform as expected in a wide variety of situations, environments and contexts. Robust products often outperform expectations and delight users. Robust products have significantly reduced warranty returns. These products leave a positive impression on the user. Customers often respond by becoming local, or internet, evangelists for the products. These customers may also become life long users and purchasers of the product, or service.

Developing criteria to gauge the robustness of a product can difficult. Some industries and user contexts (such as military) already have specifications in place to gauge the robustness of a product. Unfortunately, many industries do not think in terms of robust products. Robustness can be a broad and vague requirement, especially if the approach to defining qualitative (and subjective) terms is not organized and methodical.

A good way to understand robustness, is to look at areas that are impacted by the robustness of a product. One area that robustness impacts is manufacturing. A robust product tends to be easier to manufacture because it is less sensitive to tolerances and other small variations in the process. When a product is less sensitive to changes in the manufacturing process, it is usually less expensive to manufacture. Robustness at the manufacturing level is often the result of well planned and executed design that avoided ?mission creep?.

Robustness at the user level is manifested in many ways. One example is having the product perform as expected on a continuing basis. An example of a robust design is the ignition switch in your car and the key to turn the switch. This switch is often used twice a day for ten or more years. The key that you started your car with today is probably in your pocket, or purse, as you are reading this article. That key is constantly (while carried in a pocket or purse) in contact with other metal objects such as change and other keys. Many times, at the end of the day, keys are tossed into a bowl or other container for overnight storage. Car keys see constant wear and abuse from the user and the environment. However, when you walk out to your car you, expect the key to turn the ignition and the car to start. The devices are used in a wide variety of environments from cold weather in the winter to hot weather in the summer. The user may be wearing thick winter gloves. Keys also must be adaptable for use in a wide variety of environments from a mans trouser pocket to a womans purse. They must be small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. The car key and ignition switch are examples of two very robust devices that function very reliably for an extended period in wide variety or circumstances and environments.

Robustness must be designed into the product from the beginning. One way to develop robust products is to determine (in the beginning of the project) exactly what product it is that you really wanted to design. Products must be well defined and targeted. Mission creep (the addition of unnecessary or previously unanticipated features) is the enemy of robust products. Mission creep is where the product design mission is expanded from the initial, targeted product. Mission creep diverts resources and time away from the appropriate product in an effort to extend the product into areas, or features, that arent critical for the success of the product. This lack of focus can result in extra product features at a cost to the robustness of the product.

Robustness also comes from a commitment to integrity in all stages of the design and manufacturing process. Customers expect robust products. Companies delivering robust products exceed the expectations of the customer. They are also creating an environment that encourages repeat purchases from satisfied clients and that is good for the bottom line.

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com

Mums the Word: Non-Disclosure Agreements Are Crucial to Protecting Ideas

If you are an entrepreneur and you have the eureka moment when you experience the flash of brilliance that leads to your new product idea, what do you do?

Well, most people want to ask someone elses opinion about how whether, or not, the product will succeed in the marketplace. Asking advice from someone you trust is normally a good idea. When it comes to protecting your ability to patent your new product, it is still a good idea to get advice, but you need to use a simple tool called a non-disclosure agreement before you start the conversation.

Patents are only issued for novel ideas that have been reduced to practice and have not been disclosed to the public. Public disclosure can prevent a patent from being issued. One example of public disclosure is where a product is shown at a trade show. Showing a product at a trade show is considered to be an ?offer for sale? and thus public disclosure. A presentation of the product concepts, or underlying technologies, at a seminar could be considered public disclosure. A conversation about the product could also be considered public disclosure, depending on the situation.

Conversations with employees are not generally considered public disclosure.

One way to avoid this pitfall is to require a non-disclosure agreement before discussing your product. Non-disclosure agreements are commonly called NDAs. Non-disclosure agreements normally are one to five pages long. Their primary purpose is to agree, in writing, that the first party is going to disclose confidential information to another party, in exchange the other party agrees to not disclose the first partys confidential information. This agreement (when properly worded and executed) helps prevent the loss of patentability through public disclosure.

A sample NDA can be downloaded at www.montie.com/forms/nda.rtf

Montie Roland is President-Emeritus of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com


Product Development: Do Try This At Home

By Montie Roland, RTP Product Development Guild

Morrisville — Our firm receives inquiries from inventors and early stage entrepreneurs fairly frequently. We tend to break down incoming inquiries into four groups. The first group is inventors. Inventors are everyday people with an idea, but no organization to backup the idea. Entrepreneurs are individuals, or a group of individuals, with an idea for a product and a plan for an organization to develop, produce, and distribute that product. Start-ups are groups that are actively working on a daily basis developing the product and the organization necessary to make that product a success. Corporate clients are those in the process of adding another product to their suite of products.

Most design firms are not very interested in spending a lot of time talking with inventors that show up at the door. Many of these folks have great product ideas, however, most inventors are lacking two necessary elements for product success. The first is financial support and the second is the lack of ambition and vision. Product development is expensive. Once the product is developed, it is even more expensive to produce, stock, distribute, market and sell the product. Most inventors do not have access to this level of funding and support.

My impression, after talking with numerous inventors, is that most inventors simply give up, lacking the drive and ambition to make their product concept into a reality. They struggle with making the transition from being an inventor with an idea to an entrepreneur with a plan and a vision.

One possibility for failure is that the inventor has a pre-conception that all they need is an idea and a contact with a major corporation. That corporation will see that product concept and write them a huge check for the inventors idea. This myth is promoted by the ?invention submission? companies. The reality is that most corporations will not even talk to inventors about product concepts that have not been patented.

Another possibility is that many inventors dont know what steps they need to take to get a product to market, so are overwhelmed and give up. There is very little in the way of support structure for inventors and entrepreneurs. High-flying startups get lots of attention and funding, but that doesnt help the inventors, entrepreneurs and early stage startups.

Many design firms are hesitant to even provide proposals to inventors and entrepreneurs because so few of those proposals turn into billable hours. Startups are another example of organizations that often arent in a position to purchase professional services. Most early-stage startups dont have any product sales, and are not in a position to attract venture capital, so they dont have the funds to pay a consultant, or design firm, for needed services. Few consultants, and design firms, are in a financial position to accept the risk of receiving equity (or stock options) from a start up in lieu of fees.

The RTP Product Development Guild is designed to help drive new products to market. This is accomplished by creating teams of consultants to help in the early stages of the product design. These six member teams are made of local professionals in the product design community from various disciplines. Depending on the product, or service, these teams may include disciplines such as engineering, industrial design, software, business, legal, sales and marketing. This structure allows team members to share the risk of working on these projects while giving the product champion (inventor or entrepreneur) the needed product development support.

Guild projects last six months and follow a structured format. The product champion (individual inventor or entrepreneur) meets with Guild team members every two weeks to define, and refine, the product concept into a viable product. Participation in this structured method helps the product champion overcome many of the pitfalls that haunt entrepreneurs trying to develop a product without professional support.

Information about the Guild is available at: http://www.rtpproductguild.com.

Montie Roland is president of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also president of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville.

The RTP Product Development Guilds purpose is to provide consultancy services to startups and small companies across a wide variety of specialties. Guidance will focus on commercializing product ideas and technology.

Product Design Speak 101: Linear versus Iterative Design

 

Design, by its very nature, is an iterative process. The product design process begins with creating preconceptions. Those preconceptions are used to create a prototype. The prototype is then tested and the test results are evaluated. The evaluations are used to form new preconceptions and the process begins again. These iterative cycles can focus on the entire design, or they can focus on a small area (or technology) of the product. This process relies on prototyping and testing. Prototypes come in many forms. The word ?prototype? is commonly refers to a working model of a product, or product concept. A written, or verbal, description of the product could also be a prototype. A sketch could also serve as prototype. The exact nature of the prototype isnt as important as the effect of the prototype, which is to validate the success, or failure, of the product. As the design progress, the cycles of iteration become more focused, as the developers refine the product.

Different industries have differing levels of toleration number of iterations in a design sequence. Machine design is a good example of an industry with a low tolerance for iteration in the design process. Engineers that design machinery attempt to practice design in a very linear fashion. The goal in the machine design industry is to reach a finished, and proven, design in the least amount of time with the least number of changes or redesign cycles. This approach attempts to follow the straightest possible path to a completed design. This ?straight arrow? approach leads us to classify this industrys design methodology as a linear one. Even with this approach, iterations are necessary. Design iterations inevitably occur during the process of design a new piece of equipment. The can be caused by a machine, or system within a machine, that doesnt perform as expected. When this happens, that part, or sub-system, is redesigned and redeployed. Because of these issues the machine design industry does not have a completely linear process.

The linear nature of machine design is driven by two factors. The first factor is the prevalence of a function requirement and the minimization of aesthetic requirements. In my opinion, the biggest cause of the use of a linear design process in the machine design industry is the percentage of engineering and design costs as compared to the total cost of producing and marketing the machinery. Many machines are custom, or semi-custom, to the specific application (often manufacturing). This results in a small number of units to amortize the engineering costs against. This is a situation where the cost of design and engineering is a significant percentage of the total cost to produce the each machine. As a result, savings in the cost of design have a significant impact on the profitability of that design. This is the exact opposite of consumer products that have a low cost of design, relative to the total cost of producing the product.

Consumer products are examples of products with a very iterative design process. These products are typically produced in high volumes. This allows the cost of design and engineering to be amortized over a large volume of product sales. In higher volume products, there is more incentive to spend more time on the industrial design and front-end design (fuzzy front end) stages of the design process.

Any product, or service, will be judged by the market place based on the experience that the product provides. Machinery is evaluated on institutional-experience criteria including performance, ease-of-use, speed of installation, return on investment (ROI) and uptime. Consumer products are evaluated on end-user experience criteria that include ease-of-use, aesthetics, coolness, usefulness, perception that the product creates and the experience that the user has when interacting with the product. The latter criteria can be very subjective and difficult to capture in any sort of written document.

Products with great user experiences often succeed in the marketplace, where products with poor user experiences fail to generate sales. This does not mean that user experience is the only indicator of potential success. A product may have a compelling value to the customer that overcomes a poor user experience. Typically these products are the first in their class and provide some functionality that is new to the industry. This is a case where the value to the customer is high and the customer will accept a poor user experience in exchange for that functionality. As a segment of an industry matures, the user experience becomes a more important indicator of how well the product will sell in the marketplace.

The current game console war is a good example of this contrast between functionality and usability. The PlayStation 3? is a game console that has an average user experience, but provides state-of-the-art computer graphics. The Wii? is a game console that provides average computer graphics, but has a wonderful user experience. The Wii? has outsold the PlayStation 3? by about twenty percent.

Product iteration allows the design team to explore a variety of concepts. The evaluation of these concepts helps to decide which concepts to integrate into the product and which concepts to drop from the product. Many times the issue isnt whether a concept is good, or bad, but rather ?is it appropriate This is especially true when the design team is evaluating, and improving, the user experience of the proposed product.

Product developers, designers and engineers use the available resources (which are always finite) to work towards achieving the best product possible. The nature of the product and the expectations of the industry and customer ultimately drive the exact nature of the design process. Design is iterative. Product designers rely on experience and a refined process of iterating through the design cycles to create the next product. Often a designer achieves success not by any one single action, but by the consistent application of an educated, and refined, design process.

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com

Product Design Speak 101: What is an Interactionary?

by Montie Roland, Montie Design

Morrisville – Last week, I had the honor of being selected as a judge for an Interactionary Design Competition held by the Triangle chapter of the Usability Professionals Association (www.triupa.org). According to Scott Berkun (www.scottberkun.com), an interactionary is

an experiment in design education. The idea is to explode the process of design by forcing insane time constraints, and asking teams of designers to work together in front of a live audience. From what weve seen, it forces the discussion of design process, teamwork, and organization, and asks important questions about how designers do what they do.

 

 

The event was a lot of fun and helped the participants (and maybe even the audience) sharpen their design skills. The event began with a keynote presentation from Anthony D. Hall. Hall is responsible for making sure that the IBM.com website is easily usable by a worldwide audience. He spoke from the perspective of a usability professional who has a staff of researchers and developers whose only job is to make a website (with millions of pages) easier to use.

The Interactionary was driven by three teams and a panel of judges. The teams had ten minutes to design an interface to a voting booth. There was a twist however. The interface had to allow the user to find out more information about each candidate before voting. The interface also had to allow the voter to change his vote if the candidate that he voted for was not currently in the lead. The event started with first team being introduced to the design requirements. They were then give ten minutes to find a solution. During those ten minutes they were encouraged to do user research by polling the audience. They then had two minutes to present their solution and answer questions from the judges. We (the judges) rated the team on teamwork, approach / process, and the validity of their design. This continued until all of the teams had an opportunity to create a new interface based on the criteria.

This event didn’t teach the team members, or the audience, how to design. Instead it helped them sharpen their design skills. By creating an absurdly constrained situation, the format of the event forced the team members to act in a bold way, while having fun. Design is about pushing the boundaries and talking bold risks. Events like this make design fun. They make it easier for all to stay passionate about design. That passion gets translated into better products and services. When that happens, everyone wins.

The pictures from the event are at:

http://flickr.com/photos/waynesutton/sets/72157603027654523/

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com