Notes From An Industrial Designer: 5 Elements Your Tech Product Needs To Succeed

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Imagine if your product could make someone feel as if he just caught a glimpse of a snowcapped mountain for the first time.

No doubt, a product that’s marketed and priced well can achieve success in a growing marketplace, but brands that convey an ethos through their products will stand the test of time and benefit from the fervor of an adamant consumer base.

The real trick is inspiring a sense of awe in your customers.

Chupa Chups, a lollipop company from Spain, embodies the immediate, carefree gratification associated with candy, but it also carefully navigates around adult products like cigarettes. One of its recent slogans — “Stop smoking, start sucking!” — uses a logo designed by Salvador Dalí, and the website, packaging, and product placement speak to the quirkiness and delight of its product.

Elements Your Product Needs

Any product can create a unique and beloved customer experience. For example, RedFarm restaurant in New York specializes in dim sum, but its most memorable product is a small set of elegantly crafted edibles that resemble Pac-Man ghosts — each with a different flavor and color.

I’ve eaten at a lot of dim sum shops in Hong Kong and can’t remember the name of even one, but because of the depth of my experience, I’ve probably recommended RedFarm to dozens of people.

To inspire that kind of customer experience and loyalty in your own product, incorporate these five elements: 

  1. Consumer-centric design: Remember, you’re designing for people, so think about the customer first and the business plan second. For insight, look at what isn’t there. Texting, Starbucks, and even the Internet were all concepts born from thinking beyond the bounds of what already existed, so move into the world of what could be. Test your idea, discover what people think, and revisit the drawing board until you have a product with a solid design that people will love.
  1. A business plan: Your brand strategy, messaging, and growth strategy are all important components of the consumer experience. Make sure people not only love your product, but also love your company.
  1. Differentiation: Design a product that stands out. It’s possible to sell a product that’s only differentiated by marketing and branding, but it’s a whole lot less fun, and you’ll soon find yourself spending all your time on pricing and cost reduction strategies. Don’t stop with invention, though. Turn inspiration into reality through collaboration, necessary concessions to make a product possible, and iterative product prototyping.
  1. Wonder: The attributes above are a good start, but a sense of amazement in your product or brand experience will communicate the depth of consumer importance and create a nucleus of desire. Seek inspiration by looking for problems that others don’t even notice. Don’t be discouraged by barriers of “not feasible” and “not yet.” The world, after all, is full of technology that was once thought impossible.
  2. Cohesion: This is the last piece of the puzzle. You have to pull your brand together by aligning your product’s design, business plan, differentiation, and sense of wonder with quality packaging, consumer marketing, sales strategies, and customer service.

Develop a Designer Mindset

The challenge entrepreneurs face in achieving these five elements is that many of them require a designer mindset. A good designer thinks (and executes) at every stage of the innovation process: insight, inspiration, and action.

Using this mindset, focus on creating a captivating product experience that’s built upon a strong product base. Here are three ways you can switch from business mode to designer mode when creating your product:

  • Prototype: Every designer knows that a finished product can stand on the shoulders of any number of prototypes. Almost all experiments fail, so embrace failure, and try something different to see how your consumers respond on a small scale. Tap into resources like a 3D printer for industrial parts to efficiently develop prototypes you can present to your target audience. Through iteration, you can find a compelling new idea that’s unique and truly resonates with your audience.
  • Partner: The most effective industrial design is born from collaboration between people with different points of view. Ego is the enemy of innovation, so admit when you don’t know something and embrace pragmatism to uncover partnerships that make you greater than yourself. 
  • Explore: Inspiration is necessary for all forms of creativity, and being too close to your customers can cause linear thinking. If you’ve already achieved success, it’s easy to get comfortable where you are, but take the opportunity to explore new areas, meet new people, and see how the “new” can help you improve.

An entrepreneur is someone who takes full responsibility for the growth of a business, so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of running the business. But while operational tasks are certainly important, don’t underestimate the importance of your product — and your customer’s experience with it. Pair your good business sense with a product that captures the hearts and minds of your audience, and you’ll find success.


James Monsees is the CEO and co-founder of Ploom. Founded by two Stanford Design Program master graduates, San Francisco-based Ploom is leading the reinvention of the smoking experience with its premium loose-leaf and pod-system vaporizers. Ploom creates superior, beautiful, and technologically advanced products that disrupt and redefine the future of the tobacco industry.


Photo Credits

McD22 | Courtesy of James Monsees

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