Our industrial design (ID) team excels across the full range of ID and new product development services, making DI one of the top product design firms Chicago has to offer. Core expertise includes:
- conceptual design of new products
- visual brand language development (VBL)
- ergonomic design and human factors consulting
- user interface design (UI)
- innovation brainstorming and moderation
- environment design
- storyboarding of processes
- user-centered market research to uncover insights
- aesthetic design / product styling
- prototyping and mock-ups
A core philosophy of our ID team is to collaborate seamlessly with our engineering staff and our clients’ team members to solve challenging problems together. We believe that great product designs come from cooperation between team members who respect and appreciate each others’ expertise.
New Product Design
Our industrial design staff has decades of experience developing new products from concept through successful product launch. We love what we do, and it shows in the quality of our work.
Innovative, successful new product designs require a high level creativity, passion, artistry, an understanding of function as well as form, and the ability to work collaboratively with people from all disciplines.
The design of next generation products has inherent challenges, as it typically involves the incorporation of new features, technologies, manufacturing processes, and/or user interface improvements. Our team has developed a variety of proprietary design processes that allow us to run freely as a creative force while staying focused on the targeted goals for each program.
Visual Brand Language
Visual brand language (VBL) is a set of design guidelines and standards that can be applied across a company’s product line(s) to give the line a cohesive appearance and develop the brand image. The VBL outlines the aesthetic design, the application of graphics, and the use of components and design elements that are common across the line.
Our team has extensive experience developing next generation product lines for our clients, and the VBL is a key aspect of the early-stage conceptual design work. After a new line is approved for development, sale and distribution, our team can assist with or take the lead on the design and development of the full line or specific products within the line through production launch.
Aesthetics are a key aspect of the industrial design of a new product, as the aesthetic design communicates with the user on several levels. Aesthetics go beyond the outward appearance or styling of a product, as they imply the product’s usage, functions, manufacturing processes, and user interface.
Aesthetics affect buyers or end users on emotional or subconscious levels, as well, by appealing to their personal tastes and/or personas. On yet another level, aesthetics can define a brand by communicating the core values and traits of the brand, which can influence buying decisions.
Discovery and Insights
Conceptual design efforts typically begin with an opportunity, a problem, or a challenge at hand that is initially defined by our customers. To gain an insight into the key drivers underlying a new program, our teams dive in and study the available research and information on hand.
If needed, additional discovery research such as customer interviews by core team members can fill any gaps and provide additional market and end user insights that could drive fresh ideas and innovative design solutions. On a broader level, discovery research allows the team to gain an understanding of the current landscape, the market forces, and the competitive challenges surrounding the product line and brand.
In addition, user-centered research provides insight into the opportunities for innovation, unmet customer needs, next generation products, key features, and new technologies that will lead to competitive advantages, differentiation and growth.
Developing a wide variety of creative ideas is a key part of the design process, as a larger number of initial concepts leads to better final solutions and more opportunities for innovation. To inspire innovative design solutions, Design Integrity has developed several proprietary creative processes that simply generate results.
Over the years, we’ve learned that new ideas can be developed at various times and in different places, including group brainstorm sessions, alone time, over lunch, under pressure, or at any random point in time. Each idea needs to be documented and shared soon after conception before that moment of inspiration fades from memory.
Ideas do not stand alone, as each one can inspire dozens more that branch out like a tree. Our goal at Design Integrity is to develop creative ideas that help our team and our clients to see the possibilities and, eventually, hone in on the solutions that are the best path for a given initiative.
As new ideas and concepts are developed and refined, the level of documentation and detail changes at each point in time. During the early stages of concept development, a quick hand sketch on a sheet of paper (or the proverbial cocktail napkin) is all that is needed, as long as the basic design intent is captured. As the design process moves forward, clean hand sketches are often drawn to communicate the concept more clearly.
Refined hand sketches and 2D digital sketches can convey a more detailed understanding of the aesthetic, layout, and function. As the leading directions evolve, 2D and 3D renderings with color and shading demonstrate a realistic aesthetic of the form, key details, and each overall design. 3D renderings are driven from solid models that provide a higher level of confidence in the size, proportion, and scale.
Our team at Design Integrity understands the level of detail and artistry the needs to go into each step of the design process for each concept, as it evolves from a raw idea to a production-ready design.
Mockups and Breadboards
Even in this digital age with all of the rapid prototyping processes, our teams still see value in quick mockups and breadboard prototypes. Sometimes, it faster and easier to take an initial hand sketch and make a mockup out of foam core, foam blocks, wood, paper, and thumb tacks to get a quick idea of how it might look or work. Mockups can be held in your hand, moved and tossed around, destroyed and rebuilt in a matter of minutes. They can give the team confidence in an idea, or they can lead the team to abandon an idea and move on to a new direction.
Breadboard prototypes use raw materials and the most basic processes to test out a new concept quickly, whether it’s a new motion or basic function. They are often made with leftover materials lying around the work shop, parts from the hardware store, glue, screws, nuts and bolts. If some of the parts can be modeled quickly on CAD, they can be rapid prototyped and built into the breadboard.
The key for mockups and breadboards is to have something in your hand quickly that gives the idea some context, so the team can get a better understanding of how it might work, how it feels in your hand, and what it might look like in its raw form before committing more time and resources to the idea.
Concept Testing and Validation
Oftentimes, a project team is considering several promising conceptual design directions, and a user research effort involving customers and end users is put into place to seek input, uncover unmet needs, refine the designs, select the leading options, and validate the eventual chosen direction.
Concept testing programs are tailor designed for each project. User research programs may involve focus groups, customer interviews, customer visits, surveys, and field testing.
Early in the program, qualitative testing can provide insights and uncover new trends and data points. As the project progresses, quantitative testing can provide a level of statistical data to support decisions and validate the final design.
Ergonomics and Human Factors
All products interact with people and, therefore, their ergonomics need to be well designed if not optimized to ensure that the user interface is comfortable and intuitive. The interaction between a product and the user is key to the success of the design.
The design of products with a high quality user interface requires an understanding of how to apply human factors to the various design elements that interact with the user, including the handles and grips, touch points, lift points, access panels, buttons, and touch screens.
Each user interface point can imply its function with its location, form and marking. Grip areas can be designed to be comfortable for a high percentage of targeted users. Tactile feedback can provide a physical signal that a button was depressed or a step in an operation has been triggered.
Over the decades, our team has honed our proprietary design processes, and our product designs have earned national recognition for the quality of their ergonomics.
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