So what does my portfolio truly illustrate?
A thought process.
As a design engineer, I think a lot about the product, however I think even more about the process that actually goes into it. This is the structure that I can contribute to any product or service.
In a nutshell, I do this with a process book (sketch book) as a physical tool to think through research, record ideation and idea generation, work through initial prototypes, revise the prototype based upon feedback and user research, create second iteration mock-ups, and if the time is right, creating a first generation product. The work illustrated within my portfolio provides examples of each of these stages:
Stage I & II: Identify opportunity, and understand that opportunity
Sometimes an opportunity is presented to you in the form of a RFP from another company, and sometimes it’s a little less formal. The best opportunities will present themselves as pain points throughout the average person’s day. You just need to be observant and catch these points, and ask yourself, “Can I make this better?” Primary, secondary, and other user research methods, will allow you to further understand this opportunity. Additionally, if you can combine the qualitative research with quantitative business research findings, this will help clarify the decision to proceed with the product. In portfolio terms, I conducted quite a bit of user research on the “Defurminator” project. However, in some cases, you can also stumble upon new innovative ideas by exploring new interesting concepts with your sketchbook as well! (As was the case with my ‘Kinetic Visualizer’ project.)
Stage III: Translation and Visualization of the Opportunity:
This stage is conceptualization. The designer must then take that concept and make a fence of requirements that the product falls within. One way to do this is with a “Value Opportunity Analysis.” This stage also finalizes the innovative idea that will be pursued, and delves into creating product concepts and prototypes. This can require patent searches, additional user research/focus groups, in depth interviews, CAD, designing for manufacturability, market requirements, and cost analysis. I have showcased several projects that require CAD work–and have worked with DFMEA’s many times.
Stage IV: Producing and Introducing the Product:
This stage is more about fine-tuning the product through engineering simulations, models, feasibility studies, technology development and more. Marketing plans and manufacturing plans would follow soon-thereafter. My work with the ‘RAD Rover’ tumbleweed Mars rover was a deep dive into the world of engineering structural analysis, literary reviews, and proof of technological feasibility in general. CAD is another strong player in this stage as well.
Can I get a summary of why all this is so important?
- It’s a quick way to provide value by incorporating a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to support any given product.
- Designing products to fit the user increases the perceived value of the product (look at OXO kitchen ware)
- Save Money in the long run by knowing when to kill projects that are not going to be cost effective or user “appreciated.”
- It facilitates the creation of new innovative products
- It can further the innovation cycle with current products. Watching how customers use current products can provide huge insights on how to make them even better!