Industrial Designers Make Great Inventors

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To be a successful in the business of Inventing and New Products, you don’t need to be an Industrial Designer, but the skills which IDers typically have allows them to develop creative and innovative product ideas quickly and effectively and get more of their ideas to market.

Here are some of the top reasons IDers make great Inventors:

Industrial Designers are Wired to Innovate

ID training focuses on solving problems, generating insight, identifying business opportunities and executing. Students are challenged to take their concepts all the way through to an end product. This is done again and again, so by the time they reach the working world, Industrial Designers have a very honed method of developing a market opportunity into high quality mock-ups and even production-ready designs.

Creativity is part of the culture of ID and while there are many different backgrounds, good IDers have the ability to develop a vision into a plausible realty, whether that’s via photo-realistic renderings or high fidelity prototypes.

I’m suggesting that IDers simply need a few additional skills in order to make themselves powerhouses in the business of invention and product development and either bring their own products to market or land licensing deals for their designs.

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Successful Products need Great Design

Products that do well on the market are well designed, look professional and consider manufacturing materials and processes along the way. Inventors often need to hire Industrial Designers and Engineers to get their ideas to help take their ideas to the next level  – make drawings and 3D models, specifications etc. This is where Industrial Designers are in a very good position to turn their own ideas into profitable market-ready products (aka inventions!). Instead of outsourcing all those development activities, Industrial Designers can simply work though them on their own. As I’ll discuss below, this removes a lot of the paperwork and time delays associated with subcontracting the work to others. Going the DIY route, allows Industrial Designers to take advantage of those gaps in their day/week, to nudge those project further along and keep building the portfolio of what can become profitable inventions, not just pretty pictures.

IDers have Communication Skills

Getting put through the wringer during design critiques is part of the tempering process of any design student. It’s like a right of passage. Often what separates a successful design project from an unsuccessful one is the ability to articulate the concept in a convincing and compelling way. The same holds true in the business world and Industrial Designers often have a toolbox full of communication skills:

Sketching and Drawing

These seemingly basic skills can help address technical design issues, articulate the shape and character of an aesthetic surface and also come in quite handy for making preliminary Patent drawings.

3D Modeling

This is a staple tool of of ID to get ideas off the page and now with 3D printing…directly into your hands.

Photoshop

A great tool for faking-it-till-you-make-it design and selling the dream (see Yankodesign)

Branding

sTo create a complete vision of a completed product, applying basic branding techniques to give an illusion that the product is ready for the shelf.

Presenting

All those design critiques and presentation come in handy for pitching to investors and potential licensees.

An understanding of Design Thinking

These days, Design Thinking is a household term. User-Centred design process is a focus in the modern Industrial Design education. This is a Huge advantage.  It has been proven again and again by companies like IDEO that products which are successful in the long term are not simply ASOTV fads, they are those which people love, recommend, and keep buying over and over again. There’s a lot of thought behind great products and Industrial Designers tend to have a design process approach, not just a guess-and-go approach.

Well designed products are those based on empathy towards the end-user and consider the broader context and market trends. This makes the products easier to pitch, easier to sell and faster to take to market. Companies and investors can’t help but be drawn to products which already have the details figured out. There’s more value in it for them and a more complete design is more of an asset for the Inventor which in turn means more royalties and percentage of shared profits.

Industrial Designers can Prototype

One of the biggest issues many Inventors face is when they get to a stage where they need a prototype. I see forums filled with questions from inventors asking how to hire people to make prototypes for them. It’s not a simple or quick process when you consider the NDAs and Work-for-hire agreements which an inventor should be using when outsourcing. There’s also the risk of miscommunication of the design to the prototype maker…remember the game broken telephone? In this version, the screw ups aren’t funny, they’re just more expensive. Plus, an invention can often require several revision of a prototype to arrive at one which either a) proves that it works or b) works well enough to do user testing or c) looks good enough for marketing purposes.

Industrial Designers often have the skills and knowledge to get their ideas from 2D to 3D in less time and without the need for hiring others. Doing more of the work themselves reduces development time and eliminates the need to share the technical details with 3rd parties.  Sure, sometimes even the best IDers need to outsource a really amazing model for a photo shoot, but the ability to get an idea and quickly and cheaply transfer that idea into a usable model is an extremely valuable skill in inventing.

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But…Industrial Design school doesn’t teach you everything

Industrial Designers have most of the skills

Academic training is often geared towards working for a studio or for clients, so there are some gaps to be filled in order to be equipped to take on the business world. But it’s well worth the extra study for the reward – a long career of receiving royalties and recurring payments from your own product sales.

Key Skills for Industrial Designers to pick up:

Patents and Intellectual Property

Many aspects of IP aren’t covered in an Industrial Designer’s education: Patents, Trademarks, NDAs, Work-for-hire Agreements. These are key elements not just for inventing, but for success in business in general.

The Licensing Process

Quickly taking ideas to a point where they can be protected, pitched to companies and then “rented” to those companies who will be able to produce the designs and pay royalties to the designer.  For Industrial Designers, it’s the path to passive income.

Conclusion

The Inventor School is the perfect place for Industrial Designers to Fill in the Gaps in their education, pick up the missing skills needed to succeed in business and make your ideas work even harder than you do.

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