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The brainstorming stage of concept generation allows all inputs; the most fruitful have proven to be consumer comments and serendipity—random but alert pairings and combinings of previously existing ideas. An example would be the Olympic torch design for the Canadian Winter 200 Olympics. By looking at the design of skis and snowboards, and by observing the mountain terrain, then incorporating new nanotechnologies, and factoring in the unique weather conditions of Canada (cold and wind), the designers built a unique torch. At the front end of product design is usually a check-off list of required features; these features can range from weight limitations (one of the torch’s requirements was that it be light), to uniqueness (immediate visual recognition), to cost, to relation to other products already in the line. The designer must, on the other hand, resist as many restrictions as possible, avoiding the trap of “previous acceptance” and really giving “conception” free rein, before restrictions of practicality, normalcy, safe-ness, etc. intrude on the design process. In business there are many “gatekeepers” before a design goes from idea to realization: bean-counters, unimaginative superior managers, engineers afraid of innovation, conservative marketers, etc. etc., all of whom will take a less creative view than the designers’. One of the designer’s most valuable qualities is the ability to take inspiration from all sources at the inception stage, including his own imagination, and then find a design that answers all the consumer’s and business’ needs.
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