The beginning of a new product starts with a need and an idea.
A good time to develop a new product is when you spot a perceived need in the market place or see that your current product range is lacking something. Your idea is the piece that fills the need your other products don’t.
Alternatively, the need can be a creative urge. Sometimes a new idea just comes to us, in a dream for example (!) and one is compelled to create it. These ideas can be off the wall and unique, but because they have passion behind them, they can also be good ones.
Both are great ways to begin. In general however, it isn’t the first attempt at building a new product that results in a finished one. Once started, the idea gets formed, reformed and tweaked many times. One thing is certain though, one needs to start and if there is no need, the product will be pointless.
I have wanted to add a pendant lamp to my range for some time. I really like them, and my range of lamps lacks any. But where to start? One reason it takes me so long to get to ideas that I have simmering on the back burner is lack of time. So, to get things jump started, I often begin with old ideas. For my pendant lamps I slip cast a couple of vases and lamp bases and tried turning them upside down. In the past, I’ve sliced parts off pieces I already have and stuck them together in new ways. This is an excellent way for me to get something physical to work on.
Because it’s challenging for me to work on designing 3D objects using 2D drawings, having a basic prototype to work out technical details with is indispensable. I can get a feel for proportions by adding to or subtracting from my working model and bring the form in line with my concept and aesthetic. It is also easier for me to figure out hardware issues when I have an actual object in front of me.
I get so excited when I start actualizing a new idea. I want only to work on that and nothing else. But it takes time. For me, having a work in progress present in the studio is valuable time for getting to know it. The prototype gets moved around as I juggle space for other projects. It is viewed in different lights and in relation to other things in the studio and I have the opportunity to fine tune and refine the shape. Along the way, problems or flaws can be detected and dealt with as I tend to daily production tasks. The time it takes to get things right is time well spent. Once a mold is made, there is very little that can be done to change it… that is until it becomes part of an idea for a new product!
One of the benefits of starting the way I do is that the objects in my range end up having a relationship to one another. Although I ultimately end up creating a fresh original form from scratch for my new product, most of the design development takes place in the 3D “sketches” I do using my older designs. A new “original” is essential in making the mold. The shape must be scaled up to allow for shrinking of the plaster in the mold and of the clay in the slip casting and firing stages. And this is only the beginning!
After I have created the new mold, I begin to know the new piece. By handling it, taking it out of the mold, trimming it and glazing it, I learn the personality of my product. When I really know what it’s all about, I am best able to choose the right colors for it and promote it effectively. Not surprisingly, my customers and followers give me loads of useful feedback helping me in this process. Its not always direct. No response is a response. I try to always keep listening. This is how to become aware of needs, and it’s a great way to get new ideas!
I hope you find these thoughts provoking if not helpful as you enjoy handmade objects or as you create and develop your own products. If you have any feedback, ideas or suggestions on this topic, you are most welcome to share!