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Inside ITERATE: Chris Tyler on Why You Should Design a Business, not a Product

This week’s insight from ITERATE comes from Chris Tyler; Chris is Senior Design Engineer at ITERATE Design and Innovation. Day-to-day Chris is closely involved in early-stage conversations about new ideas, whilst also working closely with every designer in the team to support the development of numerous products and designing new products himself. One thing Chris always does is ask our Clients to think of their projects as opportunities to design businesses not just products. Within this article, you’ll find out why Chris strongly believes this mindset leads to better results all-round.

Why More Doesn’t Equal Better in Design 

Chris explains that at ITERATE we often talk to Clients who are inadvertently trying to put too much into their first product idea. Chris sees that this comes from a “more equals better” mentality which is easily adopted but actually doesn’t always translate successfully into design. Too many features can lead to a muddied concept and ultimately, can end up reducing the market impact of a great product idea. This is because with numerous unnecessary features it’s often not clear to the consumer what the product’s primary purpose is or why they should buy it. Overcrowding in a product can mean the best design features go unnoticed. From a development perspective too, Chris explains that too many features can increase the risk of the product being unsuccessful during development. This can cause a Client to doubt their market opportunity for the product, when in reality the design execution may have been compromised by the lack of clarity.

How Too Many Features Can Influence a Design’s Success

Chris points out that through the addition of extra add-on features, the development cost to create the product can be elevated due to technical complexity. It can also mean that the end-product actually becomes less desirable due to oversized components such as a larger battery capacity to accommodate a variety of features. Beyond this, the tooling cost may be increased which means higher investment will be demanded from the Client. Plus, the product’s retail cost will be higher while the value often isn’t apparent to the end-customer. Essentially, Chris explains that by adding too many features, you could be making it harder to achieve market success in the long run.

The Business Case for Making Your First Product Simpler 

Chris also unpacks the “more equals better” mentality from a business perspective. We often see that the first product is a passion project or a product that the Client has identified a real need for. Focusing just on this passion or need, according to Chris, can cause people to forget the wider goal of creating a business through the tunnel vision of delivering a single product. Chris also highlights that many Clients often embark on the risky journey of new product development to change their life, not to return to a previous job when the product is in the market. However, Chris believes that by trading the “more equals better” mentality for a “designing a business, not a product” mindset, it becomes easier to identify which are the right features, as opposed to pursuing every single idea a Client has about their product.

Using Your Ideas More Sustainably 

Chris is keen to emphasise that shelved ideas shouldn’t be completely forgotten. These ideas can be valuably used in future products for the business to help the Client build a sustainable brand. Looking at the bigger picture allows you to be clearer and more sensible with the investment costs, creating a greater chance of success. Chris explains that future concepts can successfully evolve from the minimum viable product, which will help maximise profits on subsequent products.

How This Affects Our Design

Chris believes that from a designer’s perspective having visibility of what future versions of the product concept might look like will allow the initial design to be more strategically created. The initial concept’s components can be designed for quick and cost-effective adaptation or development to help Clients expand their single product into a wider product range within their chosen market.

Final Thoughts

Not using every idea immediately does not mean these ideas have no worth, instead it means your initial product idea is strong enough to succeed already. It’s important to hold onto this early-on and have conviction in the value of your core concept. Saving certain extra USPs could help you create an entire range of high performing products that continuously inspire loyalty from the customers you won through your first product. This is a far more sustainable and considered approach than simply delivering one over-engineered product.

Keep up with the INSIDE ITERATE blog series for more glimpses into our thoughts on design and product development.