Product Design Success – Part 1

Part 1 – When I am designing a new product or when I am getting involved with a product development project there are a number of questions I ask to help guide the amount of effort, energy, and resources I am willing to commit to a given idea or project. Little reminders that I review from time to time to make sure that I am directing my time to ideas that have the best chance of succeeding.

Does the product solve real-world problems? – Most successful products (except kids toys because that success is very random – Furby, really?) became popular because they helped to solve an existing problem and were therefore very relatable to the consumer. Sony Walkman, personal music when my parents were hogging the stereo listening to Zamfir. iPod, I am not stepping on CDs anymore in my car. iPhone, I can listen to music and I can look up stuff at the same time which helps me win more arguments about music.

If your product solves a real-world problem and it is a reasonable price then you are on your way to success. If your product is a luxury and not a solution then you have a much tougher hill to climb. For my time and money, I prefer getting involved with solution products. If your idea does not solve a real-world problem ask yourself if it might be able to with a tweak. That tweak is likely worthwhile.

Is the design simple? – By simple, I am talking about a few things. First, is the design simple enough that the user will intuitively understand how to use the product. Second, is the design as good as it can be? if electronics, for example, is the board layout elegant or overly complicated? Third, is the existing product design easily manufacturable?

Understanding these factors will go a long way into helping predict the potential success of a product. It is hard enough to succeed in the market when you have everything worked out. If you have an overly complicated design with 15 unnecessary hurdles to jump over, then maybe that idea needs a rethink.

Is the design aesthetically pleasing? – These days, if you want your product to get noticed, it better be aesthetically pleasing with some cool ergonomics thrown in for good measure. Simply being new is not good enough anymore, you need to be spectacular and wicked cool to break through the noise.

Blackberry ruled the waves for a long time with a full range of products that were less than aesthetically pleasing. They had a tremendous amount of success as a solution product until real competition emerged. What did that competition bring? Basically, the same solutions but they also offered dramatically improved aesthetics and ergonomics. You simply need to be cool today and stay cool. If you are cool, you have my attention.

When your design solves a problem, is simple, and is cool, then you have a really good shot at having success in the market. Next time, a slightly different angle on achieving product design success.

Gary Moran

At HLH, we make things for you.


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