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3 Ways Hiring a Design Firm Can Shape Your Product’s Development

You can develop a new product alone, but you're missing out on the industry’s best-kept secret. Learn why hiring a design firm makes all the difference.

Lauren West
Lauren West

June 24 th 2022 | 7 minute read

Product development firms are the best-kept secret in the product design industry. Many business leaders simply don’t understand what a product development firm does — or even know we exist at all. That means too many organizations are struggling as they go it alone rather than tapping into the expertise and knowledge that firms like M3 offer. 

If you’re exploring the available options to bring a product to market, it’s important to first understand what product development firms are not. You may be familiar with management consultants or contract manufacturers, but these are not product design consultants. While management consulting and contract manufacturing services can supplement and support the product design process, they are not a substitute.  

Management consultants often provide strategic insights and solutions aimed at optimizing value, pursuing growth, and eliminating inefficiencies in your business. They may stay to help with implementation, but their focus is not on developing product solutions. On the other end of the spectrum, contract manufacturers support the mass production of a new product. They receive engineering drawings and documentation from their clients and usher them through the entire manufacturing process including procurement, assembly, and delivery. Both management consultants and contract manufacturers have their place in the sun, but they are poorly suited to span the gap from strategy to reality. That’s why the world needs product development firms. 

Product development firms are made up of strategists, researchers, engineers, designers, and innovators. We’re blue-sky thinkers, jacks-of-all-trades, and seasoned problem solvers. We can create custom solutions from scratch — or refine your concept to make it both feasible and marketable. Since no two clients are alike, we also tailor our development process to each client’s particular needs. 

Here’s a look at 3 ways a strategic design firm can help your business reach your product development goals. 

1. Providing Blank-Sheet Design for a Brand New Product

If you’ve identified an unmet need in your market, you know it won’t be long before a company steps in to fill that gap. But will it be yours? Engaging a design firm can help you move quickly to develop an innovative new product, beat out the competition, and achieve the ROI you’re after.  

Perhaps even more importantly, a firm like M3 will help you validate and challenge your assumptions before you invest significant resources into development. 

Innovative Solutions Start with Strategy 

Every successful, blank sheet product begins with a solid strategy. That’s why the first thing we do when conceptualizing something that’s never been done before is conduct extensive research. 

On multiple occasions, Fortune 500 companies have approached us to develop product lines in entirely new spaces. Though they had some very specific ideas of the type of products they wanted to develop, they left the details to us.  

To ensure we approached these opportunities wisely, we: 

  • Initiated communication with the company’s marketing team to understand the market research that inspired the product idea 
  • Supported our client’s intellectual property (IP) lawyers in searching the product landscape to confirm the novelty of the opportunity 
  • Conducted background research to understand the needs this product could address  
  • Created and began testing various prototypes quickly to see which worked best in solving the design problems at hand  
  • Interviewed potential end users of the product to inform our design choices  

Put simply, we thoroughly tested the hypotheses the clients brought to us rather than blindly accepting the notion that their product ideas were viable. Then we questioned every assumption to make sure we took the concepts in the right direction. 

Creating Something New Requires Stakeholder Centered Design 

One thing that makes M3’s approach to design different is our commitment to stakeholder centered design. That stands in direct opposition to our industry’s favorite buzzword, user-centered design 

Why this paradigm shift? Stakeholder-centered design is holistic whereas user-centered design can be disturbingly short-sighted. 

Yes, of course we care about meeting user needs. Every design choice keeps the user firmly at the forefront. The key distinction is the development process isn’t only about the user — especially when you’re creating something new or entering a new-to-you space. To drive your business forward, it’s imperative to consider how the product fits into your overall roadmap, factor in manufacturing needs and supply chain constraints, and even design with regulatory testing requirements in mind.  

2. Helping Your Internal Team Solve Challenging Design Problems 

Sometimes product development isn’t about imagining something completely new — it’s about taking an existing product in a new direction. Or it’s about reaching new heights in terms of performance, adding desired features, or streamlining the manufacturing process. 

In these scenarios, your internal team of designers and engineers has a specific objective they’re trying to reach and they’ve likely made some strides toward reaching the desired end-goal. For whatever reason, one or more obstacles is preventing them from crossing the finish line, and they simply can’t seem to break through.  

Engaging a design firm with a wealth of knowledge in a variety of industries can help your internal team conquer seemingly unsolvable problems. 

We do this by immersing ourselves in the problem and looking at your constraints from all angles. Then, we pull out all the stops — from experimenting with design tools in innovative ways to using product teardowns to inspire new ideas — to unravel the problem creatively.  

3. Creating a Cohesive Design Language for Existing Products 

Another important way a product development firm can drive your business forward is to create the full character of your brand by implementing cohesive design language across your product lines. Developing a consistent, thoughtfully branded user experience across all your products can elevate your market position, strengthen customer loyalty, and solidify your brand promise. 

Recently, M3 worked with a client to develop a new line of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Their goal was to create a product line that met their functional needs while also delivering consumer-grade usability. We achieved that outcome — no problem.  

But when the new product vision materialized, we realized the dated logo and design elements of their brand failed to tell their new, aspiring story of precision and cutting-edge technology. There’s little worse than creating a groundbreaking product vision and then slapping on a worn out logo. So as part of the design process, we presented a sharp, new brand vision and created a set of guidelines to bring all their branded products together under a modern visual identity. We and the client understood the success of the overall brand depended on elevating its visual identity to the same level as this new product.  

Lean on Your Product Development Firm to Drive Your Business Forward 

To achieve the product success your business is counting on, you need the right experts in your corner. That’s true whether you’re entering a new product space, trying to solve a difficult design problem, or working toward creating a cohesive brand for your suite of products.  

Whatever your situation, engaging a product development firm can take you further than you can go on your own — and get you there faster. So if you’re ready to explore what’s possible when you have a team of won’t-stop-till-the-job-is-done experts at your side, just reach out. We’d love to help.