When looking for help developing a new product, your first thought might have been to find a mechanical engineer or engineering firm. And why not? Everyone knows that engineers design and make things. Then there are those of you who thought you needed a designer and nothing else! I’ve witnessed arguments between designers and engineers, each claiming the supreme ability to create a product without the other. There are generalized statements that work most of the time about each. I have the firm belief that a great product development team has both designers and engineers. In my opinion, mechanical engineers and industrial designers are two sides of the same coin.
- Generally, engineers are more data and manufacturing focused. Looking pretty, aesthetics, usability, and user focus is not their area of expertise. Not to say there aren’t engineers who can, but their focus is not design, it is engineering.
- Generally, industrial designers are focused on user experience, style, and brand. Costing, design for manufacturability, and working mechanics are not their specialty. There are industrial designers out there who can really see things as a manufacturer and understand all those processes, but most of the industrial designers you see with the cool portfolios are focused on sketches and renders that are considered concept work.
What’s the best?
With that in mind, how do you choose, or really, should you have to? The answer is no. In the world between engineering and design are Product Developers. There is no degree for this, it comes only with years of experience on both sides of the coin bringing products from a concept to a manufacturable product. When you want to turn an idea into a product, you should really be looking for a Product Developer. They will be both industrial designers and mechanical engineers.
- Product Developers can talk about manufacturing processes and stress loads, as well as talk about how a product elicits an emotion from a user. Their experience is usually broad, and they truly understand the entire process, concept to production, of a product, whether that product is a baby toy or an industrial laser.
You may find yourself asking the question, when do I need an engineer to do that scary math? Well, when you work with a good Product Developer, they can handle almost anything. If you need real analysis or an engineering stamp, then you can hire a specific engineer for that portion. If you get to a point where an engineer is needed, or a manufacturer should be brought in, a good Product Developer will tell you and help bring on the right people to get your product into production.
Here at the Peterman Firm, we build flexible internal and external teams based on our clients project needs. This means we have industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and everyone is a product developer. Our teams are experts at developing quality products.