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How to choose a Product Design Company

There are a lot of product design companies out there. Some good. Some bad. So how do you choose the one right for you and your project?
Here are a few points to consider:

Pedigree

Check their portfolio to see that they can show good competency in design. Preferably showing something that is of a similar nature to your product. Although there is an argument for using a company that has not done something similar especially if you want a really fresh take on a design. A company may try extra hard for you if they have not worked on the same thing previously. If you do choose one for that reason then it would be advisable to see in their portfolio a range of different types of design: plastics, metals, fabrics and so on. Also having worked in different industry sectors; energy, leisure, health and so on. This shows the diversity and flexibility of the design team. What you are looking for will depend on your particular needs. Even if you do not recognise the products you see, ask what they did on each project that interests you. Some companies will show a flash image of a product but then you find out they only designed the box that it went in!

Tip: At a meeting, ask the company why they think they would be great on your project. Ask what they can offer and let them tell you. This gives them a fair shot and gives you a chance to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Size

What is it you are looking for from the product design company? Is it a large company with huge resources or is it a smaller more flexible team that you are after? A large company might mean your job gets drowned out by other jobs whereas a smaller agency might not have enough capacity for a much larger project.

Tip: Size doesn’t necessarily indicate what you will or will not get. Large are not always the most expensive and small are not always less capable.

Location

Do you need the design company to be local to you? For some, this is important especially if there is close interaction needed with your in-house team. This will restrict your choice of company of course. A lot more work can be done remotely than most realise but some work needs close collaboration.

Tip: Consider how many times a month you may need to visit and weigh that against the size of the project, the cost and inconvenience of travel and whether there is a more local design company that could do the job equally as well. However, what is more important is that you find the right company for your project. Chances are you won’t need to visit them many times.

Product Design Company

Capabilities

Find out what Capabilities the product design company you are looking into has. If you need expert help with fabric design and they have never done it, will they be able to produce a great end result for you? Having said that it is probably unrealistic to expect agencies to have always done something exactly like your product. They should be able to show you something that convinces you that, even if they have not done something exactly like your product they will have no problem producing the high quality end result you need. A good product design company should have access to manufacturing facilities for making prototypes or have a good network of contacts for this. Ask them about this as this can cause problems during the project.

Also, can they take your project as far as you need them to? Have they taken design right through to a product on the shelf? Some companies will produce lovely visuals but then fall over when it comes to actually producing something that works and is truly production-ready. Ask to see examples and probe them on their level of involvement. You can see our portfolio here.

Tip: If you have something to hand from a previous project then ask them to get you a quote on a prototype or a sheet metal or machined part or something similar. See how well they cope with that, how long it takes them and what they come back with.

Responsiveness/Customer service

It is very important for most clients that a product design company be responsive and that it communicates well. A company that can design great things but takes a week to call you back or let you know what is happening or won’t talk to your supplier properly can be infuriating to have on a project.

Tip: If this is important to you too, then you can test what they are like before you use them. Ask them to perform a small task first before you get them on a big task. If they can’t jump through a small hoop they won’t jump well through a big one!

And finally.. Top tip for choosing your Product Design Company

Probably the main factor is that you are comfortable with the team. You may well develop a long-term relationship with the company and its staff. So if the company is on your shortlist, visit them. See if you like them, what is your gut instinct? A person, company or team can always improve their skill, contacts or knowledge on your behalf. What they cannot do is get a personality transplant!

Happy choosing, and good luck with your design project!

 

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