The evolution of design as a professional practice is one regularly impacted by developments in other fields. As designers, we often sit squarely between disciplines, streamlining and humanizing products for greater usability and appeal in the end result.
Never has the requirement to work between disciplines been as important as it is today. As industrial design becomes increasingly interwoven with service design, user experience design, engineering, manufacturing and more—designers must act as the bonding agent for teams producing innovative products.
In an effort to further understand these emerging hybrid teams of designers, managers and engineers, companies are going as far as studying the trend of co-creation to optimize for social ideation and more collaboration. Likewise, with the speed of technology and pace of product development, having tools and solutions that allow companies to build faster is proving a greater advantage than ever before.
In order to research the way teams work from the inside out, Dassault Systèmes put together a creative team to design the Cassiopeia Camera Experience. Cassiopeia is a concept for a connected camera that has the functionality of a digital SLR, and allows the user to sketch over photos and scan objects or textures. The team took Cassiopeia from inspiration phase to design validation, allowing Dassault Systèmes to gather first-hand knowledge of the needs of each team member and design solutions that directly enhance social ideation and creative design among the group.
Cassiopeia Camera Experience
Using this research, it becomes clear as the project progresses through different phases, that the requirements of each contributor change and communication between parties gains complexity. While each phase builds on the next, a well equipped team will be able to regularly come together during each phase for design validation.
We decided to take a deeper look at development of the Cassiopeia project for unique insight into the inner workings of a team—one that is not only building a product but a holistic experience.
The inspiration phase of any product demands input from a number of key players inside and outside the company. This is often done by compiling references in the form of articles, visuals, sketches and more. A product manager typically leads this phase, however every member of the team can provide valuable input at this fledgling stage.
Team gathers references and inspiration to define key functions of the product.
Communication at the inspiration phase must support amassing source material and then distillation until a key concept emerges. The inspiration phase is particularly important for connected devices like Cassiopeia. In this case, the design team faces not only the task of designing the camera, but also the connected functionality. The complex use cases and physicality of the product must be developed in tandem during this phase for a unified end user experience.
Once the inspiration is clear to the team, the work of narrowing the idea down to a discrete set of requirements is the next step. This ideation phase moves the product from discussion of the concept into a physical form for the first time. For this phase, creative designers are tasked to visualize the product for the team, iterate together and repeat.
Rough sketches gives the product a form factor that can discussed and refined at later stages.
Sketching in this phase is essential. It allows the team to understand possible variations and begin to make decisions about a number of factors. During ideation, the ergonomic and functional aspects of Cassiopeia merge for the first time into a rough form factor that can be communicated to the team.
Concept Design Phase
Once the product is visualized for the first time using the 3D sketches, the next step is to model the product at scale. An industrial designer will typically model the product in 3D, testing and refining design variations from the ideation phase.
An industrial designer adds scale and refines features of device.
With Cassiopeia, this is the phase where shapes begins to emerge and the conversation about the product shifts from conceptual to physical. The goals of the design must be clarified and communicated clearly so that the product can seamlessly transition from a design into a physical object that can be considered from a manufacturability standpoint.
Detail Design Phase
Once the industrial designer has taken the design from concept sketch to 3D model, a design engineer takes the model and considers it from engineering and manufacturing perspective. This shift from design of the device to engineering of the device is a careful balance to retain as much of the original concept for the form factor as possible.
Foresight during the detail design phase offers ease of manufacturing and greater success in the final product.
This is a key matter of communication between the engineer and designer in order to deliver a product that not only is aesthetically aligned with the inspiration – but also can be manufactured. For Cassiopeia, this requires a seemingly subtle but highly important refinement of surfaces and geometry.
Design Validation Phase
In the final step, the team must simulate the product in order to engage in discussion and finalize the design. Design validation occurs both in the final steps and at regular intervals during the development. There are two main forms this validation takes, led by a visual experience designer and a physical prototyper. A visual experience designer will create a number of detailed renders, while the physical prototyper will develop physical 3D models.
Visualizing decisions is essential to engage key players inside and outside the team.
For Cassiopeia this is a key phase as the camera has a number of complex parts, surfaces and functions. Regular design validation throughout the process gives access to all members of the team to make decisions about the final product. When collaboration is managed well, the multidisciplinary team will arrive at the validation phase having shared expertise at each step of the design process. As a result, the final prototype is a true reflection of their shared vision and is reached more quickly than ever before.
The development process of any electronic device is challenging for teams looking to innovate in their respective spheres. As consumer's expectations increase for well-designed objects that provide comprehensive product experiences, the ability of teams to collaborate and move quickly will be increasingly valuable. The extent to which teams can effectively collaborate will be a defining factor for success - both for the team and the products they create.
To read more about Dassault Systèmes Solutions and Social Ideation and Creative Design, check out their website and webinar.
Teshia Treuhaft is a Michigan-born designer. Upon graduating from back-to-back degrees, a BFA from the University of Michigan and MFA of Furniture Design from RISD, she moved to Berlin to pursue a research project considering shifting paradigms in design education. Teshia currently works at the tangible UX startup Senic.