Posts Tagged ‘design’

Part 4: Prototyping or “Making use of the Industrial Design degree”

Coincidentally, we are at this actual stage of the process because of an upcoming client appointment looming next month.  Yesterday we had an afternoon long meeting to go over our rough list of maybe ideas; most made the cut and a handful did not.   We have a lot of prototypes to make….

parts and pieces

The next step in the process is truely Ryan’s forte.  As “Chief Tinkerer” at Gigglicious, he takes our ideas and bring them into real life with a prototype.  Typically, he spends a couple of days designing and drawing out HOW the product can work.  Sometimes it involves multiple iterations.  Ryan draws by hand; he’s old-school.  He has worked on CAD,  like SolidWorks and ProE, but has always preferred to hand draw his designs. ((WARNING: seriously shameful bragging is about to occur)) He has drawings that are, in my opinion, works of art.  I can’t even imagine how his brain can work out gears, motors, wall thickness, and tolerances while also designing for manufacturability.  It is a beautiful thing to see his drawings.  He is the true talent in Gigglicious prototyping.  Thank you Southern Illinois University Industrial Design Program for helping groom this incredible artist/designer!  ((Ok, it’s over now.))  If you have a product you’d like prototyped, there are many freelancers that can do this for you.  This tends to be a bit pricy because of the labor and skill involved in literally making something from nothing…

For us, one highly important step for prototype building is the trip to Goodwill.  Oh yeah, the local thrift store, a trove of treasures and mother lode of goodies and gadgets!  Do you know how many parts and pieces, motors and housings, mechanisms and sound chips can be found on old toys?  A $2 bag of junk toys frequently gives us the key to frankensteining (yeah, that’s a real word in the Gigglicious lexicon) a great prototype.  Who knew, right?

Then it’s hand building prototypes.  I handle prototypes that need sewn, Ryan does the rest.  It’s multiple trips from desk to workshop.  It involves no short supply of plastic, tubes, motors, electronics, screws, springs, diodes, and of course, bottles and bottles of super glues, epoxy and band-aids.

Because it comes up in conversation so frequently, let’s talk about 3-D printing.  Seems everyone knows about these and we often get asked if we have one.  No, we do not, but would definitely like one for prototyping.  Of course, with owning a 3-D printer, you have to have the computer programming ability to design what it prints.  We may get to that, but not right now.  Most larger invention firms have had them for years and it’s a convenient way to tailor presentations and prototypes to their customers.

Let’s be clear about prototypes, we don’t often get it right, especially on the first, second or third try.  Maybe never.  Prototypes take a while to get working.  Sometimes the mechanics are off, sometimes physics works against us, and sometimes it’s just a stupid product once we see it working.  Do you remember the scene in Toy Story where Sid has all the cobbled toys under his bed?

We have boxes and boxes in our storage that look like that. (DISCLAIMER: we only blow them up if it’s in the function of the prototype or if Ryan is feeling like using up old bottle rockets.)

Next up: we TEST.  Does it do what we set out for it to do?  Is it interesting?  Is it cool enough to present?  Sometimes, the answer is no.  But if we like it, it’s time to shape it up into presentation form.

Prototyping is one of the more rewarding moments in the process.  Watching a brand new thing emerge from just an idea, seeing it on paper, then holding it in your hands and realizing how cool it is…well, that is just awesome.

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. ~Frank Barron, Think, November-December 1962

Part 3: Design of the Times or “Hmm, is this worth doing?”

Ok, so far we’ve been creative.  We’ve done some thinking.  We’ve noodled around a bit and now we have come up with an inspired idea. What now?  The next step for us is to determine whether it is valid enough to continue with or not.  The ideas I come up with at 3am may seem incredibly brilliant at the time, but not even fun, interesting, or even manufacturable or realistic once we really begin to flush out the concept.

So, what do we take into consideration when deciding to move forward with an idea?

  1. Who would license this?
  2. What part of a store could this sell into?
  3. Would we buy it?
  4. How much would it cost for a manufacturer and at the store?
  5. What need does it fill?

These are the type of questions that most people don’t think through.  They have an idea, they love it, they want it made.  Period.  I get it!  It’s hard to let go of an idea.  An idea always seems perfect to the person who invented it because the vision for the item is in THEIR head.  There is an emotional attachment to an idea that is hard to break.  I will be the first to admit that I am less than pleased when Ryan shoots down my ideas. It makes me a little um…mad, even if it was terrible.  Well, perhaps I didn’t explain my vision thoroughly enough.  Maybe he just disagrees.  He may know more about that category and what sells than I do.  It may never have been manufacturable. Maybe it’s just a plain stinky idea.  More than once I’ve come up with an idea that would use technology that doesn’t even exist.  If only magic were real…

Yes, I double checked the wall at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station in London.  I didn't go through.

Just to be sure,  I double checked the wall at Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London. I didn’t go through it.  Hrumph.


The answers to the checklist above are much easier to answer with some industry experience.  But making trips to the store, seeking out similar items, noting their prices, and turning over the package to see who makes it is a great start.  These days it doesn’t seem weird to have your phone out taking pictures of store shelves.  In the “olden” days before smartphones, we used to get stopped by a store employee to find out what we were doing (the closest I ever came to being a Bond girl) but these days, you could just be Snapchatting or Instagraming and no one would be the wiser and you go home with valuable reference and a gallon of milk.

Once we have talked about the idea, if we feel that we have a sizable list of companies that the item could work for, if there is an area of the store we think it could fit, if we determine that it would sell for an appropriate cost at the store, if a factory would realistically be able to manufacture it, and if it’s something we feel consumers would like, the next step is to make a prototype.

Which, appropriately enough, is the subject of the next installment of my little series which I have appropriately titled:

Part 4: Prototyping or “Making the Industrial Design degree pay off!”

Happy Summer Solstice and thanks for reading!

Nothing encourages creativity like the chance to fall flat on one’s face. ~James D. Finley


Welcome to the Gigglicious Blog!

This is your connection to find out what is going on in and around our studio.  Just to get you started on what it is that we do here, we came up with a little list of what we have been working on in the last couple of months:

a plethora of pool products, toys and games

a wrist watch with a unique display

a bountiful collection of backyard games

LED lighting products for use during the holidays

a new way to listen to music

funny and slightly inappropriate noise makers(it’s been a gas working on these!)

We generate hundreds of innovative concepts every year and only 10-20 of them are actively developed at any one time in our studio.   This is the place for you to keep up with what is getting designed, developed and prototyped!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”  -Audrey Hepburn