Industrial design is complicated. But I do not just mean complicated. It is far, far more complex than you can imagine. I found that out very quickly when my business partner and I were looking into getting our head-movement measuring device made. Neither of us have a background in industrial design, nor had we any real understanding of what industrial design involves. All that we had was a product that we had cobbled together as a prototype for putting onto patients heads while they were walking to see how much they were rotating and translating. It took us a long time to get the positioning of the accelerometers right, making sure that we could get accurate measurements and useful information about the patients, and we thought that that would be the hard bit. What we had made, however, was a botch-job of pieces stuck together on a band which could fall apart at any minute and could barely even be duplicated, let alone mass produced. That is when someone more experienced than us told us that we needed to look into an expert in industrial design to take our product for measuring head movement further.
When you know absolutely nothing about industrial design, choosing someone is not easy
So there we were with our product, working exactly as we wanted it, measuring exactly what we wanted it to measure, but totally unsuitable for placing on the market. We needed industrial design help to make it a marketable, saleable product that other researchers and clinicians might actually want to buy and be able to use. We started asking around and looking up companies on the internet, trying to work out what we were actually looking for. Gradually we were able to work out that to get the industrial design work done properly we needed a company that were:
- Experienced, particularly in making wearable products;
- Reasonably priced. The did not have to be the cheapest around, but we also were not trying to make the new iPhone;
- Able to communicate. We knew what we wanted our product to be, and we had to be able to talk to the industrial design company to make it happen;
- Aware of regulation relating to products that might need FDA approval, for example.
This seemed like a fairly demanding list. Products requiring FDA approval and the equivalent are, it turns out, fairly hard to produce and therefore the industrial design phase is never going to be cheap, while some companies did not seem particularly open to communicating with two inexperienced customers like my partner and I. So we kept searching until we found exactly what we were looking for.
Eventually a friend of ours who works in the local hospital directed us to www.alskar.com. They had designed some products used constantly in the hospital and she suggested that we take a look. Their website immediately gave us the right impression – they have made medical devices and wearables, such as bike helmets. Still, we had encountered other companies with similar records. What really impressed us was their openness in communication with us. They were clear in their questions, they allowed us to explain what we required, and Alskar were clear in what they were able to provide. I am not sure that it was the very cheapest industrial design company available, but they were certainly the most efficient and friendliest in communication and gave us every reason to trust that they would be able to produce the product that we needed.