Design Reality

How to get the most out of your product design consultancy

The relationship between a consultancy and its client is an important one. Get it right and you’re flying…great ideas are flowing, work streams are seamless and success is guaranteed.  So, we asked our Project Manager James Grimoldby to share his insight into how clients can get the most out of their product design consultancy.

The brief

Possibly the most important first step in your relationship - formulating a clear brief.  Your design consultancy needs to know exactly what is to be achieved and understand what success looks like.  A good brief identifies what your end goal is and outlines key milestones including important dates, scope, available resources, and compatibility requirements. It’s an opportunity to share any research you have already completed to provide background to your team.  You don’t need to know exactly what the end result will look like but the expectations of both parties should be clear.

Give specifics

Don’t be afraid to overshare information at this stage and give specifics. If your design consultants are experienced, they’ll be sure to ask you a lot of questions upfront so be prepared with detailed answers. Does your product need to meet specific certification standards? Is there a strict launch date? Ultimately your design consultancy wants to help you meet your goals because that means a shared success for them as well. By being specific about your needs the team can create a project proposal to encompass exactly what you need, so there are no surprises.

Be clear on your end customer

A trap that many clients fall into is wanting to design for themselves, rather than their end customers.  Sometimes initial instincts may be perfectly aligned with the desires of your customer, but it is best to check assumptions and do thorough research early on. This could save time and money further down the line if any assumptions prove to be wrong.  If you don’t have the time, skill or inclination then be frank with your consultancy and get them to do the research. Validation is king. Knowing whether your end customer would buy your product early on could save you time and money.

Be prepared to be realistic

We want all our clients to come to us with aspirations to create the best products but sometimes it comes as shock when reality hits and plans need to evolve.  Your consultancy should have a clearly defined process to walk you through at each stage of the product design journey. They should manage your expectations providing you with a clear time, cost and deliverables plan of what to expect and when.

Trust in the experts

When you hire product design consultants, you have selected them for their expertise, so be open to listening to their advice & findings.  Product design is an iterative process which by nature looks to continually improve and solve products and services - the only thing that is certain in the design process is that there will be specification changes along the way.  Your agency should be holding regular update meetings to discuss their findings, suggest improvements and gather your feedback throughout the process. This will help to build a clear picture for the team to steer the project to create a successful product.

There are likely to be discoveries that mean you need to alter your initial plans as you travel through the development process. Try not to see these evolutions as negative changes, but a step towards the right product.


Face to face, over the phone via email… it’s important to stay in regular contact throughout the product design process and give timely updates and decisions. This keeps things on track.  It’s also imperative to make sure that all key decision makers are at review meetings.  This is the time when open and honest feedback is critical to ensure a project can move forward. The information your design team receives during these sessions helps to shape the ongoing product development and deliver your vision.

Understand there’s usually a boring part of the product design process

Every design process is challenging and fun. However, there are large parts of the process that lack  glitz and glamour.  If you’ve got a product design that needs testing and certification or a complex design that needs detailed tooling for manufacture, then be prepared that this section of the process can feel monotonous and boring. These are the things that ultimately allow your product to be launched successfully to market.

Your design consultancy should provide you with a specification and top level plan for this project phase, as with all of the other phases, so even if you can’t fully understand all of the actions taking place, you’ll have a tick list identifying the key milestones.  Always feel free to ask questions, the more you understand about the process the smoother the process will be and the more confident you will feel.

This is when your agency’s expertise really comes into its own.  Ensuring that all of the documentation and testing criteria are met and that you have the right qualification and certification in place for the success of your product.

Budget for success

Creating prototypes from cardboard boxes and tape can get you so far, but in order to reach the dizzy heights of commercial success you will need the right investment.  The cost of good product design can come as a bit of a shock, but an experienced agency will be able to demonstrate the value at each stage of your project and identify your future return.

Your consultancy will be super excited to be working on your project, but as a business they need funding to function so that ultimately, they can deliver the optimum results for your project.

And finally…

Enjoy the process & celebrate the successes

The product design process always brings out a range of emotions but make sure you take note of every milestone you achieve along the way. Celebrate the successes in the process and once your project is complete, be sure to celebrate your achievements as a team!

We'll be sharing our design knowledge in a series of 'How to …' journal posts over the coming months.  Follow us on linked-in, facebook and twitterto stay updated with our latest news and views.

James Grimoldby

Project Manager