Collaborative and Multivariate Approaches to Product Design

In an earlier post at other blogs we looked at common issues facing product designers. Finding the balance between giving customers the option to get the custom product that they want and ensuring that they get it in a timely fashion is not always easy. Online custom design tools are OK for basic products, but when the customer wants something more unusual, it is harder to meet their needs.

A Framework for Custom Design

Designers that offer high-end custom products are moving towards a focused framework for custom product design that takes into account the needs of the customer, the specifications as they are expressed, and the value of the product from a supplier-focused point of view. They take the stance that most consumers are looking for the best balance between price and performance, and use a multi-attribute approach to negotiating the design, collaborating with customers along the way.
One of the best examples of this kind of practice is booklet printing companies that offer a proofing and checking service as a part of the printing process. They provide basic guidance on things like colors, margins and page layouts, and then allow users to design their own products. When the user submits the product for printing, the company will look at it to check basic things such as:
• Whether print will bleed across the margins
• Whether ink will bleed in images
• Whether the images provided for printing are an appropriate resolution for the size they are to be printed at
• The orientation of the pages – will the pages show in the right order when the user reads the book?
The printers do not take into account spelling, punctuation or grammar. Nor do they consider the subjective aspects of design, but they do take the trouble to ensure that users get a printed booklet that is functionally correct, and that any flaws were in “what the customer asked for” rather than caused by a failure to understand how the printing process works.
This service is becoming increasingly common, and is making the world of custom product design far more accessible to end users.

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