Following are excerpts of our interview with DDSTUDIO founder Charles Curbbun, the transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
How is DDSTUDIO Uniquely Positioned to Help Start-Ups Secure Investment?
For startups, it is particularly important to present your future product in a way that visually articulates your value proposition from a human perspective. Quite often things are presented from a technical viewpoint. While investors need to know that your technology works, they also need to understand how your product will solve people’s problems better than any existing solution on the market.
Bringing in a designer with our depth of experience in product development, user experience and design for manufacture, ensures that your vision will be accurately reflected.
We create a Hollywood Model with animations + photorealistic renderings (beauty shots, people using the product in context). At the same time, we establish a visual brand language that represents how you want investors, customers and future employees to perceive your company. This provides our start-up Clients with a consistent visual presence for all communications. The result looks like you’re actually much further along than you really are.
Why is Integrating Design Early so Important?
In order to promote an idea properly, we help you articulate your vision. We start with discovery sessions to get your passion about developing a new product. We want to understand what will delight your customer and differentiate you in the market.
Then we create theme boards with images and statements that define the look, feel and tone for your future product and company image. The theme board serves as both inspiration for designer concepts, and a template to ensure that your visual communications are consistent. All of this brings emotion + energy to your investor deck.
When we are involved early enough with start-ups, we can work with engineers to suggest low-cost changes in form factor, proportion, usability features and signature brand elements. This elevates your working prototypes into intuitive, beautiful, usable + engaging experience.
When you put that vision in front of people, from investors to the development team, it stimulates excitement, alignment and momentum.
Field Medical, illustrates how incorporating design early was a strategic decision made to significantly enhance their company’s image and perceived future value.
Read The Complete Field Medical Case Study
Field Medical, a startup with a seasoned founder Steven Michelson, was very aware of the challenging road ahead – developing a surgical device with new technology in a very competitive space.
He recognized the importance of clear, professional communication and product images that accurately reflect how his technology with perform in the challenging operating room environment. He knew that his technology will solve physician and patient unmet needs in a much better way.
Steven reached out to DDSTUDIO. The collaboration began with a discovery session to learn Steven’s history and why his new technology was special. He expressed this through his personality as the company visionary. His inputs helped us create a visual brand language reflecting his enthusiasm and charisma. This provided a consistent aesthetic that was implemented in investor presentations and internal communications.
Incorporating design at an early stage might seem premature to some, but as Field Medical was well aware, it created a memorable presence.
Why HUMAN CENTERED DESIGN?
DDSTUDIO follows the Human-centered design process. It is a creative problem-solving approach that puts real people at the center of the development process. The five-step cycle is Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Iterate. It empowers design and engineering teams to develop empathy and align on solving the right problem in context before generating concepts.
Iterative feedback loops and testing with users confirm design decisions real time. The synergy achieved from cross-disciplined exploration within a structured framework sets the scene for innovation.
Unlike traditional product development methods, HCD requires a select mix of disciplines engaged throughout development. At DDSTUDIO, we handpick highly seasoned expertise to fill gaps and work efficiently to deliver tangible design in record time. We do not have junior designers or interns regardless of the job size or budget.
We choose to collaborate with entrepreneurial minded leadership in multiple industries, who share our commitment to develop products that make a difference. Many of our clients become long-term relationships and engage with DDSTUDIO for commercializing their revolutionary technologies.
What aspects of Human Centered Design apply to Start-ups?
We always start with a lot of listening to understand our client’s business objectives, product positioning and status of technology. We then meet with their internal team and most importantly, their customers/ stakeholders.
After proof of concept, business objectives usually revolve around investment. They need visual assets to generate positive awareness with a tangible look and feel. We meet with the founder, CTO and marketing lead a few times to gather the inputs to understand their product in context. We observe people using similar products to see firsthand how they are used and identify unmet needs. Walking in the shoes of people using the product is critical for design empathy. This inspires concepts that are believable and clearly communicate the value proposition.
At DDSTUDIO, we have helped develop many products to production, so we have a deep knowledge base that can guide decisions and facilitate speed to market.
How does Human Centered Design set the scene for success?
Understanding and enabling technology in context while maintaining the look and feel is a delicate balancing act. Conducting user research, performing iterative ideation cycles, designing Physical and Digital in parallel deliver tangible directions in record time.
Reducing manufacturing costs as part of the design is a huge differentiator. Cost considerations often point to common parts, defined approaches, and selective finishes. We apply practical directions into the aesthetic to ensure that the manufacturing process optimizes Profit margins.
The distinctive look and feel of a range of products is not an accident. It will be the result of strong image elements. It can be a common focal point. It will be highly functional – projecting positive outcomes through consideration of human factors and workflow.
Maintaining the brand’s distinctive look and feel while enabling technology is a critical building block for the company. Ensuring that that vision can go to market in a realistic timeframe and on a realistic budget.
What does it mean to create a product that disappears?
We want to make a desirable and distinctive product that initially viscerally connects with the customer, then later drops into the background and becomes part of the overall experience.
If you think about what works well in your life, you don’t think about the product, your just get on with the activity. You actually want the product to get out of the way. You don’t think about your phone when you pick it up, you just start communicating.
So, the product must be something that resonates with you; that compliments your self-image as you go about your day. Beyond that, you want the product to disappear. A great product is a tool that enables you to do something much better and more delightful than you did before.