My Design Process (Part 2): Ideation and Development

In the second installment of my overview of my design process, I’ll go over one the most fun stages: ideation and concept development. Well, I like all the stages of product design, but this one is where the magic happens.

Po Campo Sketches

The original Bike Share Bag sketches on my coffee table

In my first post, I went over how I devised my design brief. Once I have that in hand, I start sketching ideas for the new bag. I draw with a Bic pen and Sharpie marker on my coffee table while sitting on the floor watching TV. It sounds strange, but that is where my ideas flow the best so I don’t mess with it. Everyone has her spot, and that is mine.

1. Ideation Sketching

Like in a brainstorm, where quantity is more important than quality, I suspend judgment while filling up my paper with sketches. I draw as many ideas as I can think of for a couple of hours at a time. I refer to my design brief and the concept narrative and inspiration boards throughout, and I’ll supplement that by getting inspiration from flipping through magazines or surfing around online. Sometimes I’ll make quick prototypes out of fabric or paper to test out an idea. When it feels like the well has run dry, I go for a bike ride to clear my head and then return refreshed with some more ideas to explore. At this stage, I aim to come up with at least 50 ideas for every product, and often times I do much more than that.

Po Campo Design Process

Mock-Ups of our Logan Trunk Bag to get a sense of size

2. Concept Development

Next, I pick out about 10% of the ideas from the original brainstorm that have the most potential. I consider where all the straps, hardware, and pockets should go and how it will be sewn together. At this stage in the process, I’m still drawing by hand, but also beginning to draw the bags on the computer to check dimensions. It is easy to cheat when you’re sketching: for example to think that a lot of things will fit on the side of a bag when in actuality they don’t.

Po Campo Bike Share Bag Sketches

Some of the original Bike Share Bag sketches. Do you notice anything that's changed?

Once I have about 3-5 concepts worked out that look good and meet the requirements in the design brief, I’ll show them to my “Po Campo Panel” to get their input. My panel consists of people who know me, Po Campo, and product development well and who are accustomed to reviewing work at this stage. Designing new products in a vacuum is never good, so I actively seek their input even though I design all the Po Campo products by myself.

3. From Paper to Product

The last stage of this phase of product development is incorporating the feedback from my panel and fine-tuning the concepts to get samples made. I make detailed drawings on the computer, and supplement those with sketches, instructions and rough prototypes if necessary. I share this information with my manufacturer who produces the first samples in their sample room, which is kind of like the R+D lab in a soft goods factory. The people who work in the sample room typically have dozens of years of experience with making bags and enjoy working on new products.

Po Campo Bike Share Bag sample

Original Bike Share Bag sample based on drawings

By this time, I have already been working on the project for quite a bit, but now is where I start collaborating with the manufacturer to bring the idea into reality. Before Po Campo, I worked as a design consultant and rarely got to interface with the people actually producing the products. I was totally missing out! By developing the samples with my manufacturer, they give me valuable suggestions on ways to improve the design so it is easier for them to sew, or show me examples of other construction techniques that can accomplish my goal better.

In the next and last post, I'll share how I refine the favored design and get it ready for production.

Other blog posts you might like: 

My Design Process (Part 1): Research and Inspiration

Behind the Scenes: A Peek at the Creation of our New Floral Pattern Petals and Its Design Inspiration

Behind-the-Scenes Look at Our Manufacturing Process

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