Anything that slows down your design process is a speed bump. Speed bumps don’t belong in conceptual design.
Let’s consider some of the speed bumps that can arise at the conceptual stage:
1) slow decisions
3) changing design goals.
Deciding on a best approach is stressful. You want lots of data and proof. You want to see what your competitors are doing. You don’t want to take risks. You want your bosses’ approval.
The speed bumps presented by slow decision making can be ameliorated by
1) recognizing there is no perfect design
2) authorizing a single decision maker who can decide quickly
3) accepting mistakes as part of the process. The speed of a design is slowed down in an environment where mistakes are not allowed, or when you can’t get a decision that lets you move forward.
The process of design usually causes interpersonal friction. You contend with the “my way or the highway” mentality as well as the harmonizer who takes a democratic approach to design. The harmonizer tries to make everyone happy. The autocratic route is efficient, but could miss the design goal, and the harmonizing path makes everyone unhappy. Sometimes the customer doesn’t even know what he or she wants.
‘Paralysis by analysis’ is a well-known aphorism. You are trying to do excellent work and create an excellent product. You want everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, design requires some intuition and guessing. This makes your stomach churn and anxiety swell. You want to solve a math equation and all we get is a mass of partial information. While you can structure qualitative information into themes and process it statistically, you rarely get pointers saying “this is the right design.” Designers make something from nothing. That is our burden. Nothingness is scary.
A good way to handle the overthinking part of design is to rely on time tested approaches that are commonly shared in design guides produced by manufacturers and professional associations. During my career, I have created several of these for a variety of products and systems. They are usually well thought out and completely grounded in real world experience. This may appear to close doors but it lets you move forward quickly. After a product is fully created, you can go back and optimize things.
Changing Design Goals
Changing design goals and “mission creep” are common, even though every bit of management advice you will read warns against this. However, in the world of product design, goals are established with incomplete information. While a product’s mechanistic goals might be clearly articulated at the start of a project, it often isn’t clear at the onset whether the goals are achievable. This goal glare is especially true for advanced designs that explore new territories of science, technology, and human interactions. The time, talent, technology, and resource requirements are speculative. Moreover, the connection with non-mechanistic elements can be difficult to initially identify. In addition, through market research and product experimentation, you may see that your original goal is not practical. Safety concerns and product regulations can redirect what can be accomplished with a new design.
Therefore, project schedules and Gantt charts need tweaking, and goals are often more fluid than we like. These design goal changes can be minor or so large they derail a project. Nevertheless, they can easily be the biggest speed bump in the design process.