How to commission a designer

At 4D Products we are all in favour of working with well informed clients, therefore when I came across this useful article from the Design Council, I wanted to share it…



Inventing a New Product

We are approached by a very wide range of potential customers. From garden shed inventors to household brands.

There is an interesting difference of opinion kept by these different party’s regarding what type of products to develop. Whilst larger company’s usually focus their product development efforts on servicing an existing market, private inventors often feel they only have a chance if their idea is completely new, no equivalent product exists. We have seen many such people visibly deflated if they happen across a similar product on the internet after believing they were inventing a new product.

Whilst it may be easier to differentiate your new product if it has no direct competitors, the other side of the coin is that consumers may not be looking for it. So without clever and/or expensive marketing campaigns, how will the inventor persuade customers to buy their product? They have never needed it before.

Many recent innovations and headline grabbing successful product businesses don’t invent completely new products. They build on an existing platform with a proven customer base.

Dyson made an innovative step within an existing (and very competitive) market. But millions of people globally were already buying vacuum cleaners. Apple didn’t invent the personal music player. Many people owned ‘personal stereos’ for decades before the iPod was launched. They did create an object that was very desirable, but it could be argued the real innovation was the software that made buying and organising your music so simple.

The world is a big place, and consumers like choice. Don’t see a little competition as a bad thing! Work out what you can improve on and work with good designers who can help you make it a reality.

Finding a Plastic Injection Moulder

As part of our due diligence process prior to appointing a manufacturer, we recently visited a plastic injection moulding company based in the UK.
Whilst many of our projects are manufactured off shore (Usually China), sometimes this isn’t the preferred route. In this instance, the customer valued the ability to visit their supplier quickly and easily, and felt this was worth paying a premium for. Surprisingly when the costings came back, the part price to mould in the UK was actually lower than a Chinese competitor. Shipping and lead time were also, not surprisingly, reduced.

But what should you look for when finding a plastic injection moulder? Its easy to get fixated with finding the lowest cost. From experience, we would recommend comparing the following;


  • Price
  • Lead time
  • Who will own the tool?
  • Who will fix it if a fault occurs?
  • How many ‘shots’ is it guaranteed for?
  • What material is it made from? Aluminium? P20 steel? Fully hardened steel?
  • How many units could theoretically be produced in a given period of time?


  • Prices at different order quantities appropriate to your plans
  • Lead time
  • Shipping costs
  • Assembly costs (if you wish to receive assembled units)
  • How will it be supplied to you?
  • Do the company use raw materials that meet your specifications?
  • Can they show you examples of other products they make that match your quality expectations?

We would also recommend supplying a set of manufacturing drawings, which clearly state tolerances, surface finish, and acceptable places for material feed points and ejector pins.

4D Products have a wealth of knowledge in this area, so if you need any help, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!

Product Design Funding

Some funding opportunity’s for New Product Development…

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS)

4D Products are approved MAS advisers. MAS will consider funding up to £3,000 towards consultancy fees to develop new manufactured products that will improve your company’s growth (50% match funding of total cost of project). They will also potentially fund tooling projects to a similar value. Up to 3 projects per annum are considered.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

SMART R&D Grants

Innovation Vouchers


Product Design Top Tips

The recent success of BlackBerry’s BB10 line, with devices flaunting a revolutionary design face-lift, highlights the importance of good product design. It seems the fresher, sleeker-looking handsets have also played a great part in the firm’s rise in share price; from $6.31 in September to today’s comparatively lofty price-tag of $13.20; showing how good design can yield a great return on investment.

The cumbersome shape of older generation handsets has often prevented the company from competing with the forward-thinking designs of competitors; however, Blackberry appears to have learned from past mistakes and created a line of devices that is set to shake up the mobile hierarchy.

This success, combined with the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S4, has yet again turned the spotlight on product design as a whole, focusing on its importance and the effect it can have on the success of a product.

Drawing on past experiences – good and bad – 4D Products, have compiled 10 product design top tips for trailblazing product design;

1 – Research existing products and existing solutions

It is rare to work on a project where there are no alternative solutions on the market. If you can identify an area where current products are Read the rest of this entry »

Where do new ideas come from?

A lot of time, effort, and expense goes into developing new products, but where do new ideas come from?

When we begin a new project we organise short, focused idea generation sessions, which go something like;

  • Assemble a team of creative people – they dont all need to be experts in the field.
  • Brief the team on the new project, what are we trying to achieve? What design challenges need to be overcome? Where can we challenge pre-conceptions of what this product needs to be? Where can we innovate?
  • Look at individual aspects in isolation, how can we solve this? How would the user benefit?
  • Fill a wall with very quick sketched ideas on Post-it notes.
  • Dont get bogged down in detail or reasons not to do something, be open to ideas at this point.
  • Spend time in group discussion, and time individually exploring ideas without distraction.
  • Start to assess the ideas available. Look at groups of solutions and consider how they could work together as a whole.

If you involve a range of people at the idea generation stage, the product opportunity is more widely explored, and the design team has confidence that they have a comprehensive range of solutions to work with during the development process.

This is undertaken as a standard part of the concept generation activity at 4D Products, and we believe our clients really benefit from a broad perspective and good range of solutions to any given challenge


Product Design Trends

Clients and prospects ask us…’But do you think its a good idea?’

They want our opinion on whether something will sell. We try to be objective and look at the bigger picture, whether a market exists, whether the particular idea betters the current product offerings, what’s happening in the wider world.

Things change over time and it is also true that timing helps in launching a successful product. With that in mind we have noticed a few Product Design Trends worth being aware of…

Read the rest of this entry »

Design for your customers

How do you know if your new product will appeal to your customers?

We supply Product Design to a range of clients in many different situations. Not everyone understands their target customers as well as they could.
If you are fortunate enough to have regular contact with existing customers, they can be a valuable source of feedback and ideas. If every customer is crying out for something they cant currently get, it is a golden opportunity to supply something new to a ready made market.
If you are developing a new product it can be easy to make assumptions about what the end user wants, either through personal opinions or being blinkered by what the competition is doing.
A great way to understand your target market is to observe how they currently solve the problem your new product is addressing. They may be;

  • Using a competitors product
  • Struggling through without a solution
  • Not realise a problem exists
  • Not realise or believe their problems can be solved
In any of these situations why not identify a group of ‘friendly’ target users who do whatever it is your product will do, vacuuming a carpet, organising workspace, taking blood from a patient, etc. Observe and record how users complete the task, the things they do to work around features that don’t work with their current product, the features on their current product that just don’t perform or aren’t of use anyway.

Armed with this kind of data the design team can propose solutions that actually solve the end users problems, not just copy the competition or refresh the current design assuming it does everything the customer needs.
The benefits of the product should then appeal to your customers and be real incentives to make a purchase. This is one of several methods utilised by our design team to understand end users and design better products.

Liverpools Product Designers

4D Products where delighted to be invited into Liverpool John Moores University to talk to the Product Design course about career opportunities in design.

LJMU School of Art and Design had invited well known representatives from creative industries from the North West region including Product Design, Interior Design, and Costume Design to name just a few.

We wish the next crop of Liverpools Product Designers all the best in their future careers!


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