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Product Design: Creeping Elegance

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

As a product designer, I love to improve everything around me.

Sometimes, even my own designs before they're done. 

I can sometimes prevent myself from ever finishing a project because I get stuck in a loop. 

For example, I will catch myself in this loop of continuous improvement that looks like this:

  1. Concept Sketch

  2. Begin Concept CAD

  3. Halfway through Concept CAD, think of better idea for system layout, go back to 1, rinse and repeat. 

It can be paralyzing. 

I let 'perfect' be the enemy of 'complete' and in so doing, never move on to next steps. 

When this happens, I haven't even gotten to my first prototype, and I'm already moving on to rev 2 in my mind. 

I've finally figured out how to overcome this challenge. 

I give myself an artificially imposed deadline, for some date that should be impossible to hit. 

Instead of giving myself a week to model up a device, I'll give myself 1 day. 

It's incredible how much clarity of vision I can get when I have a (self-imposed) deadline.

Then once I've completed this quick build, I quickly print/order the parts to get 'real' parts in my hands. 

This is truly the best way to eliminate assumptions. Build and test. Then iterate.

My goal is to build many prototype iterations as possible to remove any assumptions. I'm not trying to build real production CAD at the start. I call this the Hack-n-Smash method for product design. 

My fake deadlines mean that I can build an entire system top-to-bottom in a very short time.

I don't let creeping elegance prevent me from getting to milestone builds. 

I also don't fall in love with a particular modeling method until I'm sure of what I'm building for production. 

As your designs change, components change, and overall modeling strategy changes, quickly scrap it and start over. 

Each time you build an assembly it will get better, more robust, and more stable. 

Sticking with an early model will quickly build 'cruft' or modeling artifacts that hinder forward progress.

Also, every time I rebuild a full-system model, I can get preliminary manufacturing feedback on moldability.

I can't ever get that if I'm searching for perfection in each build.


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