How can I turn my sketch into a product?

6th January 2015

How can I turn my sketch into a product?

If you have an idea for a new product design it can be difficult to find the right advice to help you decide if and how to develop it. Do you go to the growing number of ‘innovation agencies’ who offer to do patent searches and create a rendered image to show investors? Do you talk to engineers who can sort out the technical details but may not be as concerned with the product’s appearance or ease of use?

We have been designing new products for over 30 years, and would like to offer some advice, particularly if this is your first foray into product design and development. All the advice is free, and yes, we hope you are sufficiently impressed that you want to talk to us about providing some paid, professional work, but that will come much later!

As we say, our advice is free, but the first action we recommend will actually cost you five pounds. This will allow you to download the e-book edition of ‘A Better Mousetrap – the business of invention’ by Graham Barker and Peter Bissell. This book is an excellent introduction to the sometimes murky world of product innovation, and it is particularly good at debunking the myths and downright rip-offs that surround the issue of patents and intellectual property. It only takes a couple of hours to read, and it will provide you with essential advice on the commercial issues that relate to investment in a new product idea.

Before you tell anyone anything about your idea, you need to get your intellectual property protection sorted out. This is covered in the ‘Better Mousetrap’ book, but the essential action you need to take is to create a ‘Non-Disclosure Agreement’ or NDA. Before you talk to anyone about your idea, get them to sign your NDA so that they are legally bound to keep the idea confidential and acknowledge that it belongs to you. The UK government website offers impartial and free advice on these matters and has NDA templates available on this site:

The next thing you should consider is what the product will do, who you will be competing with, how you will make it, etc, etc. We have prepared a guide that will help you look at all the critical issues that make up a design specification. You can download it free of charge from our guides page. Don’t worry if you can’t answer many of the questions in the spec document. It is better to discover gaps in your knowledge at the start than when you are halfway through the project!

This is the point where we would suggest getting some professional advice. Product designers don’t charge for initial meetings and if you’ve followed the steps above, you should be able to get a lot of useful advice from that first discussion, as well as an idea of the services the designers can provide. They should then send you a free, costed proposal of work with indicative timescales. This will usually be divided into sections of work, like concept design, technical development, prototyping, etc. You can see how Crucible divides up our work here.

If you would like more details on the whole process, please download our introductory guide to product design and development at the end of this post, or call us on 01235 833785. We will be happy to talk you through any issues we haven’t covered or answer other questions related to product design and development.

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Crucible Design Ltd, Boston House, Grove Business Park, Downsview Road, Wantage, Oxfordshire. OX12 9FF