Well, a « physical » Product Designer that is.
I consider myself to be a successful designer, having worked on thousands of projects of all sizes over the years and although most of them were web based, I also had the opportunity to work with other media platforms such as print, TV, video, and photography as well. With all of this experience under my belt, I naively believed that designing a physical product, such as a watch, would be a fairly easy process.
Was I ever wrong!
My first reflex was to take a few images of well-known watches and try to find some inspiration in order to design a dial for our watch. This went terribly wrong due to the following aspects, which I did not consider nor did I understand at the time:
- Having to consider the object in a 3D environment; volume, space, and proportions;
- The different textures & materials and their subtle impacts in the design;
- Technical limitations, such as the type of movement chosen;
- Working all the details to a micrometric level.
It came to the point where I took the decision to put Illustrator & Photoshop aside and spend time learning the basics of watch movements and the watch manufacturing process. This is when I realized that I had so much to learn; processes and techniques that I wasn’t even aware of. It took me approximately 3 weeks before I began the design process for the second time.
Two months after my first try at designing our watch, I finally completed the final design draft of what will be our first watch collection, which includes a chronograph and a classic watch model. After all of the challenges and huge learning curve, I must say that I was super proud of this major milestone achievement. At this point, Jocelyn and I began to build the « technical » specs for each model and then sent them to a few selected manufacturers in order to produce prototype samples. Once again, for me there was not much of a difference between 0.01mm and 0.02mm… And in fact, there was!
The day we received our first batch of samples, we were like kids on Christmas morning. You can’t imagine the pride we had to see all of the hard work and long hours turned into a real, actual, physical object. What an amazing feeling! Once the adrenaline rush died down, we began to check all the fine details, which took hours and hours to determine, right down to a 0.01mm precision.
At that point, much of my pride turned into disappointment. I thought I had nailed the designs, but the casing was too small, too bold, the dial was not detailed enough, and the materials were not quite up to par with our vision. So, we went back to the drawing board… but realized that we didn’t really know how to fix all of the issues.
We felt a bit clueless.
After a couple of days of hesitation, we decided to take a different approach. We wanted to have a closer look at what the competition was doing and so we went ahead and ordered about 10 watches from brands targeting the same market segment as ours. We then were able to analyze the weight, size, materials used, it’s components (the crown, the hands, the straps, the dial finish, the type of glass, and the movement) in order to understand and see what are the key details that make a great watch.
Unreal how much we’ve learned through this process.
Once all of this information was gathered, we were able to identify what we considered to be the best design features of these watches, and the ones that could be improved upon. With this in mind, we iterated our design until complete satisfaction.
Keep the good and ditch the rest.
This design process has been one of the longest I have had to go through, but certainly one the most rewarding. By handling most of the production chain ourselves, and going with the direct to consumer approach, we will be able to sell top of the line watches at a very accessible price point.
Looking forward to having your feedback on our brand new watch collection soon.