There may be myriad ways to test a material’s quality, but that doesn’t mean they’re always readily available to designers. As we work on the business of inventing the next new thing, it’s tempting to lean heavily on our material suppliers and manufacturers to take care of that process for us. But that can be a risky game to play.
In the early days of my career, critics often challenged the need for designers, assuming we added little or no value to the production process. I’d often hear things like, “Prove to me that the money I spend on design will result in more profits.” Today, that mindset sounds absurd.
As a designer, I dream of creating products so distinctive and appealing that they visually “pop” against the competition. Such product designs solve real-world problems and achieve widespread success. And it’s not just about the look — it’s about the feel and the physical properties, too.
Most designers are fully aware of the important role that material plays in their design, but many overlook the need for — or the potential of — using multiple materials when a design is particularly complex. Bringing in another material to complement a design’s primary ingredient is an easy way to drastically improve the fit and finish of the final product.
Oftentimes, finding the right material for your new innovative product can feel like half the battle. It’s difficult to know ahead of time how a specific material will perform in certain applications, especially if you’ve never worked with it before. To make things even more difficult, most designers are working within constraints created by a number of factors. As a designer yourself, you’re probably all too familiar with these questions:
First and foremost, designers think of foam as a functional material. It’s used to fill upholstery, insulate roofs, and package products. But it’s a mistake to think of foam only from this functional perspective.