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Forays into the physical with thoughts on industrial design from frog's product design team.

Making It Real

The first product I designed for frog hit market this year. Just two years ago I was in design school. Just last year I was an intern. And now my work is out there. As an industrial designer, seeing a product that I worked on in stores and even more importantly, in the hands of people enjoying it, is an enormous thrill.

I joined frog in January of last year and was brought onto a large-scale program for Sound United as my first project.  A multi-disciplinary team of design researchers, brand strategists, visual designers, and industrial designers were tasked with helping Sound United's three brands — Polk, Boom, and Definitive Technology — enter the personal audio market.  We conceptualized and designed a suite of new headphones and personal speakers, backed by a set of product strategy and brand guidelines. It was an intense project for me – I had never worked with such a large team that spanned so many different types of backgrounds and expertise before. Our project space was constantly buzzing with excitement as we shared insights, explored strategies, and tested, validated, and refined our design throughout the process. It's one thing to design a product that would be graded by a professor, it was a whole other thing to design something that would be graded by the public (not to mention the implications for a company's bottom line). 

Soon after we ended the project, my inbox started to fill with emails containing production photos and news of upcoming release dates.  Products I worked on for both Boom and Definitive Technology were expected to hit market within months and no less sold in Apple stores across the country. This was music to my ears and a dream come true.

After the release, I immediately went to the local Apple store here in San Francisco. I ran up the stairs, swung a left and there they were sitting on Apple’s beautiful maple display tables. I picked up each product, felt every surface, detail and part line. I started snapping photos to send to my friends and family. I probably looked a bit strange to other customers in the store, but I was filled with pride.

Soon I noticed I wasn’t alone. I stepped back and watched others, our target customers, evaluate the products for themselves. It was a weird sensation to see complete strangers interact with what I had helped design:

Did they like it?
What detail caught their attention first? 
What detail held their attention? 
How does it feel in their hand? 
Would they buy it?

These were all questions running through my mind as I studied their facial expressions and body language. Then I realized that, as an industrial designer, I had come full circle. The "users" the project team always talked about designing for had become palpable to me. And here I was again, observing a user interact with a product and asking myself, “How can I make this product experience better?”