Friday, September 17, 2010

A Lesson In Prototyping from Okhla Industrial Estate

This was 1991. I was a product designer fresh out of college with two international student design awards and a heady feeling about my career. I went to work for the federal government in New Delhi, India. My workplace was a very special multimedia lab, where I was given all the budget in the world to do what ever I wanted.

One of our projects was to design a device that can play analog video over digital screens. I was the industrial designer and was entrusted with product design. We were only making a few pieces. So we decided to build the case in Aluminium rather than spend money on expensive plastic moulding.

So after weeks of sketching and discussion with my colleagues, I took elaborate blueprints to Okhla Industrial area, where I had identified a mold maker. He was a modest man, with probably a few years of schooling. Since I had taken 6 months of engineering drawing lessons in school, and was very confident about my drawing skills, I took 30 minutes to explain all the details of my blueprint to him.

After listening to me patiently for 30 minutes, he said that he did not understand what I was talking about. My four years of engineering education and 2 years of graduate design school education did nothing to help the situation.

Watching my frustration, he sat me down and told me that the best way to convey a design is to make a model. I told him that I don't have a workshop to build him a model. He asked me to go to a stationary shop nearby and get some thermocole and a few razor blades. I followed his advice and built him a model in a hour. I identified several errors in my blueprint while building the model.

When I showed him the model, he nodded his head and told me that I will have my castings the next day.

If this experience sounds a lot like your two hundred page design specification that your engineering team did not "get", you may want to try to convey your design using a prototype rather than argue with them about how "they don't get it".

Who knows? May be you will realize your design spec is not perfect after all.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...