Design Backed by Technology: Initial Prototype to Final Concept

Entrepreneurs often ask me where my product concepts come from and where they should look to for ideas. I’ve discovered that inspiration comes from anywhere: a friend, your travels, a problem you run into in your daily life, a particular shape you like, and so much more.

I started Bhold to improve how things are made today; since we (as a society) usually end up manufacturing so many things we may not have use for. I wanted to create things that were both functional and beautiful; products that would help make everyone’s life just a bit easier and better.

Bhold Labs does things a little differently with 3D technology. We have a community of testers who give us real user feedback as we rapid prototype and iterate upon a concept.

Through one product example, the Bheard Sound Pod acoustic speaker (which just made it through a successful Kickstarter campaign), I will take you along each step of the design development cycle.

Initial Concept

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The inspiration for every item in Bhold’s collection started out a solution to a problem encountered in everyday life. And as I take each product through a new version, which may be drastically different from the last, I draw from many different aspects of life to find the answer. A new seed for an idea doesn’t typically come from your usual workspace or desk. It’s important for creative types to put themselves in new situations and get new perspectives on things.

When I first saw my friend Gabe use a glass cup to amplify the music from his phone, I thought, “wow that does sound louder but the acoustics are terrible!” I knew we could do better than that so I started developing an acoustic speaker that would disrupt the audio device market in terms of sound quality.

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Prototyping

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The initial concept started off, literally, as a bowl which then became a bowl with a stick across the back that would act as a stand. You have to start somewhere, so why not sketch out the simplest form and go from there?

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When I first started designing, I naturally asked friends and those around me to test out my concepts for usability. From my days at Google, I decided to fine tune what I was already doing and apply the concept of beta testing to physical products. This became today’s Bhold Labs, a first-of-its-kind program that rigorously tests our products to make sure we thoughtfully design for the end user.

After sending the first few versions to the lab testers and hearing the feedback that the stand felt flimsy, my team and I went straight to work to come up with new concepts to solve this issue. We were stuck for a while, but as 3D printing allowed us greater flexibility, we decided to accomplish two birds with one stone by moving the outside walls up to hold up the phone and see if the acoustics improved. 37 versions and 6 weeks later, we arrived at the final design for the Bheard Sound Pod.

Final Design & Production

Another question I often get is, “How do I know when I’m done prototyping?” While you can always perfect something infinitely and there will always be changes that can still be made, you’ll know you’re done iterating. As you’ve been working on, thinking about, internalizing and possibly dreaming about the product for so long, it will come together when the moment is right and you’ll just know.

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This moment hit for the pod when the sound quality just blew the rest out of the water. The high, mid and low tones were balanced and rich. We could hear the vocals, instrumentals and most importantly, the bass. To test it out, we played electronic music in it and were surprised with just how much bass a little sound pod could produce.

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The final tests involved choosing the right material for the sound pod, and this involved really listening to the user feedback that came back to us. It turned out that users liked to have the Sound Pod set up by the sink while listening to music or podcasts in the shower, followed by speakerphone use for business conference calls.

After testing across a number of different materials such as plastic, metal and ceramic, I made the decision to go with a silicone-like version as well as ceramic. Both feel great and are perfect for home and office use. Additionally, the silicone-like version is waterproof and super portable as well as durable enough to take with you anywhere you’d like around the house or on the go.

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Once you have these details worked out, you can source the best manufacturer for it through your outreach or through a site such as Maker’s Row.

While the design phase took 6 weeks, the full cycle for it to hit the market after sourcing, funding, packaging, marketing and more will have taken one year and 5 months. I’m so excited to share that the Bheard Sound Pod is now available for pre-order on our site and will officially release later this month.

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How much time might all of this take? As much time as you need. I never know how long each product actually takes as I only launch when I’m sure that it is ready. But start that first version today ;)

What are you thinking of making? Tell me in the comments below!

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