Hardware design sprints — are they even possible?

Hardware design sprints — are they even possible?

The term “design sprint” has become widely popular since introduced in 2010; quick results, fast prototypes and most of all rapid go-no-go methodology, has created an atmosphere in which design sprints can become the main methodology of product development cycles and replace the classic structured step-by-step design.

Though design sprints have become very popular in the world of SW based products and apps, it seems that HW product development methods have been left behind which results in product design and development cycles that are still quite traditional and linear.

Having said that, the good news is that things are starting to change and the following 5 principles can help you to establish design sprints for HW products:

Frame your project

Making mistakes and iterations when you’re developing HW is very expensive, as opposed to software, once the tools are made for your product, it’s hard to roll back the clock and it will cause frustration, delays, and increase in cost.

There is a simple technique to avoid unnecessary mistakes; properly frame your project’s guardrails: cost, standards, size, usage, interface, component spec and anything that needs to be taken into consideration during the development. investing an extra day for planning will save you weeks in execution.

Use lots of references

Design creation is always made in context and rarely stands on its own. Examining the right reference can lead you to right technical solutions, a better understanding of the cost structure, exploring product assembly, and even finding the right CMF (color, material, finish) which not only saves time but give you a better understanding where you’re headed and what can be achieved.

Keep it simple

Dieter Rams, Braun legendary designer, on his 10th Principle for good design, said “Involves as little design as possible”

When possible, and if possible, try implementing simple forms: it’s not only fast and easy to explore but in most cases, it’s much better perceived by users, takes significantly less time to prepare for manufacturing and helps you to move forward much faster.

Off the shelf instead of R&D

Developing HW from scratch is a necessity in many cases, and when it is, it will definitely take a great deal of time but there are many cases though when you can rely on off-the-shelf components instead of developing your own, It should come into consideration especially when you want to reach the market fast. your Bill of material will probably end up much higher but development time can be minimized to almost zero, which is a big deal in this phase.

The 80/20 rule

Reid Hoffman said that If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late and this rule is even more relevant for HW.

You can’t launch an “Apple” product as your first one and there will be tons of compromise you’ll have to do. The only thing you need to care about is the value your product provides your users and the need you’re answering.
Everything else is just an enabler for this and can (and should) be improved in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th versions of the product.

HW design sprints can’t take a week as SW sprints do, but using the right methodology you can bring a product to a customer in a few weeks, validate it properly and move to mass production when you’re confident with your product/market fit.

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