Design language development help/resources?

Yeah, this could be your ticket. Someone knew it needed to be done then, and they hired one of the best firms around to do it–so what’s changed? I think you’ve got a powerful argument that with the new molding technologies & capabilities, you need to revisit that project with HLB or another firm.

HLB was actually a bigger project than this one. At least we have something that defines colors and some features now that people generally hold true to. Before that, it really was every project looked different from the one before it. For that HLB project, we actually did go in and re-design many of our products that were already released so they all had a similar look and feel. But as time went on, some of the constraints put forth by HLB didn’t necessarily cover things forms in plastic and die cast parts. And then when we made Compact RIO, they decided that should be grey instead of white and blue like everything previous and now that color scheme has kind of taken a life on it’s own.

The person that decided about HLB is now out of the company. The need was much more then that it is now in my opinion. But our current language does not capture everything we do.

It really is amazing. HLB I think cost us about $400k or so for that effort. My pitch to the directors was much lower due to how I limited the scope of this project (only our new external boxes and no redesign of current products). The quote I got was about $150k for that. Drop in the bucket, right? What it comes down to is that in the test and measurement world, solid design and brand strength aren’t as valued as in other industries. Or at least that’s how it is perceived internally with a lot of people.

I really have been the most vocal person about how it should be considered more and try my hardest to prove that to them with the projects I work on. But it has generally been an uphill battle.

Hopefully if I do it their way - come up with a framework to narrow in the project and then hire a consultant to work with me in defining the language like they proposed - it will turn out OK and they will start realizing the value once they start hearing feedback and noticing sales increases.

Now, it’s just time to get things organized in such a way that says I’ve done it as far as my expertise can take it with a detailed statement of work for what I expect from the consultant. If I do that good enough, it should seem obvious that I’ve done as much as I can do and it really is time to hire someone.

But I am still looking for any and all tips/examples/resources to help me with the framework part of this exercise to make it so I have a more informed basis for what to include.

interesting to see how this proceeds. Would be a great case study for design + business if it does go ahead!

No doubt, however it is a big project and certainly not something I think you can skimp on without limiting results. From my perspective it’s something you either got to do all the way (redesign of existing products to be phased in), or not at all. From just a brief look through the product/brand it seems things are relatively consistent (esp. for the market where piles of grey generic boxes exist), and I’m sure the brand already does carry some weight. I don’t personally see to much problem with how things are, to be honest apart from an entire overhaul of everything which it sounds like would never happen (nor probably needs to).

Another approach to this could be to redesign one specific product from the ground up (as you have mentioned has been done with the RIO thing, and then use that as a template to move forward with, along with a phased plan to get everything else in line.

Either way, it’s a pretty big project I would imagine.

Guess my final comment would be if all this talk about redesign and design language is really necessary or if you are more just looking for a something to feel useful on. If design and branding aren’t that important in the industry, and you have a solid design aesthetic that works, a good brand, and are a leader in the industry, why spend 100’s of 1000’s of $$?

As for finding more info for a framework for your plans, aside from what has already been mentioned, I don’t think you’ll get too much here or elsewhere to be honest. It’s like asking for a framework of designing some electrical thingy. Too specialized and detailed to real discuss unless you know what you are doing or are paying for it.


This is the level of company that could seriously benefit from something a design firm doing a high level brand language, but unfortunately, many companies just don’t quite understand the potential value… sounds like someone from the IDSA should set up a seminar with the top brass there explaining what ID can do for them.

Your comment is probably in line with what the directors are thinking. We are a leader in the industry. Whatever we are doing isn’t broke, so why invest too much money into it. I suppose the biggest reason I see for this is not a complete overhaul of what we have. After all, it is working. But rather to focus on the products that use these external enclosures, like the white plastic USB device. I have had numerous feedback from sales force and customers that these things look like toys, look cheap, etc. I want to provide a new direction for our external boxes that does not get this kind of feedback, but rather gets the feedback like we do on Compact RIO’s mechanical design.

Personally, my experience as a mechanical engineer that has designed many products there, the more robust and nice I make my designs, the better feedback I get that this is the direction we should go. Unfortunately, there is precedent for lowering cost of the enclosure so much and just copying designs from one box to the next, that we are now getting this negative feedback. That’s what I hope to fix with this design language. Plus, we are also setting precedents now where engineers aren’t sticking to the White and Blue color scheme that we’ve had for so long. They like the cRIO dark metallic and gray colors and are using that instead. So we have this fragmentation occurring not based on any reason, but on personal preference. That’s not good.

And of course I’d like to feel useful on this as well. Design is something that I’m pretty passionate about (despite working for an electronics company) and I would love it if I can make an impact on something like this.

As far as the framework I’m looking for help on. I realize there are too many details to go into here to get useful feedback. I suppose just seeing examples of how others have done it or case studies would allow me to make a point of comparison and that, I believe, would help me in this goal since I can’t get a design consultant right up front.

It almost sounds like this could be a very intersting experiment for NI…an opportunity to increase profit margins through design. The creation of the “high end” product line of the same things.

Take one (some) of the exiting products that have “good enough” enclosures that feel cheap, etc. Upgrade everything in the pipeline on that system. Go to die cast enclosures and thicker plastic sub-structures, etc. to bring the quality feel up. Tie it all togther with a bump in one or two features that get left dangling. Price accordingly as the high end product and see what happens.

My guess is that you would eliminate many of the low-end product problems with a higher margin product.