Being involved in the entire product development process certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. I started out doing just conceptual ideation, with no thought of manufacturing when I entered the field. “Blue skying” was great, but it frustrated the hell out of the other disciplines in the development chain.
I changed into a fairly technical job where the design was as much problem solving, innovation, engineering, and manufacturng as it was the ideation and form end of the process. I became a “womb-to tomb” designer as the owner called me. I did the whole bit; ideation, concept justification prototyping, detail design, component design, tooling development, first article approvals, UL and othe regulatory listing, sourcing qualifications, intergration into manufacturing, market materials…you get the idea.
I’ve been through the whole thing and the good thing is… I know how to do it all. Most is really challenging, alot is really (really) boring, but it kicks butt seeing your product used all over the world, and knowing you really can really say you designed it. All of it.
The down side is… the ideation, sketching, and concept work becomes such a small part of the job. The bulk of the time is bringing the work to market. And you don’t get to develop as many products as you would like, because you spend so much time developing the concepts.
However, the experience you gain from doing all the facets makes you a valuable asset and gives you the ability to freelance almost any part of the process.
Plus, you can make a decent living doing it!
Overall, I’m really glad that I’m not just on the front end. The whole of the process is what I consider true design, though I know it’s not for everyone, and not everyone can be effective doing all aspects of the development process.