Trakker Design Blog

This blog will be the Trakker Design perspective on design and manufacturing. When we talk about design there are so many aspects that we imagine. Everything from the cosmetic styling of the product to the functional aspect of the parts and pieces that make it up. For the purposes of this blog questions about parts and pieces breaking or not breaking will live under the umbrella of part engineering. Design here will be the sum total of form, function, and experience of a product. This includes the looks, the materials the weight, and texture as well as the basic functional question - does the product work. For complex electronic products Design encompasses both the outside telling you about the inside of the product, but also the interface and accessibility of the great technology inside.

A visit to Panavise

posted Nov 1, 2012, 2:37 PM by Matthew Fisher   [ updated Apr 9, 2013, 2:09 PM ]

31 oct 12 - Reno NV -

In a recent meeting with Gary Richter and Tom Simpkins at Panavise in Reno, we talked about their views on design for their products. Panavise has been a manufacturer of unique work holding products for 57 years. Richter moved the company to Reno in 1990. They have lead the market for that time by following one core principle: "Listen to your customers, listen to your customers!" - GR

This process starts before a product idea is completely baked. From research and experience with previous products, you can generate a list of key features. then you are ready to "Design features in so you give [customers] more then they expected." This give a product a leadership position in its market space. 

"Provide a lifetime warranty so you get back everything that malfunctions" Panavise stands by their lifetime warranty. This makes them uniquely able to figure out why the product failed. Did the customer mis-use the product? Was there a defect? This is Constant improvement. The idea of continuous improvement was made popular by Toyota in the 1980s called Kaizen" it reefers to a daily process of taking the time to reflect on how

On design in general Richter is optimistic. The growth of the maker movement is key. It is a grass roots ground swell of people of all ages learning to build for themselves. For a while the skills to build products and gadgets for yourself were being lost. Due to issues in schools the shop classes disappeared. Wood shop and metal shop have been less and less available. When I went to Truckee High in 1980 only auto shop and wood shop remained but in the '60s there were, metal shop and electronics shop as well. The Maker Movement is turning that around. By making materials available over the 'net and by making video tutorials easy to access, people are teaching each other what the schools no longer do. This is where a generation of innovation will come from. Whether as the start of a design career or later in life as an entrepreneur this awareness of how we make things is essential to design.

"When you are green you grow and when you are ripe you rot. Keep listening to your customers and remain green and grow." Design is a constant process. Products have a life cycle and as the 21st century begins that life time is getting shorter. It is important to plan for improvements and innovations in a product line to keep ahead of the change curve. Panavise benefits from a product that essentially is what it does. For other products it is more difficult for the form to communicate the function. With electronic products where the physical form is mostly a container for the electronics we user subtle form ques to help a user know they can trust the product.

"Never claim you know it all or have all the answers. Cause you don't for more then an instant in time." Even at a very mature and experienced company like Panavise, they find new answers, and more important, new questions everyday. Designers are open to these out of the box issues and problems and see them as new opportunities for incremental improvements or whole new products. Panavise went from a tried and true vise maker to the go-to source for action video cameras by staying open to the customers needs. Many thanks to everyone at Panavise for sharing their insights with me.

Welcome to my Blog

posted Nov 1, 2012, 2:37 PM by Matthew Fisher

13 oct 12 - Reno NV - 
This bog will be the Trakker Design perspective on design and manufacturing. When we talk about design there are so many aspects that we imagine. Everything from the cosmetic styling of the product to the functional aspect of the parts and pieces that make it up. For the purposes of this blog questions about parts and pieces breaking or not breaking will live under the umbrella of part engineering. Design here will be the sum total of form, function, and experience of a product. This includes the looks, the materials the weight, and texture as well as the basic functional question - does the product work. For complex electronic products Design encompasses both the outside telling you about the inside of the product, but also the interface and accessibility of the great technology inside.


Because I am located in Northern Nevada there will be specific examples drawn from local companies and products. We will also address design in a broader context of questions and challenges I see and experience in my work as a product designer. My daily routine takes me to Asia, all across the USA and often to Europe with different clients and their products.


All the products we will talk about will be physical products. While I sometimes am involved in website design for a client. That is usually out of expedience rather than deep expertise. Physical products may be as simple as a one piece road reflector or as complex as the Volvo V1-V2 designs I contributed to. They contain the challenge of taking an inspired idea and bringing it form in a manufacturable end product. 


My background is very wide, with experiences from development projects in South Asia and travels in the region to living and working in Hong Kong and Tokyo. This leads me to a broad view of product design as an expression of  the many people who contribute to a product making it to market.  This holistic view is not common, but it leads me to many insights that might be otherwise missed.  The care and creativity of thousands of people go into every product we use and I honor all of them.  The things I have seen - A cobbler in Dhaka Bangladesh  carefully mending a sandal strap with both hands while holding the sandal in a vise like grip between his two big toes. A optical physicist energetically  explaining WDM [wavelength-division multiplexing]on a white board in Silicon Valley as his audience of engineers and business professionals became more and more confused.  A team of five workers in a China factory meticulously fine tuning the tiny race cars that would soon be found in a Happy Meal - shoot straight Lightning McQueen.  All these people are part of the design of a product if they know it or not.  They are important parts of  larger and larger processes that we all share in. The whole grand oneness that is our human world.

 

Oops I am getting ahead of myself. I want to start with the foundational questions of design  and why we need it.  Then we can circle back to the big stuff from time to time.

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