In January 2015 we hosted a lively Google Hangout debate about what makes an invention stand out, which featured some of the UK’s most successful inventors.
The panel included the following:
- Mat Hunter, chief design officer, Design Council
- Mark Sheahan, inventor in residence at the British Library
- Claire Mitchell, inventor of Chillipeeps baby products
- Rob Law, inventor of Trunki ride-on suitcase
- Duncan Fitzsimons, inventor of the Morph Wheel, the world's first folding wheelchair wheel
- Emily Tulloh, product design student and inventor of the Summerbug trike
- Satwinder Samra, senior university teacher, Sheffield School of Architecture
- Freyja Sewell, product designer and creator of the HUSH pod
Now, in anticipation of our upcoming announcement of the Spark finalists, we’ve picked out five top tips that emerged from the discussion. Whether you’re at the first stages of conceiving an idea or have a fully-fledged prototype, this advice will help to ensure that your invention makes the maximum impact possible in a crowded market.
1. Passion is helpful but blind passion is harmful
Chillipeeps inventor Claire Mitchell particularly highlighted the fact that “passion is incredibly important in keeping you going.” Taking a product to market always takes longer than you think. Passion is what keeps you going when you experience difficulties in the process. Passion and faith in your idea will prove crucial in getting others on board, including investors.
However, blind passion can be dangerous and destructive as it might stop you taking valuable advice and listening to feedback – learning when to dial it down is just as important.
2. Check for market demand and do your research
As Rob Law, the inventor of the Trunki, said: “Your idea is your seed.”
Your idea is your seed.
Rob Law, Trunki inventor
However, the first test for it is to ask: does it address a need in the market?
Mark Sheahan, inventor in residence at the British Library, also emphasised that: “Too many inventors get caught up in their idea and are really protective of it. Because they don’t share it, they aren’t able to develop it.”
It’s important that you do market research and talk to your target market. Listen to their feedback to ascertain the genuine level of demand there is for your invention, not the level of demand that you perceive there is.
3. Try to design simply and elegantly
Attempt to instil a degree of elegance and simplicity into your initial concept as, moving forward, the manufacturing process will be made much easier for you. Duncan Fitzsimmons’ invention, the Morph Wheel, is a strong example of well-formed, simple and elegant design.
However, don’t insist upon sticking to the original idea and design for your product if it doesn’t seem to be working well. If you force the original idea you have through without any iteration, you will end up with a product that has manufacturing issues.
4. Understand the whole production process
It will help you immeasurably if you get to grips with the ins and outs of the entire production process early on. Rob Law said: “Make sure you understand the costs and timescales involved in protecting your intellectual property, tooling, manufacturing etc.” It is vital that you gain an awareness of the amount of funding you may need for your invention.
5. Build your brand presence
Use every social media platform available...before you launch.
Claire Mitchell, Chillipeeps inventor
Arguably the greatest fight you’ll have is getting your brand seen and known. Make sure you have a meaningful story to tell about your product.
Claire Mitchell advised that you “use every social media platform available to get your message out before you launch.” Don’t be afraid to continually alter and hone your approach according to what works and what doesn’t on different social media channels.
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