When you kickoff a new project with an industrial design studio, you want the peace of mind that comes with being confident that they understand these two things:
Your current state & the problem you're facing
Your desired state & what you hope to achieve by solving your problem
In order to gain an understanding of these two things, the design studio will need to ask you the right questions.
"Ask the right questions if you're to find the right answers."
Pay attention to the questions being asked. They give great insight into the studio's level of expertise and the care they have towards delivering not just a design, but a solution that produces the results you are after to reach your desired state.
Here is a checklist of the 14 questions your industrial design partner should be asking you at the start of every new project:
Learning About your Problem
1 - Will you give us a short overview of the problem you're facing?
2 - Why is this the problem you're looking to solve?
3 - Why are you tackling this problem now?
Learning About Your Project
Understanding Your Desired State:
4 - What would a successful outcome look like to you?
-How will you know if you are successful?
-How will you measure this success?
5 - Are you open to a range of solutions or are you narrowed in on a specific solution?
(The studio needs to know if you are willing to explore a variety of solutions to find the one with the most market/user value or if you need to stay within the bounds of one specific solution. For example, are you set on designing a scooter or are you willing to explore whichever mode of transportation satisfies your customer best?)
Understanding Your Solution:
6 - Where are you at now in the development process?
7 - Will you be able to share with us the knowledge and progress you've acquired thus far?
8 - Who is your target user?
-What problem are you wanting to solve for them?
-What evidence do you have that this is a problem worth solving?
-How old are they?
-Where do they live/use this solution?
-Do you have access to your users? (for research efforts)
9 - Who are your direct competitors?
-Where is there room for improvement?
-What do they do better?
-What is your competitive advantage in this market?
10 - What internal resources do you have to apply to this project?
(Your design team needs to know if you have internal marketing, research, design, or engineering resources that will be collaborating on this project. If not, you'll need a design team that can provide these disciplines.)
11 - Do you have production resources lined up?
(The earlier the better to build a relationship with the suppliers/manufacturers of your solution. If you do not already have these resources lined up, your design team can help source them.)
Understanding Your Timing
12 - How much time do we have for this project?
13 - Do you have any impending deadlines?
(Impending deadlines such as an upcoming trade show, investor presentation, or an internal meeting serve as key milestones to build the project's timeline around.)
Talking About Your Budget
14 - What is your budget?
(No, this question isn't meant to trick you. Your budget helps the design team understand the gravity of your project. It is important that money gets talked about early and openly to ensure expectations are aligned and no one's time is wasted.)
Upon choosing to team up with an industrial design studio, you'll be working together as partners. At the beginning of the project is when you need to get your new partner up to speed by sharing all of the knowledge you've gained thus far. If you find yourself unable to answer any of these questions about your target user or competitors, it is OK. It is the design firm's job to find the missing answers through research.
Your answers to these questions will provide your new industrial design partner with the information that they need to understand both your current and desired state. With this information, they'll be able to build a research proposal to illustrate their plan to get you from where you are now to your desired state.