The relationship between the electronics engineer and the industrial designer can critically impact the success of a project and the quality of a smart product. For those unfamiliar with creating products that require both of these teams or professionals, the assumption is that engineering solutions for a product are based on the physical and electronic functional needs, and IoT design solutions are based on the product’s’ aesthetics and external features. In fact, the two are far more intertwined, and reaching solutions which satisfy both the engineering and the designing aspects of the product require a certain amount of planning and organization.

Most potential disagreements occur when the engineer’s need – to supply the best electronic solution – is not in line with the designer’s approach to the looks and esthetics of the product. Here are a few aspects to take into consideration in order to help the teams work in better cooperation.

The smart product development flow

When working on an smart product, it’s important to understand the workflow and the process between the engineer and the industrial designer:

Smart product engineering and design - development flow

Size and implementation in a smart product

Whether the development process of your IoT product is based on an existing product or on a brand new one, the sizes and implementations of the electronic components can create challenges for the industrial designer. The reverse is also true: the design of the product may cause difficulties for the electronics engineer if the design team asks to reduce the sizes of components, lengthen wires, or some other changes.   

Location of Electronics 

The size of the product is not the only criteria which causes difficulties: The exact locations of the components in or on the product adds further challenge for engineers and designers. While the designer usually places the electronics based on the design needs, the engineers have restrictions that are usually based on the functional aspects. To lower the chances of disagreements between the teams, it is recommended consider in advance issues such as where to place the communication modules like antennas and readers; how to integrate the buttons, switches or any component which is required to be accessible to the user; and general descriptions for the locations of electronics in the product.  

Materials

Different materials have different characteristics in terms of electrical conductivity, heat conductivity, flammability, strength, elasticity and many other elements. All of these must be taken into consideration when choosing the materials for your product. These characteristics sometime create debates between the electrical engineering teams and the designers. For example, using a sheet of metal for the product can be appealing for the designer who wants to give the product a durable, refined look, but can be a problem for the engineers that need to place a wireless communication module, which cannot work inside a metal box. It is highly recommended to solve such issues as early in the process as possible.    

Standards of engineering and design

Both the designers and the engineers are subject to standards and regulations. While the designer and the material engineer are in charge of the quality of the material and the structure, the electrical engineer is in charge of the electrical circuit and the power supply. This may lead to necessary changes in either the design or the electric parts, and therefore teams should cooperate and plan in advance how the product is planned.   

Pricing

Many industries are extremely price-sensitive; therefore, you should ideally plan in advance the maximum amount you are willing to spend on production. In the IoT world this may be even more significant due to the fact that in addition to the price of the physical product, there electric components are also added to the manufacturing price of the product. This means that both the electrical engineer and the designer must be able to settle on prices. The engineer must find the best electrical solution and the designer, the best physical design, within a given budget.