The 7 phases of my product development process and how you can apply them too

By August 23, 2019 September 26th, 2019 Design, Inspiration

It’s always fascinating to see how a product comes together. Let it be a physical or digital product, the way it slowly manifests from a bare idea to a real-life thing that people can buy and use always mesmerized me. But I hardly thought that one day I’m going to share my own product development process. 

And here we go. I hope this post will inspire you, and you’ll see the thoughts and work that goes into my Brand Builder Collections. 

WHAT IS A BRAND BUILDER COLLECTION?

But first, what is the product itself? What is a Brand Builder Collection? 

Brand Builder Collection is a bundle of branding & design products that help entrepreneurs create consistent visual content without the need of a graphic designer. 

Sounds weird, ey? I mean, I’m a designer so why the hack would I promote a tool that leads to less contracts for me? 

First of all, I believe that even if you are a new entrepreneur who works in the evening from her kitchen table with a very low budget, you deserve a professional look. Some people try to achieve this by finding a designer and paying hundreds – or more like thousands. Others decide to go on their own and build their first logo, website, social media profile images and webinar slides themselves. 

The Brand Builder Collection aims to help this latter group.  

Most of the design tools that you can find only don’t work well together. You might find a font that you love from one designer, a stock photo package from another and a logo clipart from a third creator. But what guaranties that they fit well together?  

Nothing. So then comes the headache to force everything together. 

In the Brand Builder Collections that I build, products work as a system. One Collection is like the HEMNES products from IKEA. You can get a HEMNES bed first, then when you’re ready to decorate your kitchen, you can get a HEMNES cupboard and a HEMNES dining table. Everything fits well together. 

Similarly, you can get a Logo Creator Kit from my Botanica Collection to make your logo, then add the Botanica Pinterest & Blog Templates to create blog promo images in a complementing style. 

Moreover, you can change the colors easily so that everything fits your values and message. 

PHASE #1 – INSPIRATION  

Interestingly the most time-consuming part of my product development process is the very beginning when I collect inspiration. This can take weeks, sometimes even months. 

I have 3 favorite ways to collect inspiration for the style of my Brand Builder Collections: 

PINTEREST 

The easiest way is to go on Pinterest. I always create a secret Pinterest board for my Brand Builder Collections. Here I collect photos from all over the internet. But not just design related inspiration. Sometimes a pattern on a dress, or an interesting color combination in an interior design photo gives me fresh ideas. 

So if you’re planning to create your first product, feel free to step out from your niche and check unrelated industries too! 

Here are some of the thing I collected for the Botanica Brand Builder Collection: 

NATURE  

My second inspiration source is a bit more time-consuming but very rewarding indeed. When the weather permits, I spend lots of time outside and take photos of all the wonderful textures, shapes and colors that Mother Nature shares with us each day. 

Also, whenever I’m abroad, I take photos of plants and nature scenes that are not available back in Canada.  

My Botanica Brand Builder Collection was based hugely on photos I took while I was in Madeira, Portugal. The garden of the hotel was in full bloom that time and gifted me with flowers and colors I haven’t seen before. 

Even if you can’t afford travelling right now, you have many choices to pull inspiration from nature. You can rediscover your own garden, town, nearby parks or go to flower shows, botanical gardens or exhibitions. 

MY FAVORITE SHOPS 

Last but not least, packaging and physical products also inspire my work. Whenever I feel stuck, I go on window-shopping my favorite craft and home décor stores. My favorite places to visit: 

  • Indigo Canadian bookstore and home décor boutique 
  • Antropologie – especially their home décor section
    • Michaels – the scrapbooking papers are a big hit for me. Surface designer’s work is full of graphic ideas I can explore 
    • David’s Tea – their tea packaging has the lovelies color combinations 
    • West Elm – I used to live right next to one and liked to visit it to get some hipster-living insight 
    • Home Sense – this Canadian store is a must-have destination if you’re here. Not just for the insane discounts but for the variety of home-décor items from small to well-known brands.  
    • Main street boutiques – here, I refer to those tiny, cutest in the world mom & pop shops that you can find in small town main streets. In fact, I’m just sitting in a shop like that right now on Newmarket Main street, called Haven. It’s a coffeeshop and vintage-retro boutique in one beautiful combination. 

Lesson for you: go and explore without the urge of buying. Look at packaging, objects, fabrics, even the store decoration with fresh eyes and see what you can infuse in your work. 

SUMMARIZING ON A MOOD BOARD 

I close this phase by creating a mood board of the most significant inspiration elements I collected. You can read more about my mood board creation process in these previous posts: 

PHASE #2 – SKETCHING

This is a non-negotiable step in my product development phase. I tried to leave it out in the past to save time, but I always ended up losing time at the end. 

No matter if it’s a logo creator kit or a social media template set, each of the elements in my Brand Builder Collections start on paper first. 

I like to use the dotted papers in my Leuchtturm1917 notebook because it gives me enough freedom to sketch organic shapes (like abstract flowers) but still makes it easy to draw straight lines for my template design sketches – I’m too perfectionist when it comes to straight hand-drawn lines… 

Lesson for you: Start on paper and don’t stress about the “artistic quality”. These sketches don’t have to be perfect at all, but they have to summarize your ideas so that you can work more efficiently later. 

PHASE #3 – FINDING THE RIGHT RESOURCES 

Now that I have a palpable idea of what exactly I want to create, it’s time to find fitting graphic assets. These are usually fonts, colors, stock photos, textures and Photoshop or Illustrator add-ons (for example brushes). I’m going to list my absolute go-to destinations for these resources.  

FONTS: 

Google Fonts: this is my safest bet for commercially free fonts

Pixel Surplus: this website has amazing handwritten fonts and most of them are also commercially free

DesignCuts: they have the most amazing font bundles – although I rarely can use them in my products because my Brand Builder Collections require free fonts (to make it more budget friendly for the customers). I still like to go here, find a font I love and then look for similar free options on the above sites 

COLOR COMBINATIONS 

In most cases, I pull my initial color combination from my mood board. But sometimes I like to check these sites and Instagram account for even better combos: 

STOCK PHOTOS 

In most cases I use free stock photos from Unsplash because I want my customer to be able to recreate the exact style if she wants. 

For the presentation of my products (more on this in Phase #6) I use the absolutely stunning photos from my Social Squares subscription. 

TEXTURES, PLUGINS & ALL THE REST 

For all the rest of the graphic assets I use, my most trusted places to visit are:  

Lesson for you: have everything prepared before you sit down and create the final product. This will help you “stay in the flow” longer and create faster. 

PHASE #4 – ILLUSTRATOR

I have my sketch to guide me, I have the graphic assets to use, now it’s time to put it together. This is when the magic happens, and the idea becomes reality. 

I chose Illustrator as the main design tool behind everything I create (yes, even products that will be used in different apps later on, like my PowerPoint templates). With 10+ years of experience with Illustrator, this is my ultimate comfort zone. I know every bits of this tool, so whenever I open it, it feels like settling into the most comfortable chair in the world. There’s little to disturb my creative flow. 

Lesson for you: When you create your own product it’s important to dedicate time and determination on learning to use your tools. It might feel difficult at the beginning but just in a year you’ll see how much benefit you gain from it.  

Also, take care of these tools so they serve you long. If it’s your sewing machine, your brushes or a software on your laptop, make sure that they are always in the best shape and ready for work. 

PHASE #5 – POSTPRODUCTION 

This is when the not so fun parts begin. At least not so fun for me. As I create in Illustrator, but my customers hardly know to use this tool I have to convert my design into different applications. 

  • Logo and branding kits end up in Photoshop – a cheaper and better-known design tool. 

  • Social media templates get transferred into Photoshop or Canva 

  • Presentation / webinar slide templates go to PowerPoint and Keynote 

  • Workbook templates end up in Word and Pages 

  • Etc. 

My main goal is to find the easiest to use and most affordable tool for each type of products and transfer my Illustrator design into that format. 

Luckily, I’m not on my own in this phase as my friend and sub-contractor designer, Anita helps me too.  

After everything ends up in its final form, I double check the files. Name every layer consistently and organize the file structure so the customer can find everything easily. 

Lesson for you: if there’s a task that’s very repetitive, or easily outsourceable, find someone to do it instead of you. Not just because you’ll have time for something else but because that other person might be much better in that phase than you.  

I know from experience that these “boring” steps took my friend less time, and she enjoys them more than me. 

PHASE #6 – TUTORIALS & SUPPORT 

The product is ready to be uploaded to my web shop. What’s next then? 

I want my customers to be able to bring the best out of the products so in the next phase, me and my VA create tutorial videos about the product and a PDF guide that links to all the fonts, stock photos I used in the product. This is a step that many Creative Market seller ignores, so I try to put an extra emphasise on it. 

Lesson for you: what extra piece can you add to your product, so it becomes easier for your customers to use it? 

PHASE #7 – “SUGAR-COATING” & MARKETING 

My engineer friends used to joke with me that design is just “sugar-coating” something and the real benefit comes from the engineering of a product. While I agree somewhat – a nice design without functionality isn’t really useful – I also know that this “sugar-coating” is what actually sells a product. 

Would you buy an iPhone if it looked uglyWould you buy it if it was presented in a Walmart environment next to a bag of sugar and baking soda? I don’t think so. 

In my product development process, “sugar-coating” means all the steps that I need to take to bring the product in front of my customers. This requires some extra design tasks and a truckload of marketing steps: 

  • Creating stunning images highlighting the product and its features. These images will be uploaded to Creative Market and will help me in my marketing strategy too. 
  • Writing the sales copy
  • Uploading promotional images to my portfolio, Behance and Dribbble 
  • Write and schedule promotional newsletters 
  • Design, write and schedule social media promotions (mostly for Pinterest)

Lesson for you: even if your product is ready, don’t forget about the next steps: 

  • How and where are you going to present it 
  • How and where are you going to promote it 

These steps are a whole big journey on their own, so I don’t go in more details. Instead, expect that I’m going to share my promotion process in a similar blog post in the next weeks. 

NOW GO & CREATE! 

So this is it. 7 phases, tons of work, but work that brings me and my customers joy. 

I hope my product development process inspired you to create your own digital or physical product – and to figure out your creative process. 

If you are interested to see the products from this blog post, don’t hesitate to hop on my web shop and check them out.  

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