Insights, Dispensed

How to know what’s right for your brand: industrial or integrated design firm?

Industrial versus Integrated Design firms, which is right for your brand?

Innovative product design is one of the best ways for a brand to differentiate itself from competition, especially as store shelves get increasingly crowded. This need can be felt more urgently if sales have been lagging, target consumer demographics have changed, or a competitor has increased its market share.

Getting outside design counsel can be tremendously helpful when it comes to identifying a new design. There are two common options for companies: industrial design firms, which specialize in the design phase of a new or updated product, and integrated package design companies, which offer design capabilities, but also include those services necessary, like manufacturing, to see the product development through production.

Without question, industrial design firms can offer incredibly unique design ideas that a brand hasn’t considered before. But as many CPG companies know, translating an out-of-the-box idea into a product ready for mass production is no small feat. There are a number of considerations that must be made beyond the design phase that factor into the end decision including production time and cost, production efficiency, and of course, consumer wants and needs.

When launching a new or redesigned product, here are some signs working with an integrated design firm may be the better move for you.

Your brand is looking for a range of options

Industrial design firms tend to specialize in compelling design, which shouldn’t be surprising – it’s kind of their thing. If you’re solely looking for envelope-pushing design options, then look no further than an industrial firm. Integrated firms, on the other hand, often are more attuned to challenges seen during engineering or production phases, and as such, also will offer design options rooted more in reality, so to speak.

Should you go the integrated route, it’s best to consider the size and experience of the company’s design department. Given all the other functions they house, some departments may only be a few people who offer designs specifically tailored for manufacturing. Others, like Silgan, have a department the size of some industrial design firms, and similarly, can offer inventive designs as well as practical ones.

You need to be time and budget conscious

The key differences between “eye-catching” and “practical” design options, usually, are how much budget and time a company has to see the product to market. It’s not that the former are impossible to turn into viable products. It’s that they normally take more rounds of prototyping and testing, which can be difficult to plan for when developing initial budgets and timelines. Given integrated design firms’ experience in shepherding products from the design to production, they also are more adept at offering accurate time and budget recommendations for the more “adventurous” designs.

You’re looking for broader insight in the design phase

For the same reason, integrated firms also incorporate their company’s experience on the sales and production side into their design approach. They have a better understanding of what design attributes will resonate with consumers or allow for a more cost-efficient production process – particularly if they have their own manufacturing plants. These insights help brands deliver products more likely to have fewer production delays and more closely aligned with consumers’ needs and interests at the time of launch.

Depending on your company’s needs, both types of design firms certainly have their merits. But if you have budget or timeline concerns, or need a greater sense of practicality woven into your product’s design, you might want to consider an integrated design firm.


Want to learn more about our product design process? Take a look at these related posts.

The Psychology Behind Product Design
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