Every year it happens. Enthusiasts, industry professionals, and potential buyers flock to Geneva, Detroit, Frankfurt, and Tokyo. There’s excited anticipation as camera shutters fire in fast succession. A silk cloth is whisked away to unveil a new sculpture of painted metal, rubber, and glass. Auto shows are dazzling and concept cars are mesmerizing. They help forecast the future and give an optimistic look into what the industry could create. They’re also meant to generate momentum before a buyable car is available to the public. But, concept cars are rarely gospel.
Later, the production vehicle is released, bearing only a passing resemblance to the concept that fired up consumers. Disappointment abounds as once again design intent failed to withstand the tide of bureaucratic development.
Sound familiar? If this happens at your company, you may wonder how a great idea can get across the finish line without compromise?
Simply put, it can’t. Taking an iron stance against changes that occur during a development cycle is like holding back a tidal wave single-handedly. This is the real world. Manufacturability, cost limitations, timeline, and the availability of numerous other resources have to be addressed. But, even so, you can be a vigilant steward during the process.
It should be well understood that prototypes will never arrive on your desk without needing future revision. Since the design process can be evolutionary, the key is to pick your battles. Had that car manufacturer focused on preserving the alluring silhouette of the concept, rather than insisting that lesser components force a dramatic change to the exterior, the soul of the design might have made it to the road. And into the garages of a lot more drivers.
So, how do you navigate the process in a way that will avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater? First, allow your creative resources to advocate for the design intent throughout the development cycle. When vetting a possible design resource, take a look at a rendering that they used to drive the design effort, and compare it to the final outcome. Of course, the two will differ, but has the soul survived? Good designers and good design agencies will steer those alterations in a tasteful direction.
Grappling with the differences between “must-have” and “nice-to-have” criteria should be another crucial element in your marketing strategy. If every criterion you give your team is critical, the final design is more likely to be compromised. If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. By prioritizing your design missions, your customers will get the product they actually want.
Seek out solid design resources willing and able to help you preserve the soul of your design. It takes focus and discernment. In the end, your final unveiling will be as dramatic as your first.