Are Digital Designers and Developers Capable of Building a Physical Product?

You know it’s going to be interesting when a group of techies, all into digital product design and development decide to delve into a hardware startup.

Smart and Interactive Features

That’s what two of my friends and colleagues did when they thought it’d be a good idea to build a smart wall timer for a martial arts school. I joined the team as an advisor because of my life-long experience training and teaching martial arts.

The premise is simple: after playing around with the existing timers on the market, we realized there was a significant trade-off afoot. Most timers were capable of satisfying the basic needs but did not actually offer any smart and interactive features. In our age, this is an immediate red flag for disruption, innovation, re-design, and UX gratification.

Our journey (not yet finished) towards the ultimate gym wall timer revealed a whole bunch of misconceptions, biases, and scarcities that it made me wonder:

How detached digital designers and developers are from the physical world of production, and where this detachment stems from.

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Product Evolution or Branching

At some point, all products used to be physical. The tangibility of a product used to come in direct relation with its value. Fair enough, you can see what it takes to make good stuff. You’ve tried it and you know how hard it is.

Therefore, craftsmen have always been appreciated and never unemployed

At the same time, where there is a product, there is a service. Sometimes the service does not require a product, as the service itself can be as valuable as any product. If we do something, there is always someone who does it best and you don’t necessarily have to be ethical.

The product-service relationship has been going hand-in-hand ever since we first started producing things exceeding our own personal need for them. Selling the surplus becomes a great option, in that case, eventually edging out the first purpose and producing only for sale.


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