Over the years we have developed and implemented work in convenience, shopping, speciality, and unsought industrial products. For each type of industrial product we’ve worked in various industries, such as manufacturing, technology, CPG, and sustainability. As a full-service industrial product design firm, we offer services in research, product design, industrial design, and service design. We also provide specialized services in product definition, technology roadmap creation, future concept creation, interface design, user research, usability testing, engineering verification, proof of concept prototyping, beta prototyping, intellectual property support, and more.

RKS is a forty-year old industrial design, innovation, development, and engineering firm. Our deep experience in designing industrial products can be seen around the world. As a full service firm, we can assist creating new industrial designs or improving existing ones, at all stages of a product’s life cycle. Among our key advantages is our own advanced psycho-aesthetic framework, psycho-aesthetics. We use this framework to solve complex problems that address design, engineering, brand, and regulatory issues. This framework has been taught at Harvard, and design schools around the United States. Our interdisciplinary specialists, researchers, designers, and engineers leverage this framework and their deep understanding of multiple industries and technologies to spark creative and innovative solutions.

Our Clients

Our Unique Advanced Design Thinking Process

Psycho Aesthetics (P/A) is our unique approach to design thinking. Over the decades spent developing and evolving P/A, it has continuously progressed into a highly advanced design-thinking tool and framework that allows designers to create shared objective, pragmatic, and insightful approaches to everything from research, design, and engineering, to UX, branding, name development, mission and vision statements, user interaction, and more. It provides an open design framework under which the key understandings of mapping onto a consistent framework combine with the creation of a “hero’s journey” for all stakeholders, from consumers to members of our own teams. P/A is a universal design tool and framework that is only limited by individuals’ openness to working within frameworks and their own talents. Combined with “design doing,” success is exponentially advanced when created through this framework.

Research Design

For industrial products, designers are usually not the consumers. We design our research so that we can form deep understandings of and create actionable insights around consumers’ behavior and psychological patterns. Our designers seek to understand every part of consumers’ lives, their needs, their aspirations, their challenges, how they work, how they live, how they play, and the interior and social architecture of their lives. The tools we utilize are often ethnography and observation, interviews, benchmarking, and competitive analyses, as well as evaluative methods such as human factors evaluation, simulation, and comparative testing.  This type of research design enables RKS to create long and lasting benefits that help consumers over many years. Ultimately, designs informed by user research are safer, easier to learn, and simpler to use.

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographies form a foundation for our advanced design thinking framework, psycho-aesthetics. Ethnographies are a qualitative method where we observe and interact with potential consumers in their real-life environments. As part of our ethnographies we routinely go into the field to observe consumers in a broad range of contexts from their homes to their hobbies. Sometimes we can’t be there physically, so we use current and emerging technology to gather and analyze data. Our team has years of experience designing, executing, and transferring data from our ethnographies to award-winning designs.

Industrial Product Strategy Design

Determining a strategy for a consumer device requires a holistic approach. We consider everything from our client’s priorities, to financial investment, to regulatory requirements, to market identification. In other words, we are not just looking at the product, but the entire UX with the product and the context. We identify the essential product features and balance those against both product cost and project schedule to come up with a product that meets the consumer’s requirements at a price that they are willing to pay. Our designers serve as consumer advocates, examining all the elements of the UX including everything from user manuals to product graphics, the UI, and servicing issues. To make the most cost-effective designs possible, we consider issues, such as what happens when this product is at the end of its life, what parts can be user replaceable, what parts are single-use, and how it is disassembled.

Idustrial Product Production Support

Industrial products have fewer regulatory and compliance issues than consumer ones. However they still often must meet health, safety, and environmental regulations such as TSCA, Prop 65, specific state programs for “chemicals of concern”, and REACH, CLP or RoHS in the EU. Because of their general appeal, industrial designs often come with consumer uses, which have specific regulatory frameworks. Even though a product might be primarily for industrial use, it may be considered a consumer product if it is customarily produced or distributed for sale to, or use or consumption by, or enjoyment of, a consumer. In the event the product does not meet the definition of an industrial product we make sure the product can meet CPSC product safety regulations, through CPSC certification. We consider all of these compliance and legal issues throughout the design process, so that the industrial products we design are in compliance with the relevant regulations and ready to be tested by the relevant agencies and third-party testing centers.

Production Design

Industrial products often demand lower tolerances, because they are used in high-velocity, high-pressure, and/or six-sigma environments. These environments require industrial designs that are durable, ergonomic, and efficient. To meet these needs and keep costs down, these designs are often crafted around existing mass production methods and techniques. Our design process accounts for both the demanding user requirements of industrial products and their demanding cost requirements. Our designers like understanding these issues from the beginning, making sure that our designs are able to be mass produced at a price that the market can absorb.

Designer insights

Designer insights are an important part of taking ideas through industrial design to production. A designer looks holistically at the issues trying to be solved and after brainstorming selects a few early directions. With the help of the client, the designer is able to understand the business needs combined with the user needs. These needs are often complementary, but they can also be divergent. The work of the designer is to bridge these gaps. In 2020, we carry years of expertise synthesizing diverse needs into coherent industrial designs and strategies that are wildly successful.

 

Our Unique Advanced Design Thinking Process

Psycho Aesthetics (P/A) is our unique approach to design thinking. Over the decades spent developing and evolving P/A, it has continuously progressed into a highly advanced design-thinking tool and framework that allows designers to create shared objective, pragmatic, and insightful approaches to everything from research, design, and engineering, to UX, branding, name development, mission and vision statements, user interaction, and more. It provides an open design framework under which the key understandings of mapping onto a consistent framework combine with the creation of a “hero’s journey” for all stakeholders, from consumers to members of our own teams. P/A is a universal design tool and framework that is only limited by individuals’ openness to working within frameworks and their own talents. Combined with “design doing,” success is exponentially advanced when created through this framework.

Research Design

For industrial products, designers are usually not the consumers. We design our research so that we can form deep understandings of and create actionable insights around consumers’ behavior and psychological patterns. Our designers seek to understand every part of consumers’ lives, their needs, their aspirations, their challenges, how they work, how they live, how they play, and the interior and social architecture of their lives. The tools we utilize are often ethnography and observation, interviews, benchmarking, and competitive analyses, as well as evaluative methods such as human factors evaluation, simulation, and comparative testing.  This type of research design enables RKS to create long and lasting benefits that help consumers over many years. Ultimately, designs informed by user research are safer, easier to learn, and simpler to use.

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographies form a foundation for our advanced design thinking framework, psycho-aesthetics. Ethnographies are a qualitative method where we observe and interact with potential consumers in their real-life environments. As part of our ethnographies we routinely go into the field to observe consumers in a broad range of contexts from their homes to their hobbies. Sometimes we can’t be there physically, so we use current and emerging technology to gather and analyze data. Our team has years of experience designing, executing, and transferring data from our ethnographies to award-winning designs.

Industrial Product Strategy Design

Determining a strategy for a consumer device requires a holistic approach. We consider everything from our client’s priorities, to financial investment, to regulatory requirements, to market identification. In other words, we are not just looking at the product, but the entire UX with the product and the context. We identify the essential product features and balance those against both product cost and project schedule to come up with a product that meets the consumer’s requirements at a price that they are willing to pay. Our designers serve as consumer advocates, examining all the elements of the UX including everything from user manuals to product graphics, the UI, and servicing issues. To make the most cost-effective designs possible, we consider issues, such as what happens when this product is at the end of its life, what parts can be user replaceable, what parts are single-use, and how it is disassembled.

Idustrial Product Production Support

Industrial products have fewer regulatory and compliance issues than consumer ones. However they still often must meet health, safety, and environmental regulations such as TSCA, Prop 65, specific state programs for “chemicals of concern”, and REACH, CLP or RoHS in the EU. Because of their general appeal, industrial designs often come with consumer uses, which have specific regulatory frameworks. Even though a product might be primarily for industrial use, it may be considered a consumer product if it is customarily produced or distributed for sale to, or use or consumption by, or enjoyment of, a consumer. In the event the product does not meet the definition of an industrial product we make sure the product can meet CPSC product safety regulations, through CPSC certification. We consider all of these compliance and legal issues throughout the design process, so that the industrial products we design are in compliance with the relevant regulations and ready to be tested by the relevant agencies and third-party testing centers.

Production Design

Industrial products often demand lower tolerances, because they are used in high-velocity, high-pressure, and/or six-sigma environments. These environments require industrial designs that are durable, ergonomic, and efficient. To meet these needs and keep costs down, these designs are often crafted around existing mass production methods and techniques. Our design process accounts for both the demanding user requirements of industrial products and their demanding cost requirements. Our designers like understanding these issues from the beginning, making sure that our designs are able to be mass produced at a price that the market can absorb.

Designer insights

Designer insights are an important part of taking ideas through industrial design to production. A designer looks holistically at the issues trying to be solved and after brainstorming selects a few early directions. With the help of the client, the designer is able to understand the business needs combined with the user needs. These needs are often complementary, but they can also be divergent. The work of the designer is to bridge these gaps. In 2020, we carry years of expertise synthesizing diverse needs into coherent industrial designs and strategies that are wildly successful.

RKS designed used form labs printer to prototype

Industrial Design

We prioritize functional industrial design that emphasizes intuitive creativity and calculated scientific decision-making. We think it’s our responsibility to create impactful products that define their markets and industries. As a result, we’ve created a highly-collaborative creative environment that helps our designers find best-in-class solutions that combine the best in form and function. In defining industrial product design we take a holistic approach and consider usability, physical ergonomics, marketing, brand development, sustainability, and sales. We begin by using our psycho-aesthetics framework to understand the critical needs of our users and determine the areas where we can create the most value.

Industrial Product Definition and Product Design

Our product definition and design framework uses our unique psycho-aesthetic approach, which aims to create emotional connections between the device and consumers. To this end, we ask now how a product makes a consumer feel, but how a product makes a consumer feel about themselves. In the case of industrial design this often means making workers feel safe and effective in their jobs. Good designs will enable processes to be completed with similar or less risk and faster than before. Our designers consider not only the aesthetic aspects of a product, its specific shape, its color, but also how it feels.

Engineering and Verification

Industrial products pose unique challenges that require deep engineering know-how. Our design and engineering teams have years of experience creating industrial designs. Often these designs rely on complex mechanical and electromechanical systems with low tolerances, as well as new materials or existing materials being for new purposes. Using the latest in AR/VR and CAD-based tools, our team of designer engineers identify and solve these complex issues early on. This makes all the difference, decreasing overall time to proof of concept, prototyping and eventual production.

Technology Roadmap

The technology roadmap development creates our framework for our technologies. The roadmapping is conducted in three phases: preliminary activities, the development of the roadmap, and the follow-up activities phase. In the preliminary stage, we satisfy essential requirements, assign leadership, and define the scope and boundaries under the initial vision. In the second phase, the development phase we identify the critical system requirements, the major technology areas, the technology drivers and their targets, and the alternatives. In the final phase, we allow our roadmap to be critiqued and improved before implementation. This unique process assures that we focus on cost-advantageous technologies that deliver remarkable results.

Proof of Concept

Our proof of concept method enables our team to share internal knowledge, explore emerging technologies on the technology roadmap, and provide a tangible concept. By its nature a proof of concept (POC) is a small exercise to test the design idea, an assumption, or a technology. The main purpose of developing a POC is to demonstrate the basic functionality of our design and to verify a certain concept or theory that can be achieved in development. Included in this can be a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) to ensure that the industrial product meets the safety standards put in place by various governing bodies, such as the FDA, CSA, CE, and UL.

Beta Prototyping

Beta Prototyping is a quick and effective way of bringing a proof of concept to life and allows potential consumers to evaluate, test and share their feedback. We can use this feedback to make improvements to the design and functionality of the product. Internally, beta prototyping helps our team create a more accurate estimate of how long it will take to complete a production model. Because our human-centered design framework focuses on the consumer, prototyping is one of the most useful activities for moving forward into production, while quickly finding any issues. Like proof of concept, it’s another way to validate the direction of our designs and engineering work, the time spent by our designers, but with greater precision.

Future Concept Development

After designing a proof of concept and producing a prototype, we roadmap future features, technologies, and products. Future concept development engages the dynamic environment of future technologies, global trends, changing markets, and user needs. Future concepts can include simple requirements or additional proof of concepts and prototypes. This part of the process often depends on the needs of the client, and the specific type of device. Over time, future concept development can help a company move with the market in shorter amounts of time than before.

Intellectual Property Support

After designing a proof of concept and producing a prototype, we roadmap future features, technologies, and products. Future concept development engages the dynamic environment of future technologies, global trends, changing markets, and user needs. Future concepts can include simple requirements or additional proof of concepts and prototypes. This part of the process often depends on the needs of the client, and the specific type of device. Over time, future concept development can help a company move with the market in shorter amounts of time than before.

Industrial Design

We prioritize functional industrial design that emphasizes intuitive creativity and calculated scientific decision-making. We think it’s our responsibility to create impactful products that define their markets and industries. As a result, we’ve created a highly-collaborative creative environment that helps our designers find best-in-class solutions that combine the best in form and function. In defining industrial product design we take a holistic approach and consider usability, physical ergonomics, marketing, brand development, sustainability, and sales. We begin by using our psycho-aesthetics framework to understand the critical needs of our users and determine the areas where we can create the most value.

Industrial Product Definition and Product Design

Our product definition and design framework uses our unique psycho-aesthetic approach, which aims to create emotional connections between the device and consumers. To this end, we ask now how a product makes a consumer feel, but how a product makes a consumer feel about themselves. In the case of industrial design this often means making workers feel safe and effective in their jobs. Good designs will enable processes to be completed with similar or less risk and faster than before. Our designers consider not only the aesthetic aspects of a product, its specific shape, its color, but also how it feels.

Engineering and Verification

Industrial products pose unique challenges that require deep engineering know-how. Our design and engineering teams have years of experience creating industrial designs. Often these designs rely on complex mechanical and electromechanical systems with low tolerances, as well as new materials or existing materials being for new purposes. Using the latest in AR/VR and CAD-based tools, our team of designer engineers identify and solve these complex issues early on. This makes all the difference, decreasing overall time to proof of concept, prototyping and eventual production.

Technology Roadmap

The technology roadmap development creates our framework for our technologies. The roadmapping is conducted in three phases: preliminary activities, the development of the roadmap, and the follow-up activities phase. In the preliminary stage, we satisfy essential requirements, assign leadership, and define the scope and boundaries under the initial vision. In the second phase, the development phase we identify the critical system requirements, the major technology areas, the technology drivers and their targets, and the alternatives. In the final phase, we allow our roadmap to be critiqued and improved before implementation. This unique process assures that we focus on cost-advantageous technologies that deliver remarkable results.

Proof of Concept

Our proof of concept method enables our team to share internal knowledge, explore emerging technologies on the technology roadmap, and provide a tangible concept. By its nature a proof of concept (POC) is a small exercise to test the design idea, an assumption, or a technology. The main purpose of developing a POC is to demonstrate the basic functionality of our design and to verify a certain concept or theory that can be achieved in development. Included in this can be a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) to ensure that the industrial product meets the safety standards put in place by various governing bodies, such as the FDA, CSA, CE, and UL.

Beta Prototyping

Beta Prototyping is a quick and effective way of bringing a proof of concept to life and allows potential consumers to evaluate, test and share their feedback. We can use this feedback to make improvements to the design and functionality of the product. Internally, beta prototyping helps our team create a more accurate estimate of how long it will take to complete a production model. Because our human-centered design framework focuses on the consumer, prototyping is one of the most useful activities for moving forward into production, while quickly finding any issues. Like proof of concept, it’s another way to validate the direction of our designs and engineering work, the time spent by our designers, but with greater precision.

Future Concept Development

After designing a proof of concept and producing a prototype, we roadmap future features, technologies, and products. Future concept development engages the dynamic environment of future technologies, global trends, changing markets, and user needs. Future concepts can include simple requirements or additional proof of concepts and prototypes. This part of the process often depends on the needs of the client, and the specific type of device. Over time, future concept development can help a company move with the market in shorter amounts of time than before.

Intellectual Property Support

After designing a proof of concept and producing a prototype, we roadmap future features, technologies, and products. Future concept development engages the dynamic environment of future technologies, global trends, changing markets, and user needs. Future concepts can include simple requirements or additional proof of concepts and prototypes. This part of the process often depends on the needs of the client, and the specific type of device. Over time, future concept development can help a company move with the market in shorter amounts of time than before.

Human-Centered Design

The experience of a product is a combination of the industrial design, UI, and branding into a compelling UX. This UX must often comply with regulatory guidance, while providing an excellent UX and UI. During all stages of our design and engineering we apply usability testing we apply formative testing, Human Factors Validation Testing, and Usability Engineering for Risk Management.

Usability & Engineering

Industrial product designers must conduct human factors validation testing to demonstrate that the intended users of a device can use the product to perform the intended uses in the intended use environment.  Otherwise known as usability engineering, the goal of these requirements are to ensure that the device has been optimized to eliminate, or reduce to the furthest extent possible, errors that could cause harm. We conduct formative studies on product prototypes with representative users to answer design questions, identify strengths, probe for weaknesses, and detect potential errors that may occur while using a product. We also work with consumer device manufacturers to craft our testing around risk analyses that identify the risks associated with device use and the KPIs that have been chosen to reduce those risks.

UX Design

User experience (UX) defines a great industrial product. Three ways that this UX can be measured is performance, accuracy, and usability. To perform industrial products must meet the basic needs of consumers, while solving pain points and creating a solution that is multiples better than existing solutions. Accurate industrial designs apply clear specifications that can be used in manufacture to create a consistent UX. The difference between usable products and unusable ones is whether they are instantly familiar to consumers. In order for these higher standards to be met, the UX of industrial designs must be considered from research, through design, development, and on to manufacturing. Our designers consider all aspects of the product from, it’s physical dimensions, technical limitations.

UI Design

User interface (UI) along with industrial design are the touchpoints for any industrial product . Great industrial designs meet consumer needs, through a simple and efficient UI. We use human-centered design to think through different use cases, consumer reactions, and consumer context to deliver UIs that are simple and efficient. We also follow the four golden rules of UI design; we place users in control of the interface, we make it comfortable to interact with a product, we reduce cognitive load, and we make UIs consistent. We consider the UI throughout, in order to make sure that the industrial design and UI ultimately combine into a compelling UX that makes consumers their own “hero”.

Brand Design

A brand defines the emotional connection between a product and a consumer through how the design makes the consumer feel about themself. For new industrial products, which often compete in crowded competitive environments, it is absolutely essential to have a memorable brand identity. A memorable brand creates a foundation for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition in the market, attract investors and partners, set guardrails for marketing, and charge based on the value the brand provides. Many designs over simply creating a brand means to just a logo and color scheme, typography, and icon set. However, we know that creating a winning brand means conducting a multi-phase interaction of business analysis, audience analysis, brand positioning, creative and messaging, implementation, and maintenance and measurement.

Digital Development

New industrial products blend the latest in software and hardware into a unified solution.  Since Marc Andreesen declared that software was eating the world, technology has continued to evolve and industrial products often sit at the intersection of hardware and software. We continue to develop our deep experience using the latest tools and technologies such as augmented reality SDKs, AI based facial tracking and body tracking/scanning, natural language processing with Amazon Lex, blockchain technologies including smart contracts, decentralized security and privacy frameworks, machine machine learning algorithms and deep learning with TensorFlow and sci-kit, video and image processing, on-device hardware integration, IoT and beacon technologies, and 3D imaging using OpenGL.

Human-Centered Design

The experience of a product is a combination of the industrial design, UI, and branding into a compelling UX. This UX must often comply with regulatory guidance, while providing an excellent UX and UI. During all stages of our design and engineering we apply usability testing we apply formative testing, Human Factors Validation Testing, and Usability Engineering for Risk Management.

Usability & Engineering

Industrial product designers must conduct human factors validation testing to demonstrate that the intended users of a device can use the product to perform the intended uses in the intended use environment.  Otherwise known as usability engineering, the goal of these requirements are to ensure that the device has been optimized to eliminate, or reduce to the furthest extent possible, errors that could cause harm. We conduct formative studies on product prototypes with representative users to answer design questions, identify strengths, probe for weaknesses, and detect potential errors that may occur while using a product. We also work with consumer device manufacturers to craft our testing around risk analyses that identify the risks associated with device use and the KPIs that have been chosen to reduce those risks.

UX Design

User experience (UX) defines a great industrial product. Three ways that this UX can be measured is performance, accuracy, and usability. To perform industrial products must meet the basic needs of consumers, while solving pain points and creating a solution that is multiples better than existing solutions. Accurate industrial designs apply clear specifications that can be used in manufacture to create a consistent UX. The difference between usable products and unusable ones is whether they are instantly familiar to consumers. In order for these higher standards to be met, the UX of industrial designs must be considered from research, through design, development, and on to manufacturing. Our designers consider all aspects of the product from, it’s physical dimensions, technical limitations.

UI Design

User interface (UI) along with industrial design are the touchpoints for any industrial product . Great industrial designs meet consumer needs, through a simple and efficient UI. We use human-centered design to think through different use cases, consumer reactions, and consumer context to deliver UIs that are simple and efficient. We also follow the four golden rules of UI design; we place users in control of the interface, we make it comfortable to interact with a product, we reduce cognitive load, and we make UIs consistent. We consider the UI throughout, in order to make sure that the industrial design and UI ultimately combine into a compelling UX that makes consumers their own “hero”.

Brand Design

A brand defines the emotional connection between a product and a consumer through how the design makes the consumer feel about themself. For new industrial products, which often compete in crowded competitive environments, it is absolutely essential to have a memorable brand identity. A memorable brand creates a foundation for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition in the market, attract investors and partners, set guardrails for marketing, and charge based on the value the brand provides. Many designs over simply creating a brand means to just a logo and color scheme, typography, and icon set. However, we know that creating a winning brand means conducting a multi-phase interaction of business analysis, audience analysis, brand positioning, creative and messaging, implementation, and maintenance and measurement.

Digital Development

New industrial products blend the latest in software and hardware into a unified solution.  Since Marc Andreesen declared that software was eating the world, technology has continued to evolve and industrial products often sit at the intersection of hardware and software. We continue to develop our deep experience using the latest tools and technologies such as augmented reality SDKs, AI based facial tracking and body tracking/scanning, natural language processing with Amazon Lex, blockchain technologies including smart contracts, decentralized security and privacy frameworks, machine machine learning algorithms and deep learning with TensorFlow and sci-kit, video and image processing, on-device hardware integration, IoT and beacon technologies, and 3D imaging using OpenGL.