“How is this produced? What kind of material is it? How do the several elements fit together? How does this piece rotate?”. All these questions are normal in the industrial design process.

If we design products we must know how they will be produced, in which materials and how they will behave within the production line. This is a fact. But with so many different materials, with so many different manufacturing processes, with so many possible technical solutions, the learning curve is huge and time-consuming.

So, where do we find useful information on this?

Books help and so do videos, talking to experts are fundamental and visiting factories are essencial. But there is no better way to understand how a product is made than the reverse engineering that we can do with our eyes and hands to existing products. The knowledge we gain by analyzing a physical product is huge.

At INNGAGE we have a routine that we like to call a tool: “lost in the supermarket”. It’s the attitude of going outside, see, touch, smell and test, all products that are close to what we are working on, and that may give us clues on materials, fittings, production processes, moulds, and so on. When crossing the information with the product we are working on, we end up with a more solid and feasible solution. What does a soap dish has to do with an iPad cover? Perhaps nothing or probably everything!

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It’s amazing what you learn by analyzing a plastic box, by dismantling a toy or by opening an alarm clock. That is why it is not strange to find at INNGAGE naval battle games, plastic egg boxes, silicone pans, and others. It doesn’t mean we are designing any of these products, it means that we are learning a lot from them.

Here’s the advice: Set a monthly budget (e.g. 20€), head over to a supermarket and buy as many products as you can, betting on the variety (plastics, wood, silicone, electronic, and so on). Open them, analyze them, learn and keep them for future reference.

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Welcome to “Lost in the Supermarket”!