Design Mind: Santiago Prieto and his Iterative Design Process

We caught the great photo below illustrating Santiago Prieto’s iterative design process on twitter a few weeks ago and immediately reached out. He was generous enough to share his practical and inspiring design process with us. His initial sketches (above), are only the beginning of the Sunny Day Supplies & Co story.

“[Our business] is our lemonade stand. Mostly to gain entrepreneurial muscles and work together. And we’re having a blast trying it out.” – Santiago Prieto 

Shapeways is an amazing platform and it allows me to easily experiment outside the day job. Normally you can find me creating stuff for big companies at a design firm called IDEO. Recently though, for the last year my wife Alexis and I have been dabbling at designing and selling products on the side with Sunny Day Supplies & Co. It’s our lemonade stand. Mostly to gain entrepreneurial muscles and work together. And we’re having a blast trying it out.

Early on we decided we would only sell objects we could make with low effort and that we would feel proud using ourselves. This creates an interesting tension, or a challenge. Provide high quality goods that people cherish and keep our day jobs? We’re determined to try different methods and in no rush to get stuff out. 

I’m a strong advocate for building to think, which means skipping the over-thinking and making stuff to test as soon as you can. I normally also love to spend time with the people I’m trying to create objects for. During the holidays, for no other reason than drinking with friends, we became obsessed with bottle openers. And I’ve been wanting to play with 3D printing steel. A perfect fit with Shapeways.

I started drawing a broad set of options. Dozens of doodles. Riffing off random thoughts and gaining inspiration from the context they’ll be used in. Sometimes I get whoever is next to me to also pitch in. To draw I use an app called procreate for iPad. Wow it’s a powerful tool, especially when I don’t even know where my designs are going. It allows me to use layers, bring in photos from wherever, and export to dropbox. 

Evolving designs early via drawing is not just fun, it’s super low investment. We wanted to try out three bottle openers. The first one meant for a keychain, the second inspired by Cleopatra’s glamour, and the third to let the sunshine out. So with beer and a ruler in hand, I got to detailing proportions, measurements, styles, colors. This way, when I turned to cad, I could start 3d modeling instantly.

Ok, now I get to tell why I love Shapeways. A bottle opener has simple yet important functions. It can’t just look pretty. Beer bottles not opening equals chaos. Traditionally you’d have an engineer looking at forces and tension, then call multiple factories, get some very expensive molds done, and if something doesn’t work you just wasted big time. It can get expensive and time consuming. But 3d printing with Shapeways is so relatively accessible. I just order a few options, test them out, learn, change the 3d model, and keep going until the object gets where I want it to be. For instance, for these bottle openers I started by printing inexpensive plastic versions to see proportions. Then I printed some metal versions to test forces and check out finishes. Then I can start to think about packaging and branding. 

I love getting designs out for sale as soon as possible. Even when the openers were not perfect I put them online to see how much interest there is. I also give early prototypes to friends so they get use and after a week I give them a call and see what happened. For instance, the Cleo bottle opener bent around. I’d feel very bad if someone gets our stuff and it just bends all over. With Shapeways and a bit of patience, these issues can be modified early on.

Our efforts are now focused on creating the full story for each of the bottle openers. Packaging, branding, descriptions, pricing strategy and all that. We want to sell in Shapeways and other channels. There are now so many services for designers like me to get stuff out, and still I always find myself wanting more options. What if we could sell kits with different 3d printed parts of multiple materials and provide assembly instructions? What if designers could see stats about their product views to better gauge interest? What if your products were instantly shown in various channels like amazon and etsy? What if designers could virtually test physics of their object’s structure?

3D printing is simply liberating and has huge potential in its near future. I can’t wait to print ceramic and precious metals, which already are available. I wish there were more color and finishing options for all materials. And I can’t wait to have the options of carbon printing, glass printing, chocolate printing, conductive printing, and printing other funky materials as they become cost accessible. 3D printing will then start to shift from a fun new technology to the way we manufacture meaningful, personal, functional objects.

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