The Process of Going From Art to Part

At some point in your life you’ve inevitably heard the phrase “art to part.” It’s a succinct, and borderline trite, way to describe the struggle of turning a creative spark into a physical product. It’s a multi-faceted process and rarely is it linear. You’ve probably seen the illustration that shows the path to success. The expectation being linear where the reality is a mess of squiggled lines before finally arriving at the solution. The expectation in product design is often similar. However, very rarely is an idea formed where it goes right to production and on to success. The path to product success looks more like this:

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Several raw concepts enter and progress through several iterative loops of refinement until one clear concept emerges as the final product.

Amazingly, for most designers, this intensely creative process often fits into a fairly formulaic progression. It usually looks something like this:

Stage 1: Research and Inspiration

State 2: Ideation

Stage 3: Concept Selection


In Stage 1, the designer will gather information on the product. This is typically a comprehensive look at the product’s past, progression, and potential future. A designer needs to understand the product’s use case, its market, and purpose before developing something new. In the process of gathering information, the designer will also accumulate bits of inspiration that will be used to feed concepts and shape design elements.


In Stage 2, the pencil meets the paper. Ideas of any kind are welcome in this phase. The most practical solution may not be the most innovative, and the craziest idea might just have that tiny spark that the project needs. These ideas are recorded as quickly as possible and are often in the form of a physical or digital hand sketch.

In Stage 3, a concept is chosen and it becomes refined to the point of a final product. In this phase the designer will determine how this product fits in the marketplace. They will also finalize the aesthetics and other critical design elements to determine the look and feel of product. Potentially the largest challenge in this process is keeping product continuity and the design language of related products.


It is often a messy process that involves quite a bit of lost effort. Stacks of hand sketches end up in the waste bin. Even models made for rendering purposes, often need to be remade in order to create a part ready for the shop floor.

SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer seeks to change all of that. It’s a sketchbook, it’s a collaboration tool, and it’s a CAD system. Every stroke of the tablet pen is a CAD-quality vector so the perfect line never goes to waste. Every hand sketch flows around an existing CAD model. Every development is recorded into the design blog so each person involved is up to date. Every freeform model can be brought back to SOLIDWORKS. It remains flexible while it builds something concrete. It’s all of the missing links between the graphite of the artist’s pencil, and the carbide of the machinist’s mill and its goal is to get you from art to part.

 

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Author information

Jesse Sprague
Jesse Sprague
Senior Application Engineer at CADimensions
I’ve loved SOLIDWORKS since the first time I used it! As an application engineer, my passion is learning and sharing know-how on all kinds of SOLIDWORKS and partner products! My hobbies include: cars, motorcycles, music, photography, videography, woodworking…there’s not much I don’t enjoy doing!

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