How it's done
The process of designing something has to be carried on in a methodical way. Here are some points to consider:
Either start with something that already works and modify it or make a prototype as quickly as possible. Make the prototype anyhow, out of anything; the only consideration is that it should function.
The worse your creation looks, the more likely it is to work. This is because you haven't allowed your ideas to be deflected by aesthetic considerations. It is essential to build your prototype very quickly, in minutes if possible.
Research the problem as extensively as you can as early as you can. If what you are trying to make already exists it may be easier just to buy one. Don't be afraid to borrow ideas from other people. Allow your ideas to be influenced by other peoples' ideas. The internet is wonderful for this kind of research.
Learn from your prototype and build an improved version. Keep on doing this. There is no such thing as a finished design, all designs are intermediate solutions.
Two qualities are essential: patience and the ability to fail. Failure is psychologically very distressing but it is indispensable. Learn from it and don't inflict too much of it on yourself at once. The human mind is a very blunt instrument when it comes to designing things: an idea can seem wonderful only to shrivel into total nonsense when put into practice. Always be ready to let go of ideas if they're no good or can be superseded by better ones.
If a problem is really worthwhile and interesting, it won't go away. You will go on thinking about it. If you continue to do experiments and research, you will make progress.
Design problems tend to have a central problem: if you can find out what this central problem is and then solve it, everything else should fall into place.
An essential mental skill is to form a hypothesis about a problem then design an experiment to throw some light on it. Machines are at their most revealing when they don't work. Something that doesn't work has a message for you. Something that works flawlessly doesn't have anything to tell you.
If you allow them to, ideas will evolve out of all recognition to their starting point. But they will never quite lose resonances of it. Ideas will often re-emerge as solutions to totally different and seemingly irrelevant problems.
Forget making money from your creation: you almost certainly won't. But you can tell other people about it and demonstrate it, it is still of value because curiosity is one of the most fundamental human motives, it is especially evident in children. For this reason toys are very worthwhile things to design. To find a completely new idea is very satisfying. Every single thing we use has to be designed by someone.
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