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How Visual Collaboration Enhances Product Development

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s a product viewable worth? Here are 6 key benefits of incorporating visual representations of products into the design process.

How many of you draw a picture when solving a problem?

Me: raises hand

And I bet many of you do, too.

In the world of product development, structured and enriched textual data—such as what you’ll find in a multi-level bill of materials (BOM)—is an informational mainstay.

But I bet you’ll agree that structured information gets a shot in the arm when it’s augmented with drawings, 3D models, or other visual representations—called “viewables”—that capture the actual real-life look of the part, assembly, or final product. 

The reason is as obvious as the old adage about the worth of a picture—visual information has the power to make things come to life. And in the world of product companies, there are many scenarios where viewables offer great value.

6 Key Benefits of Visual Collaboration

Here are some reasons why visual collaboration is crucial in the product development process:

1. Communication:

Consider the power of taking the idea in your mind and turning that into an image to show your team. Visuals have the ability to convey complex ideas more effectively than written or verbal communication alone. By utilizing visual tools such as diagrams, sketches, and 3D models, product development teams can communicate their concepts and requirements more clearly, reducing the risk of misinterpretation or misunderstandings among team members.

2. Idea Generation and Exploration: 

Visual collaboration allows team members to brainstorm, explore, and refine ideas collectively. When individuals can see each other's visual representations of concepts, it sparks creativity and encourages collaboration. By sharing and building upon visual artifacts, such as mood boards, concept sketches, storyboards, or even other product images, teams can generate a wider range of innovative ideas.

3. Iterative Design and Rapid Prototyping: 

Visual collaboration enables iterative design and rapid prototyping, which are essential for product development. Teams can create visual representations of product features, user interfaces, external and interior designs, and photorealistic 3D product renderings to gather feedback from stakeholders early on. This iterative process helps identify and address potential issues or improvements before investing significant time and resources.

4. Stakeholder Engagement: 

Visual collaboration facilitates engagement with stakeholders throughout the product development lifecycle. By using visual tools to present concepts, designs, and progress, teams can effectively communicate their vision, gather feedback, and align stakeholders' expectations. Visual artifacts also help stakeholders visualize the end product, leading to better decision-making and buy-in.

5. Cross-functional Collaboration:

Product development involves collaboration among multidisciplinary teams, including designers, engineers, marketers, product managers, and suppliers. Visual collaboration promotes cross-functional understanding by bridging the gap between different professional backgrounds. Visual artifacts help communicate design intent, technical requirements, and user experience, fostering collaboration and reducing silos between teams.

6. Documentation, Design Reviews, and Knowledge Sharing:

Visual collaboration serves as a visual record of the product development process. Visual artifacts can be used to document design decisions, capture feedback, and track progress. This documentation aids in knowledge sharing, onboarding new team members, and ensuring continuity throughout the project lifecycle.

Bringing the Concept to Customer (Literally)

Visual collaboration improves communication, encourages creativity, supports iterative design, engages stakeholders, facilitates cross-functional collaboration, and enhances documentation and knowledge sharing—and that includes your end users.

By leveraging viewables, such as 2D drawings and 3D models derived from CAD files, teams can accelerate the development process, reduce errors, and deliver successful products that meet market needs. These visual tools offer interactive content that allows the team to interrogate artifacts to make more informed decisions.

Visual collaboration streamlines the product design process and, in some cases, enhances the customer buying experience. On the other end of the development cycle, there are even certain advanced software systems that can create product visualizations with the help of 3D artists, which are high-resolution, photorealistic images that hone in on product details and capture different angles and different colors. These visuals can be utilized for e-commerce needs like social media, product photography, and virtual reality experiences, maximizing the reach and impact of the product.

Getting the Full Picture

By incorporating visual collaboration early on in the product development process, companies can save time, resources, and costs. Rich 2D and 3D viewables enable teams to visualize and iterate product designs efficiently, reducing the need for physical prototypes and unnecessary iterations. This streamlined approach benefits both established companies and startups launching new products, empowering them to make informed decisions and gain a competitive edge.

In conclusion, visual collaboration software that's embedded within a collaborative PLM, such as Propel Software and its integration with RenderDraw, revolutionizes the way product development teams work. By harnessing the power of 3D visualization, companies can unlock the potential of their ideas, engage stakeholders effectively, and deliver products that resonate with their target audience. From concept to market, visual collaboration proves indispensable in creating high-quality products that captivate and inspire.

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Post by
Tom Shoemaker
VP of Product Marketing, Propel

Tom Shoemaker is the VP of Product Marketing at Propel. In this role, he’s responsible for product messaging and positioning, sales enablement, and voice of customer programs. Prior to Propel, Shoemaker was Chief Marketing Officer of itslearning, a Scandinavian-based edtech provider, where he led the company’s marketing and business development efforts. Prior to itslearning, he held numerous leadership positions at PTC, including pre-sales, R&D, and marketing. Most recently, he was VP Enterprise Marketing. Over his 20-year+ tenure, Shoemaker was responsible for the go-to-market strategy and product launch of PTC’s primary solutions, including Windchill and Creo.

Fun Fact: In high school, Tom appeared on Brainstormers, a local station TV quiz show.

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Tom Shoemaker