Philosophy - Inside Out or Outside In?

So what does eMagineFactory’s “Cohesive Design - Inside Out, Not Outside In” byline have to do with any of this? Over the past 20 or so years, product design philosophy (especially for consumer products) has tended to fall into one of two camps: what we call the “outside in” camp versus the “inside out” camp.


The “outside in” camp favors a creative process that places a product’s visual or artistic appeal before all other considerations, preferring to make function subservient to form. The upside to this approach is that it frees the designer’s artistic imagination and many great and innovative products have resulted. The downside is that it can be extremely expensive, sometimes terminally so. What makes “outside in” potentially so expensive? In a word: complexity. While we all prefer to use smaller, more ergonomic, “swoopier” products, they do come at a cost. And if you don’t have a market that justifies huge volumes, then you may need to have impressively deep pockets to pay for development and tooling. Even then, without volumes adequate to keep costs in line – you may have to choose between pricing yourself out of the market and low to no profit. We know of a case where, even though the functional requirements were simple, aesthetic driven design resulted in cost increases so egregious that the product was priced out of its market, eventually causing the company to go out of business.


On the other hand there is the more traditional “inside out” camp, and given that it inversely represents the “outside in” philosophy, prefers that form (aesthetics) be subservient to function. It requires that all functional elements, components and manufacturing processes be well understood and defined before principle forms (or aesthetics) are developed. It does not mean that aesthetics are ignored.  It does mean that aesthetics must be balanced against complexity and cost. For example, if the product needs to fit into the hand and requires a motor of some kind to function, but the only available motor small enough to fit costs ten times more than the market allows for, the time to know this is before principle ergonomics/aesthetics are developed – not after. Therefore, by evaluating a product’s viability so constrained, you are much more likely to actually get what you envisioned. All these elements reduce risk and therefore cost. Does this approach dictate that the resultant product will be huge, dowdy and boring? Certainly not.


In light of these facts, it is, then, eMagineFactory’s principle development philosophy to design from the “inside out”. And we have consistently demonstrated that “form subservient to function” can indeed result in innovative products that are ergonomically precise and aesthetically pleasing.


To accomplish the above requires that designers possess an uncommon amount of experience in all facets of design (processes, materials, procurement, costs, manufacturability, repeatability, quality, etc.). eMagineFactory, LLC was created by founder, Doug Wright, to bring his award winning industrial/mechanical design experience to a wider market. Prior to founding eMagineFactory, Mr. Wright devoted his efforts to creating proprietary designs that have attained numerous U.S. Patents and awards. Mr. Wright has a wide experience base, having worked to develop products that range from Machine Vision computers to sub-micron debris mapping on Space Shuttle SRB casings, from medical devices to gyro-stabilized aerial camera systems and hydrogen-detection systems for use in nuclear power facilities. He has worked in most areas of business: customer service, manufacturing, procurement, engineering, quality assurance and, of course, product design and development.