'The Deep End' or 'Learning as You Go'
When I set out to write this blog post, it was supposed to be something short. Along the lines of "The blog is now called 'Building SwitchLok' because, well, at its core, this is about how SwitchLok came to life. 'What's Your Vektor' sounds cool but when I came up with it, I really didn’t know what I was doing."
That was supposed to be it. And then it clicked: changing the name of this blog is hugely symbolic of so much of what I have been through on this journey to bring a product from idea to reality. As with most everything that I have done in the course of this project, I am figuring it out as I go.
I should have known that it would be this way. A few years ago, my wife I started (and she operates) two preschools. Looking back, I have no idea how we were able to do it. The way I explain it is that it's like stumbling around in a dark room until you run into an obstacle. You figure out how to take it down, go around it or just smash through it and then keep going until you hit something else. It's like that because we had no idea what we were doing and therefore no way to know what was coming next.
I thought it would be different for me because I had experience in many of the skills I would need. I thought I would be able to see what was coming. I thought the lights in the room would at least be on a little low. The problem was that even in the areas that I thought were my core competency, I had a ton to learn. Take Computer Aided Design. I have used CAD for about 18 years and it is something that I always just 'got'. Through education and jobs, I have had to use many different CAD software packages including ProEngineer, Solidworks, Ideas, Catia, Autocad and for most work days of the last five years, Autodesk Inventor. So when I started on SwitchLok, I bought a license for Inventor and figured that was about it. Slowly, I began to realize I had some holes to fill. My background was in aerospace structures, not product design--there was a suite of tools in the software I barely knew existed that I needed to learn. And it was hard! I didn’t just 'get it'. But little by little, I picked it up. I watched YouTube videos (thank god YouTube is as mature as it is because I don’t even know where I would have looked for help with this stuff 10 years ago) modeled and remodeled parts until it was right.
As an example, here are two renders that I did. The one on the left is the first render of one of my CAD models that I have saved. Looks like trash. The one on the right is a couple of weeks old. Not perfect by any stretch, but my daughter thought it was a photo until I told her otherwise.
For my own edification, I started keeping track of the areas I have had to learn. They include:
- How to name a company
- Color theory
- Logo design
- Design for Manufacturing
- Injection molding
- 3D printing
- Finding good contractors for creative projects
- Industrial design (do you know what a juicy surface or a squircle is? They're everywhere)
- Patents and Patent law
- Provisional vs Non Provisional
- Foreign Patents
- Trademarks and Trademark law
- Common Law Trademark vs Federally Registered
- Magnets and magnetics
- Inductive charging
- Website registration, hosting and DNS
- Product photography (just use softboxes)
- How to properly shoot and edit video (did you know that your shutter speed should be twice your frame rate for best results?)
- Shipping and distribution
For every one of the bullet points above, I have generally made at least one mistake or done something and then had to go back and redo it. For those of you that have been beta testing, you may have witnessed one or more of those mistakes. That means time or money was spent on something only to toss it out and start over. I will say that when you learn something the hard way, you do not only appreciate it that much more but the lessons sticks.
That gets me back to where this started. When I started this blog, I didn’t know what I was doing. To be honest, I still don’t, this is post number three. But like everything else, I am figuring it out as I go and I have figured out that this blog is about building SwitchLok.