The Importance of Iteration

Side by Side Script Frames

I’m in the habit of making prototypes for almost anything (that isn’t a huge piece of furniture).  This gives me the opportunity to see if I can actually make the item in my head a reality, and to also plan for unforeseen costs associated with making a something brand new.  This isn’t a new concept to me either.  I’ve done it over the course of the many parts of my career I’ve been fortunate enough to follow over my lifetime.

When I worked in marketing, there were several aspects of each client that made me have to think on my feet, and use a trail and error approach to completing marketing plans before presenting them to the client.

The same is true for my time as a network engineer.  It was really cool to create networks that just plain worked, but it was even better when I could tool them up to be the most optimal, run the fastest, and with the best benchmarks I could attain.  Sometimes the solutions were simple, and other times it took a lot of pounding my head against the wall for the “a-ha” moment to arrive.

My favorite part of iteration is when I know that there is no way in hell I have the money to accomplish what I need to set out to do.  That is when my creativity hits its peak.  I’ll try pricing out different materials, fasteners, fabrics, paints, tools, etc. to get the job within my personal budget.  As a small business owner every dime counts, so if I’m going to prototype products for my audience, the cheaper the better.  Once I have the best iteration of the product I intend to make, then I can go out and spend the money for the right material to really make it the way it was in my head all along.

For example, I recently had an idea to create display shadowboxes for signed film scripts.  There were certain things to take into consideration with this idea, like protecting the film script over a long period of time.  I learned that certain types of wood have higher pH (acid) levels in them than others that might make the edges of the pages discolor or worse.  So I opted in the end for poplar wood, which has a lower pH level.  Before I bought the poplar I needed for the frame, I decided to use some scrap wood I had left over in my shop to create a prototype.  This was just a simple box with dados in the front and back for some plexiglass and hardboard.  It looked ok in the end, but it wasn’t what I intended to sell (oddly enough, I might use it as a pen display case when I go to craft shows to sell in-person).

The big differences between the first iteration of  the script box and the second are the wood types obviously, then I used a smaller continuous hinge on the second (I hesitate to say final, because you never know) version, and I added some chamfered grooves on the sides to add a little dimension to the overall profile.  I also wasn’t crazy about the color of the poplar, so I added a protective poly-stain mix that added color and protection.

Iteration also helps when I am considering making changes to a product line by adding new colors, accessories, etc.  Things need to be tested first before I just plop them onto the website.

Iteration is problem solving, and my engineer-brain loves it.  It’s nice to know that I’m taking pride in my products and not just mailing out whatever crap goes through my table saw.

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