Lucas Lappe on Product Development Through a Pandemic

Name: Lucas Lappe
Head of Product, DorisDev
Canopy Humidifier

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Core77: Every for-hire designer, at some point, feels the allure of building something of their own with the knowledge and skills they’ve honed through client work. How much of that is at play with the Canopy?

Lucas: That is allure/drive is 100% in play with Canopy. We have built hundreds of products at DorisDev over the last 5 years and have a lot of pent up “when I design my own product I’m gonna do X” Canopy was the expression of a lot of that.

A lot of agencies dream of starting their own brand and firing all their clients. Canopy was not that. Canopy was an excuse to do more and learn more.

Why a humidifier?
I really hated my humidifier – I spent more than 5 years thinking about designing a humidifier before I actually started. I think it just got stuck in my mind.

Justin, the CEO of Doris Dev, mentioned in another interview that there was a great deal of firefighting in manufacturing and supply chain during the development of Canopy. How did pandemic-specific issues cause disruption?
For most fast moving product development project we would be in the factory, on the line debugging the DVT/PVT and PPR units and processes, Covid did not allow for me or most of the team to be in the factory. So we started doing lot video calls with our Chinese team members who were in the factory – they were our eyes and ears for those development builds and I didn’t have to leave bed.

Of the more typical manufacturing challenges, what were some that were most gratifying to resolve?

While working on an electric toothbrush we looked at two different types of tufting techniques (anchored and anchorless) and I could not get a good answer to why the tooling for anchorless was so costly ~10x of anchored. After visiting the factory and seeing the fixturing required it all made a lot of sense. Checkout the videos of toothbrush tufting – it is amazing!

What were the turning points or critical junctures in that journey to market?

Hiring a CMO – Myself and Justin know a lot about product development, but we didn’t know sh*# about marketing… let alone beauty marketing. Eric took our jumble of ideas and sculpted it into a coherent brand vision.
Running in-house projects alongside consulting gigs can stir up practical and existential questions of priorities. Balancing two business models is tricky. What parts of this are you guys finding challenging?

The DorisDev teams work really well with demanding clients/founders, we feed off their excitement and energy. It’s not easy being your own boss/client – I understand why so many clients struggle to make decisions, it’s really hard and overwhelming.
What is the ideal arc for Canopy?
The goal is to build Canopy into a great client for DorisDev that inspires the service side of the business to create new services for current and future clients. Canopy will also have its own destiny to enable to the Canopy team to build a brand and products they love.

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On the consulting side: For clients who are new to the process of physical product development, what are some things that they seem to find particularly surprising or difficult to navigate?

Trust – for the first 4-8 weeks we spend most of our time building the trust of our clients. We do it by being an open book – sharing with them as much knowledge as possible and teaching them about the product development process. After trust is established we are able to work seamlessly with clients to build a product that meets their goals and constraints.
What are the techniques you use to maintain design intent throughout development?
We treat A surfaces and ID-CAD like the word of god. We only change cosmetic surfaces as a last resort. If we need to change the design at all we work closely with the original designer and client to ensure the final product meets the design intent. Unique to most design firms we have a long overlap between the ID and Engineering teams to allow these issues to bubble up sooner and are solved seamlessly.

Your team is working across quite a time difference (HK and USA), what special routines, limits, habits or tools do you guys employ to make it work?
We spend a lot of time on video calls together – unfortunately that means we have early mornings and late nights, but there is no other way to do it. It is critical that the US and HK teams love each other and face-to-face is the best way to achieve the trust required.

Source: core77

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