The two product designers helping start-ups bring their products to life

Team Human merges design, engineering and R&D at an early stage to ensure young firms start right

Sean Toomey and Robert McKenna, founders of Team Human, a product design firm aimed at start-ups

Sean Toomey and Robert McKenna, founders of Team Human, a product design firm aimed at start-ups

 

When it comes to developing a new product, finding someone who can successfully interpret the idea and turn it into something physical is half the battle. That’s where skilled product designers come in and Robert McKenna and Sean Toomey, founders of the recently launched innovation consultancy Team Human, like to roll up their sleeves and get involved as early as possible in the design process.

“We’re trying to capture clients earlier in the cycle than is the norm so that our influence can have more of an impact as the product is looked at from every possible angle. This overview ensures that we’re in touch with the product throughout its development so nothing gets lost and you end up with something that’s a really good fit for purpose,” McKenna says.

“We like to solve complex challenges by merging solid engineering principles, beautiful design and a user-first approach to create products that interact perfectly with humans,” he adds.

Disconnect

“In our experience there can often be a disconnect between design, engineering and R&D, and it’s not fully appreciated just how important it is that all three are merged at an early stage. We have a lot of experience in each of these areas and wanted to use it to assist companies in the engineering, consumer goods and medical devices sectors to develop their existing portfolios and we also want to help start-ups to start right.”

The founders’ hands-on approach coupled with the fact that they handle all stages of the development in-house makes Team Human a little different to other design houses. “We provide the full set of traditional design skills but also distinct services that other design houses usually outsource such as prototyping,” says McKenna. “This allows us to control both the process and the design cost more effectively.”

McKenna says there is a paucity of product design houses offering a competitively priced service in Ireland with a particular lack when it comes to designers catering for smaller companies and start-ups. “Our approach to the R&D process is different because we design, fabricate, test and iterate each part of the new product ourselves and we have identified a real need for our service among start-ups that can’t afford the cost of an in-house design team but are not being catered for by many of the existing bigger practices either. Our business is providing this service and bridging the gap between design and engineering because we believe there is still a disconnect among many firms who think of design as an afterthought.”

Collaborated

Both the founders studied product design at the Dublin Institute of Technology. McKenna has previously worked for Joseph Walsh Studios and Dolmen while Toomey, who now specialises in medical device design, spent time on the ideas team at Dyson. Team Human is a brand new business and McKenna and Toomey decided to strike out on their own having previously collaborated on a number of projects both during and after their degrees. “Our skills and expertise complement each other nicely and after a number of positive projects we thought it made sense to form a new team together,” McKenna says.

Team Human is focusing on the Irish and UK markets to begin with and will both employ people directly and tap into independent expertise when needed for particular projects. The founders had already accumulated much of the equipment they needed to set up so McKenna estimates the self-funded start-up costs so far at about €45,000.

“I think what we do will be of real interest to people with very early stage ideas who don’t have the money to go to full prototyping especially when what they really need to take the next step is an early proof of concept that allows them to see how their idea works and what a final product might look like,” McKenna says.

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