As a manufacturer, I conduct so many initial meetings with clients where all we do is help them organize their thoughts and ideas. I often feel that if they had a checklist prior to our first meeting, it would be extremely helpful to the entire process. From creative and design, to material choices and construction options, there are so many factors to take into consideration. Even your target market, marketing and pricing strategies have an impact on choices in the whole manufacturing process. If all these considerations aren’t considered from the very beginning, designers may end up with a product that cannot compete in the marketplace effectively. An early focus on these 5 areas will ensure that you avoid some commonplace mistakes in the process of getting your product started off on the right track:
1. Design Concept
Aspiring designers come to me with everything from an inspiring picture of something they want to create to a detailed drawing complete with dimensions and material choices. As a rule, unless you have previous experience manufacturing products, I would recommend starting with a “tech pack” and a Maker’s Row Project. This will be the start of visualizing your idea with a thorough plan for the balance of the 5 things discussed here. Think of it as a communication map that will remove obstacles for processing your design and getting underway with your vision. Pictures and similar product samples and simple sketches are also very acceptable and another good way of utilizing inspiration to communicate your ideas. All of this helps to begin the process.
2. Material Choices
The choice of materials is an important consideration in coming up with a cost effective way to manufacture a compelling product that can be brought to market at a competitive price point. Most suppliers of materials used in manufacturing will allow you to “swatch” or obtain sample quantities especially if they see you as a source of volume purchasing going forward. Bring a variety of materials to the first meeting, as there are considerations in construction that make some materials more or less expensive to use depending upon the application. A designer’s first impression of a certain type of material may not be suitable for reasons that are known only to the person who is going to have to sew, glue, or cut it!
3. Target Market
Your target market is always an important consideration. “Begin with the end in mind,” is a good mantra here.
Who is the purchaser of your final product?
What are their options currently in the marketplace now?
How much are they spending for this type of item?
What kind of quality is available at given price points?
Are you going to compete based upon quality or price or a combination of both?
What is the demographic of the person who will want your product?
Imitate your demographic on Google to see what else comes up as an alternative to your proposed product. This will reveal marketing considerations as well as design choices. Sometimes coming up with a similar product but with better quality and material choices is enough to compete effectively in the marketplace.
4. Pricing Strategy
In the final analysis, pricing your finished product in the marketplace has all sorts of implications for how much you can spend on material and manufacturing labor. Many of my clients come to me with very firm ideas on everything except final pricing of their product, only to realize that after their sample is done, they cannot produce their product at a competitive price point. Basic research on pricing of similar products in the marketplace can help manufacturers like myself assist with material and design choices that can help keep costs down. That extra interior zipper pocket may seem like a great idea, but can break the budget!
5. Budget and Timeline for Your Project
Design and manufacturing takes time. Deadlines for that product photo shoot or trade show need to be thought out in advance. Some products sell better at certain times of the year and that is also a factor to consider. A good manufacturer will assist you with a project timeline, but in the final analysis much of this is left up to you, the designer, who must respond with approval of quotes, material choices, and manufacturing start times. Additionally, all materials must be in the factory ready to go when your allotted time slot in the factory comes up on the calendar.