Don’t you love riding high on the energy of a great new idea? That’s how I felt a few years ago after running my concept for The Sparkboard by my family and close friends. For the first time, it was evident that this product had serious potential and that I may have come up with one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas.
The Sparkboard is a customizable inspiration board that comes with a chic, modern art piece to cover up your workspace when it’s not in use. The functionality and aesthetics of the design have evolved over time but the intention has always been the same: give creative professionals and entrepreneurs a gorgeous, functional tool that empowers them to flow through the various phases of their creative process with ease and joy.
I started with some high-level market research on related products like cork boards, whiteboards and framed artwork then got to the real work of getting my idea out from the depths of my imagination and onto paper.
Luckily, I’d had incredible training in concept ideation, visualization and honing design solutions during my time at O’More College of Design. I sketched, scribbled and crumpled up dozens of first drafts eventually landing on a framed cork board / whiteboard with hinged doors that could shut when it was time to close up shop.
After getting the idea laid out in sketches I noticed that “my” design concept was very similar to the look and feel of presentation boards you might find in a corporate boardroom. I could change the size and finish options to appeal to my target market but I had a gut feeling that there was a better way to address their needs all together.
I had to get clear on who I was creating this product for, what problems I was going to solve for them and then make decisions with their needs and desires in mind! I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to create a piece with soul, something people could connect with, appreciate and hopefully gain insight and inspiration from over the life of their creative projects.
A decorative version of a boardroom cabinet was not the answer.
3-D Model & Concept Refinement
So …I went back to the drawing board. Eventually came the idea of covering the cork board workspace with an actual wrapped canvas. I toyed with a variety of ways to incorporate removable canvases into the wood frame. I made some tiny sketch models with materials from the art store and put the design into SketchUp in order to visualize it in 3-D with various finishes and sizes.
This process of building the design in three dimensions forced me to make concrete decisions regarding sizing, construction and how all of the pieces (cork board / wood frame / gallery wrapped canvas) would come together. It allowed me to test which design features translated into the real world and which needed reworking in order to function properly. This was a difficult part of the process to be sure but it was a critical step in the evolution from concept to physical product.
With 3-D concept drawings in hand, I called on some of my design school classmates and teachers for feedback and critiques. Alf Sharp, an expert furniture manufacturer and one of my former teachers, became my first consultant on the project. He guided me through options for materials, joinery, fabrication and wall mounting hardware sharing the pros and cons of each selection. It was a good lesson in utilizing the valuable resources I already had within my personal network.
Materials & Fabrication
Once I’d settled on a design solution for the product, I recruited my husband Angelo to help build the first working version of the product. Using materials from the local hardware store, we got to work sawing, gluing, and staining right in the middle of our living room floor. As the pieces came together my little spark of an idea came into focus and we ended up with a real life, tangible version of something that once existed as an idea in my imagination. It was a momentous occasion to say the least!
Using Alf’s material and fabrication advice, I put together specific descriptions of my ideal suppliers and production partners. Getting clear on what you’re looking for in a manufacturer helps narrow the search and avoid unnecessary interaction with manufacturers that aren’t a good fit for your product. I was on a mission to find production partners that met my quality and environmentally conscious standards. A few years ago I could only dream of a website like Maker’s Row because finding the perfect production partners turned out to be an extremely arduous process. I scoured the depths of google for my dream partners and then handed the job over to my mom who was relentless with her google research and finally found a handful of leads that fit the bill.
“A few years ago I could only dream of a website like Maker’s Row because finding the perfect production partners turned out to be an extremely arduous process.” – Tina Hofer Medico, The Sparkboard
Sharing the 3D SketchUp models and images of the first makeshift prototype with manufacturers allowed them to understand the concept right away and decide whether they could provide what I was looking for and how much it would cost to get it. After locating the suppliers and fabricators whose values matched our own and who agreed to work within our timeline and price point, we began work on the first real prototype.
During the prototyping process my production partners were able to share their suggestions for streamlining the production, adjusting dimensions, cutting out redundant materials and making suggestions for alternative materials that would save time or money while maintaining the quality I desired. One of my production partners event sent me text updates with pictures of the prototype as it came together.
Once production was complete on the prototypes I had a clear understanding of the true cost cost of materials and fabrication which allowed me to price our product fairly in order to maintain decent margins and run a profitable business.
Product Photography & Video
Everything came full circle the day the prototypes arrived at my door in Atlanta. It was the culmination of several years working through the ideation and concept development process and it felt awesome to see the piece in person. Soon after, we created beautiful product photos and a short commercial that encapsulated the beauty of the product and my mission to inspire creativity and empower the creative process. All of which you can see here on our newly launched Pre-Sale website www.TheSparkboard.com!
If you’re ever in the Atlanta area and want to get together to discuss what I’ve learned or your own product design aspirations give me a shout in the comments! I’d love jam on your ideas over coffee and share any information or resources that I’ve come across over the years. Wishing you the best of luck in turning the ideas in your heart into beautiful, tangible objects ready to share with the world!
Check out Tina’s tips and best practices on launching a successful Kickstarter campaign: How to Prepare for a Successful Kickstarter Campaign