Jewelry designers come to us at Melindesign asking for help in assembling jewelry, overwhelmed by the details and unfamiliar process. I realized that many new designers struggled with bringing their jewelry ideas to life. So I thought, how about a tech pack for jewelry designers?
How can we make a tech pack that jewelry designers can use? I collaborated with hundreds of designers and filtered feedback based on the needs they expressed. I have arrived at this checklist for minimum wasted costs and a timely production. If you have a design concept, these 5 steps will help all parties involved understand clearly how to properly bring your design idea to finished product.
1. Precise Measurements
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have accurate measurements. You need precise line drawings with correct measurements. For pieces that need a wax model or are to be casted, you can use a CAD or CAM. Through this computer-aided design method, you can generate a 3D image of your piece from your sketches.
If you are not casting a piece, then you’re probably working on a strung or wire wrapped design. In this case, good line drawings with specific measurements will replace a 3D drawing. Be sure to include a good hi-res photo to the sheet as well for a visual reference. When we’re assembling 10,000 units, you want every one of them to be exactly the same, consistent and correct.
2. Material list
A material list that pertains to the specific piece you are making needs to go along with the drawing and measurements from step 1. What beads, stones, clasps, strings go with the bracelet? How long and thick is the beading wire needed to make one bracelet? Do you have the correct size jump ring, crimps, clasps, chain sizes?
In addition to listing the items, list the sources of each item along with the style numbers. It has to be accurate so the bracelet comes out perfect the first time. Is there packaging involved, such as baggies, boxes or barcode labels? Include them here along with the source. If jewelry making and design were likened to cooking, this would be considered the ingredients list of a recipe. If anything is missing or measured incorrectly, then the entire meal will be off.
3. Know Material and Labor Costs
Price out all the materials for each piece on the spec. If your material list is complete from step 2, take account of the cost of each item listed. This way, you have a base price to help you determine what you will budget for. Whether you are going for a large order or a small batch, you’ll just need to do some simple multiplication. Be sure to include labor costs. Labor costs are determined by what you pay employees and your expenses to put the pieces together.
To determine labor cost here at the studio, we use a stop-watch from start (take the materials out, set up the assembly board) to finish (crimp, clip ends, tie off, wire wrap, measure against finished samples, bagging if needed). We take an average of the top three best times per piece after assembling a quantity of pieces for one hour, more time if complex construction. We determine the price per piece based on doing time trials on each piece. Add the time it takes to make one piece to the sheet. This will have you arrive at your wholesale price.
4. Business Perspective
Determine your demographic. Who are you targeting? Who is purchasing the item, how much are they paying for it? How many other bracelets are out there that are similar? What do they cost compared to yours? What’s the quality and price points of your competition? I tell designers all the time to google their product, with their specific details to find their competitors and see what they are doing. See how they are marketing their products. Go shopping. Visit stores and scope out the competition. This will help you determine your unique selling factor. Think about how YOU are going to market your product. How are YOU going to make it stand out from the rest?
5. Determine Your Budget and Timeline
It will take time to work out kinks and problems that may arrive while producing the prototype samples and developing the collection. Decide what you need and when you will schedule photo shoots, editorials, fashion week/runway, press kits, PR handouts. This needs to be thought out well in advance. Aside from product production, there will also be the launch of your business or collection. Start planning out what support you can rally around the release of your products.
After going over flaws and correcting them, prepare for the timeline with your jewelry assembly team. This will be the time to determine whether to produce large quantities for wholesale and/or retail. Your jewelry producer will be able to help you plot out the calendar for your assembling, completion, fulfillment (if needed), and shipment out. The timeline from finished sample to consumer is determined after ALL the material has arrived in the studio to begin assembly.
As the designer, be sure to send the finished samples, the “ingredients” (tech sheets with sizes, dimensions, finished lengths) sheets on each sample, and the materials (beads, wire, castings, findings, baggies) to make the samples in order to set a date with the manufacturer. The manufacturer cannot agree on a date if there are missing components holding up production. That does NOT count as part of the time agreed to finish the job. It has to be accounted for when we get ALL the material in studio. Then we can launch the production process.
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