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Design Concepts: Turning a good idea into a reality

Design, business, prototype development, copyrighting design, manufacturing

Design Concepts: Turning a good idea into a reality

Brant Moll, a dynamic entrepreneur in Atlanta, Georgia, has created Red Tierney, a company bringing a new look to home accessories. This article will describe Red Tierney’s challenges to spotlight the process most designers will use to get a new idea off the ground and onto a shelf.

There are five basic phases in design development:
Phase I: The Great Idea
Phase II: Prototype Development
Phase II: Copyrighting a Design
Phase IV: Manufacturing
Phase V: The Art of Marketing

Each phase presents its own obstacles and unique challenges. Let’s explore them below.

Phase One: The Great Idea
You may think coming up with “the” new great idea is the hardest part of the process. Nothing could be further from the truth. Deciding how design it, how to protect it and how to sell it will take up much more of your time and energy.

“Our business is bringing designs to life. We currently have 75 new design ideas,” explains Brant Moll, “it will take years to move them all through production.” The nitty-gritty part of bringing a new creation to life is the second phase, prototype development.

Phase Two: Prototype Development
This is where an idea takes shape. While this phase is time consuming, the steps are simple:

  1. Communicate with a Designer who creates a prototype from your idea in wood, clay, metal or composite material.

  2. Review and revise the design.

  3. Have the Designer produce another prototype.

It can take from a few weeks to a few months to see the first design. Even if specifications have been provided in detail, there’s no guarantee that the designer will provide a satisfactory prototype. “Working with another person is challenging. Sometimes the design that comes back is nowhere in the ballpark,” explains Moll. Each new round can take a month or longer, and a half dozen rounds with the designer is not uncommon.

Phase Three: Copyrighting a Design
Once the prototype has been approved the next step is protecting it. Intellectual property is protected with a copyright or patent. There is a lot of competition for new designs to excite the consumer. Even with protection, people will change your design just enough to get outside the copyright. Still, getting a patent for your design is considered the only way to go.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers three forms of protection:

  • Patents – include utility, plant and design patents

  • Copyrights – establish the original author of a literary, or other intellectual work

  • Trademarks – protect a word, name or device used to distinguish a product

Copyrighting a design is easier than ever online www.uspto.gov. To protect your business interests, you will want to apply for a patent prior to completing the prototype. Before the patent is issued, a sample will be required, so the patent office can review it to make sure there’s nothing similar out there that already has a patent. Timing is everything.

Phase Four: Manufacturing
Getting something mass produced in today’s global market often involves foreign production, as manufacturing in the United States can triple the “per unit” cost of a product.

Overseas manufacturing involves these basic steps:

  1. Shop for manufacturers with experience working in the medium of your choice and ask them for a “per unit” price and a timeline for production.

  2. Have several candidates produce a manufacturing prototype, based on your design prototype.

  3. Select a manufacturer based on your needs and their performance.

  4. Review and revise the manufacturing prototype until it is acceptable, and produce the design.

The first step can be complicated by language barriers. The owner of the facility will typically speak English. The workers and the managers typically will not. Even with the English speaking owner, details can be “lost in translation.” Stick to your guns until you’re satisfied with the manufacturing prototype.

In searching for a manufacturer, consider the following criteria:
  • Cost per unit

  • Quality of the Prototype

  • Production Cycle

In seeking a manufacturer, you want the best product for the best price in the fastest time possible.

Phase Five: The Art of Marketing
Red Tierney is most concerned with brand placement. They will strictly control where and how Red Tierney products are sold. This is a focus on the brand’s exclusivity. Other companies targeting mid- to low-end retail may choose instead to focus on their brand’s availability. The “where” and the “how” for a company’s brand should always be consistent with its overall vision. A business focusing on availability would want to mass produce their product and have it on every possible shelf in every possible store. A business focusing on exclusivity would prefer to choose exactly where the brand can be purchased, to give the consumer the impression that they are selecting a one of a kind product.

Conclusion
It takes more than a good idea to make a business. Developing a design, protecting it, producing it and selling it require patience and persistence. Staying true to that original idea will make it easier to clear the hurdles you will encounter.

Published: 2006-06-23
Author: L.E. Burke

About the author or the publisher
Freelance Technical Writer & Commerical Writer, with background in graphic design, training and process documentation

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