I live only a couple minutes away from their corporate HQ, but despite searching LinkedIn, looking on their website, and searching coroflot, I can’t seem to find anyone who has done any work for them in the product design dept. If they farm it out, who would it be to? I couldn’t find anything when I looked. Thanks!
I know a thing or two. They buy most of their stuff, and sell it as is, or rebrand it with their name on it. I believe they do very little in house product design. They are always looking for new stuff that fits their aesthetic though.
Great company to work for, good benefits, and people stick around for a very long time - even in the retail side.
thanks! That definitely makes a lot of sense from the lack of designers I managed to find that were tied to the company. It’s weird knowing that one of the leaders in houseware retail just buys their stuff… but then again I’m just a young inexperienced student, I clearly have a lot to learn haha
That is interesting, but makes perfect sense. I’m curious to learn more about this from a business perspective if anyone can share more information.
-Where are they buying goods from- (other brands, designers, individuals)?
-How do they find these products/developers?
-Is there ever licencing with the designer/developer or is the product literally bought but with exclusivity?
-Do any other design-oriented companies come to mind that use these same methods?
For low end IBM monitor displays, sometimes they used to take a nice quality pre-existing monitor and just have the covers shot in ‘stealth’ black plastic and put IBM logos on it. For the higher end monitors, it’s basically the same thing - Select pre-existing monitor parts that are probably being used for other company’s products, and designing/creating completely new plastic covers for them
Kind of a similar situation, and maybe Crate and Barrel makes slight adjustments to the designs they produce, even if it’s just adding logos
I have met with many of the same vendors that C&B uses. I dont know if I should really mention who they are specifically, as Im sure that Crate wouldnt appreciate it (I know my company wouldnt). These vendors can range anywhere from small, niche product widths to carrying multiple categories. I have been told that the scale of the importer comes down to how many factories they want to manage. In china/egypt/india, most factories are independent (the vendor does not own the factories). A small importer that only does a specific product will only have to work with one factory (woodworkers for furniture for example). The very large vendors have contacts at many factories all over china in order to manufacture metal, wood, glass ect. This gets tricky because the different types of factories are usually in different parts of China. Once you start mixing materials, QC is very difficult to manage.
The easiest way to find these new partners is to go to markets (tabletop in NYC, Altlanta gift mart, Casual furniture show in chicago) and look around the show rooms. If something catches your eye you can spark up a conversation with them and see what they have to offer. The vendor will usually customize things such as color and finish as well as add in logos. The vendor is also typically responsible for packaging (although crate will have to send design). If you believe in something enough, you can usually get exclusivity on it. Its usually a toss up as far as what Crate goes exclusive on. For example, pattern work they are almost always exclusive but home decor varies.
As far as other companies doing it, I dont really know of any that dont. The more expensive and design oriented (Luminaire, DWR,ect) wouldnt do it, as they are selling the designer as much as the actual product. Also some of the ‘designer’ product lines (martha stewart) source products form these vendors as well. Some of the other companies that I know (from the vendor) source this way: Crate, pottery barn, west elm, restoration hardware, target, walmart, macys, ect. To be honest there are almost too many to list.
Hopefully I explained it well enough. If you need any more clarification, I can probably go into more detail.
This popped up on my Google Alerts today, so I thought that it would be a good reason to register with Core77 and join in the conversation. I’m responsible for working with new freelance product designers for Crate and Barrel. It’s true that we don’t have product or surface designers on staff. We’re pretty selective, but we do routinely work with freelancers directly. We also work with both wholesalers and factories who bring us designs from their own staff designers or their own freelancers. Unlike years ago, today a majority of our products have been designed and developed just for us.
If you are a serious designer interested in freelance design work, feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). You’re going to have to show us designs that you have done for others and/or new work that is available to us. I can tell you pretty quickly whether or not your work is going to be right for us. We work with professionals who have distinctive design skills - not with folks who simply have a ‘great idea’ to sell. Whether you’re a new designer or have a lot of experience, to be seriously considered you’re going to have to have something in your portfolio that relates to the categories that we carry, and reflects our aesthetic. I advise potential designers to study our current assortment closely before they contact us. Almost everything in our assortment is shown on our website (www.crateandbarrel.com). Or visit one of our stores to see the design details in person. We look to partner with designers whose work would blend well with what we currently offer.
I’m not going to spill the beans on the accuracy of the other comments. You’ll have to become part of the Crate family to get those details!
Nicole, thanks for finding us and posting. This is a refreshing response. It is great to see someone like you jumping into this community.