delivering a design you can't build

I’m guessing this is a situation that doesn’t happen with the folks here very much since ID is so tied to manufacturing, but I’m guessing some might have experiences to share…

I’m a ID/IXD grad student in an area where there is no ID industry. I’ve been trying to take on freelance type projects, which usually end up being one-off builds. For example, I’m currently working on a pedicure station for a local salon. The design process is all fine and good, but then I have to figure out how to actually make the thing. I don’t have much in the way of shop skills due to my educational path, and even if I did, I could only make a mockup, not a structurally sound, usable product.

So I guess my question is where do I go from here? Has anyone else been in this situation? Outsource the work to a contractor?

I’d really like to hear your thoughts, experiences.

If you’re trying to make an actual product then the answer would be to either learn, or give it to someone else.

Most pedicure stations seem to be wood? If you don’t have the shop to build it yourself then find a local carpenter who would be interested.

There are specialized firms that take on this kind of work. Usually for retail/POP, used to doing weird/odd/different projects and building/delivering. Check out Crack (a division of IDL Worldwide) or Built Design.

I’m a ID/IXD grad student in an area where there is no ID industry.

Jesse, do you mean to tell me, that just on the other side of the Wabash River, up on the hill, there aren’t any industrial design students with the skills to assist you in the development of your project? :open_mouth:

Barring that incomprehensible situation … Chicago is 125 miles to the north. And if you want to keep it back home in Indiana…


Impulse Product Development

Impressive Prototypes, LLC

A) give the plans to your client, let them take care of it after the plans are finalized
B) find someone to build it, hopefully you allocated a budget for the build and management of the build

Did you promise the client you would build it? I’m hoping you were up front with the client that you would not be building it yourself due to a lack of facilities and experience in that realm. Ideally this is an issue that should have been decided at the scope negotiation stage.

I’ve been trying to take on freelance type projects, which usually end up being one-off builds.

I find myself asking what you thought you would be providing to the client if you are not capable of actually providing a tangible product. I know this will sound overly critical, but if you knew that you would not be able to provide the final product (regardless of who built it), why did you accept the commission to begin with?

Early on in my career I did quite a few “one offs” for clients, and those projects were always undertaken with a mutual understanding of what would be delivered, the intended purpose (concept mock-ups vs. working prototypes), and of course, price, prior to any work being started. In virtually all of these projects, because the work was being done in my shop, working drawings were always held to a minimum (mostly for machined parts done by an outside shop); the object being a tangible object for either photographic purposes (this was pre-3D cad model days), or as a working prototype (many were for clients seeking to proof a patent).

This is an assumption on my part (always a risky proposition) but I can’t imagine too many “local salons” that can qualify to fund product development so your project probably falls into the working prototype category; the client believed that they would receive a work station for use in their shop.

As an Industrial Design Consultant, you need to work within your own limitations as a designer, the available facilities (yours or those of others), and within the financial constraints of your client’s budget.

Thanks for the input everyone!

To answer a few questions -

Our program completely shuts down over the summer. Instructors mostly travel abroad, no courses are offered, and the shop is closed. Apparently I’m not even allowed back in the building until the week before fall semester starts.

The client is a personal friend, and I didn’t promise anything, other than I’d give it a shot. not a paying gig at all. Just something I am doing for experience. In reality, I’ll probably end up working with a contractor friend to see how close we can get to my design with the skills and funds available. I really just wanted to learn about what all you pros do in this situation.

No commission involved. The studio owner knew I did design work and asked if I could help her with this. I need to do all the designing I can right now, and this is the only kind of halfway realistic design work I have available at the moment. (If you know anyone nearby or telecommute that would take me on as a part time intern, please let me know!) …so I set out to do it, knowing that the final product would be limited to some extent by my construction skills. I didn’t expect that I would be kicked out of the school’s shop all summer though. :confused:

The studio owner knew I did design work and asked if I could help her with this. I need to do all the designing I can right now, and this is the only kind of halfway realistic design work I have available at the moment.

So, Hail Purdue!!!

No access to the shop, that’s a drag… but not too unpredictable, it was locked on us too.

So not having a full-on wood shop is one of those “limitations” that I mentioned. You have to design the work station based on what you can build using a hand-held saber saw, or circular saw, and assorted hand tools. Or, as mentioned a cabinet shop might do a small job for you . Craigslist might be a viable source of wood workers (finish carpenter, handyman, cabinet maker, etc). If the guy was local you could work closely with him and be able to communicate the details with minimum documentation; design-on-the fly as it were. Just remember that drawings are your “legal” back up to ensure the results you want.

Most lumber yards will cut material to your specification for a “per cut” charge. I have no clue what yards are in Lafalot today, but when I was in school Henry Poor’s was a good one.

What kind of “bath” arrangement do you intend to use? Given the limitations you’re facing I’d look at small off-the-shelf sinks; a stainless bar sink might work… actually, I think the term is bowl. A quick google revealed that pedicure-specific sinks are a bit pricey… to the tune of $1,000 and up! Does your client already have a sink that you might be able to incorporate (another on of those limitations)?

She is currently using this product -
It’s mostly used as a pre-pedicure soak, so immediate access to the controls aren’t necessary. My design is basically a fascia to set the tub into and to provide a comfortable, padded, cleanable surface between the customer and the aesthetician/nail tech for the customers feet to sit while not in the tub. I also hope to put in some kind of storage for tools.

At the moment, I’ve gone over some initial concepts with the salon owner and it looks like it’s going to be best to use a vinyl upholstered pad for the foot rest. I think I can reasonably make this myself - wood substructure, high density closed cell foam and then wrap in vinyl/staple to the back. As for the rest, I’m limited on things I can do that will look nice when done. This week I’ve been considering trying to make a vacuform table in my garage to make the outer part, then just put it over a frame of 2x4s, etc. Fiberglass is another option, although both of those could get expensive depending on how many times I screw up.

My initial goal is to make two of these. Currently the customers sit on a sofa that has had taller legs added, and the tub would go in front of them. If I can cook up a good method to do it, I want to try to make a stand for a second sofa and integrate the tubs into it.

It’s not such a terrible problem you’ve found yourself in. My advice would be to canvas your area for cabinetry shops and take a look at the work they’re currently doing - it’ll give you a feel for their attention to detail and quality of product. Then build a relationship with one. If you do a decent number of projects that involve his capabilities, you’ll be able to grow alongside each other and you’ll learn what kind of direction he needs and what limitations he might have…before you know it, you’ll start baking those parameters into your work.

Jesse, Scott has given great advice.

You may find that you can do “design” work for a number of cabinet shops as well as “kitchen/bath” shops. There is a lot of diverse software out there specifically for kitchen & bath design, but with your IXD background I suspect you could probably pickup on it quickly.

With regard to finding craftsmen, I took the liberty to do a quick CL search and found >

Not exactly Lafayette, but given the nature of business, not too far away… . .