Yay for more insightful responses. This conversation is making me explore different directions, and unfortunately I’m the kind of guy who needs to feel out what works best for me. Great!
Pity we’re not focusing on sales hacks for the up and coming though. Who thinks I should try a kickstarter campaign?
And just a heads-up, I think I might have gone a bit rambly further along. Sorry!
With regards to what has been discussed so far, the common ground seems to be my struggle to decide on making FUSED either a ‘company’ or a personal ‘brand’. For example, up til now, when the company speaks on the website or instagram, I use the ‘we’ form and tone down the language used. I feel all this might make it easier for potential customer to trust that they will get a good product. But I’m also someone who hates faking anything. Thus I try to be upfront on the website about FUSED being a one man business. Mixed messages much?!
The faking also ties into the personas mentioned (mad scientist, artisan), I don’t think I’m comfortable with theatrics. The current website design and language tone is a good representation of who I am, and I am up for fleshing that out more with quirky and eclectic styling of future lifestyle photos.
Put in other words, on the one hand:
It will never be perfect, nor should it be, but I think the presentation can be more aligned to your vision. Look for ways to minimize cognitive dissonance.
On the other:
mad scientist, bespoke craftsman either could definitely give a little more flavor to the site, does it really need to be consistent?
I’m leaning towards the latter but it is all a balancing act. Then again, as designers we like everything polished, but that shouldn’t stop us from working with unfinished prototypes to get things going.
And Richard, you are another designer whom I have great respect for. I love the designs you’ve done for Skora. And as can be expected, you are asking great questions!
- You are right, this all started as quest. I needed to find out if I could print shoes, and in the process, if a product designer with a 3d printer can attain financial independence. Feetz is doing it in silicon valley start-up style, but I felt their shoes were not really attractive (I still don’t). I found a brand called Prevolve, with my same development approach and a two year head start, but they hadn’t made much headway yet. So I saw an opportunity, to develop a product and a production technique on a modest sum, and possibly be just ahead of the curve and in a position to surf it. Something that I’m sure many a product designer has wanted to do at some point.
It really is that simple. Business cases and marketing plans are great, but if you don’t have a working product, what’s the point? That probably sounds naive but all I’ve done is product design, not business development. And I had a healthy dose of confidence that if I could get it to work, the shoes and production method would be intriguing enough to merit further development with outside help. That’s where I’m at now. I do think it is a business, but maybe not a BUSINESS. lemme ask you, is it not possible to make a profit while experimenting and having fun?
For example, If I stay a one man brand, I break-even at about 30 pairs/month, which sounds achievable. I’d then like to cap production at 50 pairs/month and keep it there.
Or I might want to grow a bit more, up to 200 pairs/month, with a small office and two employees.
Is there any good reason to grow bigger in the first couple of years? Please do call me out and educate me, a life of contract jobs does not prepare one well for running a business.
On that note, the Shoe Surgeon is a great example of a route that feels more natural to me than a bigger business, and one I hadn’t thought of until now. Thanks!
As for the product quality, and knowing the materials I’m working with, I’m ok with doing ‘low res’ designs that clearly show 3D printing artifacts. For now. With my entry-level printer, there is a sort of machine signature, making each shoe slightly different. I also take pleasure in making the shoe as one piece, with minimal post-processing and the ability to easily recycle the shoe after it’s worn through. If we are talking future production methods that show promise for a more sustainable model, this is definitely one of them. But currently, it’s still a crude tool, which too me has it’s own charm. Also, chasing the refinement that a production big brand shoe has, would probably kill my enthusiasm. And regarding the big brands, I’m sure all the best concepts are being kept a secret because doing just a 3D printed midsole seems a bit of a cop out to me, considering the toys they get to play with.
That said, you make an excellent point here. I do aspire to give potential customers the same security and service as a big brand. My product is a Model T compared to contemporary shoes (same comfort though, promise). And I would like to keep the experimental nature of the current quest. You’re going to tell me I can’t have it all and be successful, right?
Hah, so true! I originally thought my target market would be sneakerheads. They regularly buy new shoes, seem swayed by innovation and want to stand out. I was wrong though, most of them are incredible brand loyal and don’t really want to stand out. I’m now leaning towards techwear personally, but I’m taking January to figure out what FUSED will be, so if you have any target market suggestions, I’m all ears.
Regarding those modular shoes, Miix much? I am looking forward to the launch!