how many of you have walked a product from idea through

production and into marketing and sales? This is a out growth of the “why does good design cost so much”.


Most times we hand-off after engineering and first shots. But I have on a few occassion participated in selling to the buyers and follow-through on POP etc. As to why it is so expensive? In my experience it is not a very large portion of the total budget if there is no risk and when we are working on royalty the number is usually only around 6%.

how many times?

Too many to count.

The secret is to work at a small company where you wear many hats. I design the product and also sell it to Target. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it sucks. You need thick skin to hear the dumb comments from the buyers.

no kidding, have done 7 of my own and 20-40 for clients/employers.

How much are the engineers involved in the early stages of the concept development?

In smaller companies, quite a bit.

Typically their ‘founding invention’ came directly out of engineering, and the invention is novel enough that it succeeds despite a lack of marketing and design. This is the result of a natural-selection process: for every new company that succeeds, there are thousands who fail.

In larger companies, less.

As companies grow and find the need for a Marketing function (and later a Design function) to plan and systematize new product development, Engineering is pushed out of the concept development except to inform the process as technology Subject Matter Experts. This is smart since Engineering is good at making things, but lousy at deciding what to make. When you’re an established company, that natural selection stuff that got you started is just too risky!

But this is a tough transition and not all companies succeed at doing it. That’s why engineers are frequently referred to as ‘the inmates running the asylum.’

Pretty much spot on, there is however a lot of good reasons to have engineers in early no matter what size the company so you dont end up with a “built with fairy dust” solution. There is also a real strong case for designers to be far better at engineering than most are, yes the knowlage restricts your “vision” and it should.

indeed a smaller company will provide a greater opportunity to wear many hats. in my experience, i have been responsible for all aspects of the product (footwear) from strategic planning to design, technical development, graphics and communication as well as sales.

funny thing is, when i go to larger companies and present my experience, they dont believe im doing what 30 people in 3 different teams do in a larger corporate environment!

good thing is, its much easier to design/develop a big picture concept and ensure cohesive follow through in a short time than a larger structure with lots of bureaucracy and too many cooks in the kitchen.


Very true, and you (and I) did it with out a “manager” “general manager” and 5 other layers of oversight. Big companies do have the clout, so can get away with lots of layers and cogs, and so each layer and cog become less and less important to the overall operation of the company.