Seeking design input......

Hi there,

Not sure if this is the correct place to post, but I will try and hope that some will put me right if its not!

So here is my situation, I am currently in the process of starting a business. The core competence is the manufacture of composite components. This can range from performance components to larger items. I have previously worked on projects for industry, defence, sport film etc. Our experience covers all aspects of engineering of these materials and production processes for both volume and prototyping.

So, the deal is that our interest is currently in the area of novel furniture design which could include bathrooms etc. However, being engineers and scientists we lack the creative input to design such items. We are hence looking for someone to help with this. Currently as we are starting out we don’t have a great deal of capital. therfore we are looking for someone to help with a novel design, in return we would realise the product, recognise the designer and provide royalties.

What do you guys think of such an approach? and would anyone be interested in such an arrangement?

I don’t think you’re going to get very far. It’s kind of a slap to the face to ask for free spec work with the promise of royalties IF the product launches. I’d really consider pulling together the budget to hire a freelance interior/industrial consultancy.

Think of it from our point of view. Let’s say a designer comes up with a concept for a flying car. Would you be willing to provide your engineering services for free with a vague promise of realizing the product, getting recognition, and vague royalties? It’s a stretch (bathrooms are much more doable than flying cars), but I hope you can see what I’m driving at.

I don’t know of any self-respecting designer that would agree to this. Would you ask your manufacturing partners for free tooling, materials, and labor in exchange for a cut of the royalties IF it sells? I think they would laugh. If you aren’t willing to pay for design, which will basically sell your product, then I doubt you’ll get very far as a business. I would hire a consultant as tarngerine suggested. If you were to work out a deal where the designer gets some base compensation PLUS royalties then it could be a reasonable arrangement.

This could be something you could approach your local design college/university/school with?

Or instead of looking for no strings attached-work , add a partner in your venture in the form of a designer, accompanied by the pros/cons that goes with. If your planning a furniture business, their expertise will probably come in handy pretty quickly.

Your corporate law firm or accounting firm would not work for a portion of future revenue, their services are fee based… and they are not defining the very product that makes your business!

If you go the spec rout, you most likely won’t get a very high caliber talent, you could propose a partnership with a piece of the actual furniture arm of the business in return for the investment of design time.

Would you hire a plumber on a house your rebuilding on basis they’ll get paid after the house sells?

From our perspective: We don’t like to rely on potential market value that may or may not happen. (Do this for free, if it sells we’ll pay you)

From your perspective: If making your product manufacturable and desirable is of any importance to your company, why cheap out on hiring someone to do that part. You’ll get what you paid for.

Hi, thanks for all the replies.

Yes I agree with most of the comments there, however I was a bit brief. A more realistic offer would of course be to offer shares in the company in return for work. This is correct and the way we have done business in the past where it has worked very well. So apologies to anyone who has been offended. On the other hand this could have been an opportunity to someone who is new in the area or design and who has some interesting concepts that they cannot afford to produce. We could realise them. In response to some replies here, yes in early stages of a project we do a certain amount of concept work free of charge to show our capabilities and present concepts, this is regardless of if the client wants to continue.

Maybe another approch would be to offer our capabilities to designers which are far more than just aesthetics, we can design and produce in many materials, we can use sustainable materials and quantify their environmental benefits, also we are able to produce intelligent structures with imbedded sensors etc.

Is there much call for such materials/services in this field ? what do you guys think and if so can you give me an idea of companies that you currently use. In short we would like to work with some designers produce some nice pieces and get the pics up on our website.

Oh and yes we thought of going to local design schools, thanks again for the input.

Sure, you can do pitches for free. That’s completely up to your company. However, the point we’re trying to make is that you can’t expect a designer to work for free. Not a good, respectable one anyway. Company shares are risky and unpredictable.

There’s always room for more sustainability. I think the best choice for you right now is to start posting some job listings. Be clear about the compensation that you’re willing to provide. I’m sure in this state of the economy, someone out there will be willing to take the risk.

I agree that you won’t get the highest caliber of designer by merely offering spec work. However, the prospect of having a design realized is very appealing to most designers. You might inspire a more talented designer to work with you if you go more into detail about what capabilities you bring to the table for them to realize their designs. If they are rare / expensive capabilities that a certain designer would not normally have access to then I can see where there is some appeal to do the spec work. A contract that guarantees the designer personal ownership of prototypes and / or personal ownership of a settled number of first run products as an initial “payment”, might hold appeal for some, because it would not be working for nothing. In short, if you aren’t paying for the design work up front, you have to find a way to really sell the opportunity to work with you beyond potential royalties or shares.

In all fairness I do spec work for my industry everyday, and if not for the fact that I get paid a salary whether or not we win or lose a project, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it without at least some kind of cool guaranteed incentive.

I think the best recommendation is for you to find a way to bring on a full time Industrial Designer so that they can get a deeper understanding of your capabilities and promote creative input within the culture of your new business.