So You Want to Be a Product Designer
Seven influential talent scouts offer advice to young designers on getting their designs out of the studio and onto the market.
Designing furniture is not exactly the same thing as designing a product, even if that product happens to be furniture. No, this is not a riddle or an industrial-design koan, but a distinction between the creation of glorious, messy, inspired one-offs (god bless them) and products intended for mass consumption (or at least batches larger than ten). They are fundamentally different tasks. When clients and factories and materials are involved, designing the actual object is only a fraction of the job. As John Edelman, the president and CEO of Design Within Reach, puts it, “Anybody can design for a magazine. I don’t mean any disrespect,”—none taken—“but it’s much easier than designing for the market.” We agree. The world of craft doesn’t need our advice or guidance, just occasional encouragement. Young designers who want to carve out a career working with manufacturers, on the other hand, need all the practical help they can get. To that end, we interviewed creative directors at six leading American design companies, and talked about common mistakes, market intelligence, and the art of the cold call. The collective take-home message is an important one: designing the object is just the beginning of the process. —Martin C. Pedersen