Design Theatre – Life in the Product Design Trenches

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Ideas for Future Topics

with 21 comments

Thanks, first and foremost, to John Biggs for giving me the opportunity to post my first couple of installments on his blog  In response to his readers John Allen, Tom Reynolds and others I am going to accumulate a list below of future subject matter.  I welcome anyone to comment on this list with a “yeah” or a “neah” and/or their own idea for something they may like to read about at a future date:

  • Ideation – Where do Good Ideas Come From?
  • Marketability – Is  a Good Idea Necessarily a Marketable Idea?
  • SBA Funding – What is the SBA and How Does One Take Advantage of It?
  • Protecting Your Idea In America – Basics of Intellectual Property
  • Protecting Your Idea In China – Is This Really Necessary and, If So, What Can I Do About It?
  • Vetting a New Manufacturing Partner
  • Tips On Industrial Design – Is This Something That Can Be Outsourced As Well?
  • Is it Even Possible to Make This Kind of Stuff in the USA?
  • Effects of Outsourcing: Trade Deficit? American Job Loss?
  • Analysis of Cost of Manufacturing the Same Product in the USA vs. in China.
  • Reading Your Own Product Reviews  – Thick Skin Required.
  • The Logistics … Of Logistics.  How Does Importing Work Anyway?
  • Is The iPhone Killing Good Old-Fashioned, Mass-Produced Product?
  • Mysteries of Retail Revealed – What Are Buyers Looking For in Terms of Margin via Various Channels (Boutique, Catalog, Big Box, Mass, etc.)
  • The Best Working Prototype of All May Be … A Rendering?
  • Vet It By Committee?  Thoughts On “Crowd-sourced” Product Development (i.e.
  • The New World Order of the Direct Sale (Etsy, Zazzle, CafePress, SpreadShirt, etc.)
  • The Armchair Inventor – Online Resources Useful To The New Product Developer
  • OEM, ODM, FOB, FCL, LTL.  GTLKA … Guide To Little Known Acronyms
  • Continuous Improvement … Handling Quality Control From Afar
  • More To Come …

Written by designtheatre

April 11, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Posted in China

21 Responses

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  1. It all looks good Adam. Thanks again.

    John Allen

    April 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm

  2. The reason the articles struck me was because of the china aspect involved in it.
    What I would really like more to read is about your interactions and dealings with people in China and a little more of an in-depth look at how things get done in China.
    The cultural aspect and may be some of your personal experiences there, to us in the west China is generally a black hole from where just things come from, like you said you just give them a napkin drawing and voila you got it.
    For example some things that were completely new to me were things like you could not hire a taxi in china everything had to be prearranged, the engineering teams at the factory you work with speak little or no english, the fact that the owner of a factory came to pick you up personally.
    I may be a minority here on this but this is actually why i really liked the article.
    Your other points were on along the lines of tip for hardware startups, though very informative, lets face it not too many of us are thinking of doing that. Not saying that the other points are bad but they have been done partially in some form or the other partially.


    April 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    • Raghav, thanks for the insightful comments. I agree that the cultural aspects of working with the factories in China as fascinating in of themselves. China, or any foreign country for that matter, can certainly feel like a “black box” until you’ve had a chance to go there and experience it for yourself. It is worth noting that the industrial areas of China where I tend to visit are not necessarily indicative of other areas of the country, as you would probably expect and are quickly evolving. It’s amazing to think that the factories that AI works with that are considered the “old” factories are less than 30 years old. I will bear your interests in mind as I continue to elaborate on these topics and try to reveal as much about the culture as I can, in doing so.


      April 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

  3. Thaks so much for pulling back the curtain. I am in the midst of this process (for the 2nd time)…and am beset with doubts. It will be very valuable for me to see how someone else did things. I already am reviewing my actions in light of yours.

    Can you write a little on cost and pricepoint and bulk wholesale discounts …and profitability?
    I would be interested in your thoughts and experiences.
    Thanks very much.

    Mike Porter

    April 11, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    • Mike, really glad to hear this and I’ve added your idea to the list for the subject of a future post.


      April 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

  4. +1 for:

    Vetting a New Manufacturing Partner

    Analysis of Cost of Manufacturing the Same Product in the USA vs. in China

    Protecting Your Idea In China – Is This Really Necessary and, If So, What Can I Do About It?

    Also, if you have any tips about the logistics of importing a product (complying with regulations and inspections, getting the product from port to port to warehouse, etc) I would love to hear more about that too.

    Great stuff so far! It’s awesome that you’re sharing your insight – karma points for you :)


    April 12, 2010 at 4:11 am

    • Sean, good suggestion on the logistics … I added that to the list. Thanks for the kind words!


      April 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

  5. Hello, glad you started a blog i’ll follow it closely!

    Could you give us a ruff idea of how much time and money is requiered to look for a manufacturing partner in china?


    April 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    • Based, on the Part I and II postings, I would allocate around 8-10 weeks to accomplish those steps (including a one-week trip to China). Outside of travel expenses (and not including the cost of an design or engineering work, as described) the sourcing process really shouldn’t cost you anything at all. Let me know if I’ve misunderstood your question …


      April 12, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  6. Being very new to the entrepreneurial environment my self, many of the topics you have listed and suggestions that others have offered here, such as: Marketability, SBA funding, IP in the US and China, The Logistics… Of Logistics, manufacturing cost/pricing/profitability etc, are of interest to me.

    But I am also always eager to hear about someone else’s Ideation process, especially from someone who has successfully taken their ideas to market.

    I am loving all these topics and can not wait for whats to come next. Thanks for sharing such awesome and valuable insights!

    Galen Frechette

    April 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

  7. Are you going to set up a ‘donate’ button for your blog, because if you get around to discussing the topics on your idea board as in-depth as you have the series you started I’ll be here every day. I like your writing style – it’s personal and professional at the same time, and I think having examples of what is ‘normal’ in this process is the most helpful of all. For example – I just found out my mechanical specs are way better than what manufacturers usually have to deal with, and that’s done a lot for my confidence.


    April 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    • Liz, interesting idea but I will concentrate on the business for purposes of making money and hope to continue with the blog for personal enjoyment and, hopefully, the enjoyment and knowledge of folks like you. Thanks for the kind words on the writing style – that is exactly what I am striving for. Glad to hear that things seem to be off on good footing for you. Let me know when Iaddica launches.


      April 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      • Well, thanks for the blog then!! Will keep you posted. :)


        April 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm

  8. As someone with no experience in product development but has the intention to change that, these posts are fascinating.

    I’m very interested in knowing how you vetted the factories. Did your first product involve going there? Did you have to fork over a deposit just to get the molds made? Did you know people who had been through this before you did it yourself?


    April 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    • Andy, I can go into more detail about what to look for in a factory. Short answers to your questions are (1) I did not actually visit the first factory that I worked with – I did not have the funds or the knowledge to do so at the time. I did, however, meet the owner of that factory in LA. (2) In general, yes, you will always have to put a deposit down before moulds are made. (3) I knew one individual who had some limited experience working with Asian factories in his past. For a lot of what I did for that first project, however, I kind of held my nose and jumped …


      April 12, 2010 at 11:39 pm

  9. I too just jumped off the cliff with my first project.
    I felt that I had forged a reasonable idea of the type of person/company I was dealing with just by paying attention to how they responded to my emails and what sort of questions they had for me and the quality of the samples that I received.
    I was not trying to find the cheapest factory…just one willing to do the job in the way I wanted. I have not as of yet made any money with that product…but I got them made which is something anyway..
    I learned a ton from that experience that is helping me in my 2nd product which is far simpler and less expensive to produce. I wish I had done this one first!

    I look forward to future posts on independent product development. Technologies have aligned to make it possible for “makers” to do things on their own in a way what has never been possible before.

    It is very fun…but gut wrenching at times.
    I guess I am a gambler because I like the process.

    Mike Porter

    April 13, 2010 at 12:06 am

    • Mike, great comments. I agree that a lot can be learned by nothing more than making a good “sniff test” of the quality of dialog. I’ve found that judging samples can be tough because typically what the factory can send you is their low-cost “off-the-shelf” promo-type stuff which may or may not be representative of the quality of work they are capable of in an OEM capacity. I also agree that simple is better – in just about everything. For those out there looking to get started, consider starting with something small and relatively inexpensive for a first project and then building to that dream idea, IF the dream idea happens to be very complex. I would say something like a clock radio is a good middle-of-the-road product – simple enough that a first-timer could do it but complex enough that the barrier to entry is a little higher than, say, “none”.


      April 13, 2010 at 1:26 am

  10. Adam – really enjoying your series. I’d like to see an entry about the decision process/matrix for using China versus domestic (US) or other countries such as Mexico.

    I’d also like your thoughts on crowd sourcing sites like for product development.

    And lastly, an index of the sites you use for research. You mentioned a couple in your articles, but a list posted fro your blog would be great.


    Ken Price

    April 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

  11. These posts are really amazing, I already subscribed to your blog and I’m excited to see whats next. I’m an entrepreneur as well as a tech guy and I want to produce my own electronic but still don’t know what to do yet. Hopefully you can help all of us out!! :)

    You can get all of your followers into a list and share it among us so we can help eachother as well, you guys can contact me at I look forward to talk to you guys

    Kenneth M

    April 14, 2010 at 4:04 am

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