5 Ways to Improve Your Product Design

Planning to update your line, or add new designs this year? Here are strategies to use when designing your newest collection.



When gallery and store buyers speak with artists, the first question they ask is, “What’s new?” If you don’t offer new product, you are losing sales. Most successful artists change their product line by 30% each year.

Staying fresh with your work revitalizes your line, and energizes your collectors and your wholesale buyers. The past few years of a rough economy have driven designers of all types to stay safe, going with the tried and true. A recession doesn’t encourage daring and innovation.

Lately, we’ve been talking with a lot of artists and craftspeople about their businesses and their projections. Some had a successful 2011, and some did not. But to a person, they are excited and expecting better sales this year. And they want to know more about product development and creating art and craft work that will wow their customers and their bank accounts.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when launching into design of a new product line:

1. Do some market research. If you design what you like, without keeping your customer in mind, you might miss the mark. Identify categories or markets that could work for you. What are your target customers interested in? What do they love and value? It’s a whole lot easier to sell what people already connect with than to educate them to want what you have to sell.

2. Understand your commitment. If you’re interested in working on large installations, are you equipped to handle heavy objects and/or equipment? You’ll have to know specifics on mounting systems, legal and safety issues, and how to work in public spaces. If you want to use symbols in your work, you will have to learn interpretation, variations and history to use them appropriately. Get clear on what your limitations and your interests are before you make a major commitment to something totally new.

3. Big picture thinking.   Each piece of a collection should work together with the others, as well as stand alone. Design with the sale in mind. How can you create sets, pairs, or multiples that will increase your sale, while providing your customer with art or craft that really makes a statement? Picture a line where collectors want to acquire a number of pieces to own a whole set of your line that works beautifully together, like matched serving pieces. While you are designing, also think about how you will market what you are creating. It can inspire you to think of innovative ways of designing a great collection which earns repeat customers.

4. Diversify. Is your current body of work in a narrow price point spread? Would it make sense for you to design collections which are higher or lower-end to capture more market share for your business? Diversifying your lines broadens your appeal to more potential customers.

5. Staying Power. For many artists and craftspeople, their long-time bestsellers are the bread and butter of their business. Those are designs that are proven, and most likely are pretty timeless in their design. Product development is hard work. Although it really never ends, if your product line is trendy (translation: short lifespan), you will find yourself scrambling to always come up with the next new thing. Consider how you can add some classic elements to your line, or give an update to bestsellers to keep them fresh.

Do some smart planning to get the most out of your time spent on product development this year. This will help you create great opportunities to grow your sales and your business.

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