I knew what I envisioned this new baby changing pad to be so I put pencil to paper and began to sketch. For anyone out there who may be intimidated about taking that first step of documenting your vision, don’t be. My sketch was by no means perfect but I got the point across.
For about a week or two, I reviewed the sketch with friends and family to see if I missed something that was functionally necessary. Once I was satisfied with my vision I needed to find someone who had the illustration and design skills necessary to create a CAD file which would eventually become a prototype.
Finding that initial company to trust with your dream requires quite a bit of research. There are so many design and prototype establishments out there, it is extremely important to understand that you are the individual doing the hiring hence you need to set your expectations based on your needs.
“Before providing any information to any outside entity always, and I repeat always have them sign a non-disclosure agreement, there are countless legal entities who provide these templates for a fee.”
Once I had an NDA in hand, I set out to find a design and prototyping company through online searches. Eventually, I narrowed my decision down to three companies. Two companies were responsive to my initial request so I began my evaluation/ decision-making process.
Company A (Mako design + Invent), took a very simplistic approach to the information I provided to them. Without having a design background, even I understood that this project was not as simple as gluing two pieces of wood together. Throughout my conversations I did not get the sense that they were interested in intricate details of the project, so I choose not to go with them.
Company B (PRG prototyping) was very interested in every aspect of this project. They followed up on a regular basis and were very eager to gain my business. I was convinced that I would be working with them and had done everything but sign a contract and send payment. On December 16, 2016, I was ready to make the bank transfer for the initial payment but out of nowhere, I received a follow-up call from a third company so I placed this decision on hold.
Company C (T2 designs) first wanted to consult with me for a fee of $125/hour to evaluate the idea for viability and perform a preliminary patent search. I was hesitant to pay $125 to talk to someone but I convinced myself that it might be in my best interest so I proceeded.
The conversation with the owner of T2 design went extremely well, we went over the allotted hour and the information that he provided made sense to me. One of the big differences with this company was that they did not charge a flat rate for the whole process, unlike PRG prototyping. The process of product development made more sense to me after my meeting with T2 design. I understood that there may be several revisions and iteration for a brand new idea such as mine, that even if I paid a flat fee the time not stipulated in a flat fee contract would have to be paid for as an additional expense.
With T2 design, I would pay as I go, however, I made sure that they understood that I was on a budget and did not want to exceed a specific dollar amount for the entire project. This would mean that my decisions would have to be educated and calculated.
I felt a sense of comfort after my meeting with T2 and moved forward with informing PRG prototyping that I was not going to move forward with them. I signed the contract with T2 designs on December 26th, 2016, and they began the initial work of the concept design.
My Advice: For design work, whenever possible try to work face to face. So many details can get lost through written communication. It helped that T2 design was in Santa Monica California because although I lived in NY, I worked for a CA-based company back then and made frequent trips out west. I made sure that all my early phase meetings coincided with a scheduled work trip.