What is product development?

We hit the ground running this month as we started our fall product development trip to China. If you’re not sure what product development is – stay tuned for a #BehindTheDesign tour. We’ll show you how Carolyn Kinder International (CKI) moves from design to final product.

Product Design

This is the fun part. Product designers find inspiration everywhere – from art, architecture, nature and pretty much everywhere they go. What can start out as a sketch on a napkin in a restaurant, is eventually conceptualized and illustrated in a way that allows a manufacturer to create a prototype sample. Throughout the product development cycle, designers and CKI’s founder, Carolyn Kinder, have input and final approval, making sure the vision of the designer is fully realized. Once the design is finalized, that’s when the product development starts.

Product Development

Product development is a complicated process where designers work with a team of artisans and technicians to bring the product through production.

CKI designers are on site to approve each milestone of a products development cycle. This is what it looks like:

  • CAD or three-dimensional shop drawings Once the designer has identified and illustrated the concept, a scaled CAD or three-dimensional illustration is created. CKI’s dedicated staff of illustrators create detailed, scaled drawings that include all components of the product down to the last nut, bolt and washer. For Lighting products and ceiling fans the process is extremely detailed and includes specification of socket type, bulb wattage and overall fixture wattage and load.
  • Carving and detail Sculptural items and carved components must be hand-carved or turned on a lathe by local artisans and are then approved for scale and shape before they are moved to casting. These components can be cast in iron, aluminum, brass, concrete, or other composite materials. Next comes white body approval. A white body is a plaster cast of a carving. These white bodies are used to create the molds for casting. White bodies must be checked and approved prior to mold making which can be very expensive.
  • Metal work and bending It is so important to oversee the bending of metal arms for fixed wire lighting and other products. A slight difference in the sweep of a chandelier’s arm can greatly improve or detract from its visual appeal and salability.
  • Finish specifications The color, texture and luster of a product is crucial to its success. The finish is usually specified in the original concept creation but can change through the development of a product based on a vendor’s strengths and creativity. Cooperation with a vendor is important to find the best possible aesthetic for each piece.
  • Glass components Most lighting vendors have a large variety of glass components on hand to choose the best fit for the product design, but in many cases, we seek a local glass manufacturer for a more unique, original glass component and finish. A trip to a good glass factory can open a world of creativity and opportunity.
  • Bill of materials and cost analysis Once you have identified all the components of a product each item must be listed and costed to find the overall cost. In most cases, the factory is responsible for these details, but it is important to cooperate with their staff and adjust as needed to create the best product for the best price.
  • Prototype sample approval Once all the pieces have been approved and assembled, the designer must approve and sign off on the sample or make whatever minor adjustments are necessary.
  • Photography The completed approved samples are photographed in high resolution, usually as a part of a vignette and individually. The individual photographs are pathed for use in marketing collateral.

Show it, sell it, ship it

After the development is complete the products are shown to a wholesale client in a product line review that includes 300-600 new products twice a year. We develop around 5,000 products in an 18-month period.

Carolyn Kinder International licenses its unique, original product designs to some of the best wholesalers and original equipment manufacturers in the home furnishing industry. Learn more at www.carolynkinder.com

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