In my first year at Spartina 449, the GypSea Mermaid Collection, which I art directed became the top selling Black Friday item. In Spring 2020, two of my handbags, the Lauren Tote and the Lindsey Phone Crossbody were top grossing items for the season.
For every season, our team kicked off the creative process with a design brainstorming session. A large part of this meeting was based on forecasting market trends and understanding the needs of our customer base. We would look at past product sales to evaluate what our customers liked and how we could create a new product that would align with our customer needs. For each new product I worked on, I had to start by finding answers to the following questions:
Who is the target consumer for this product?
What material properties or extra features are required?
What similar products are being or have been sold in the market?
After coming up with the initial concepts, I then continued with 2D sketches (hand drawn and in Adobe Illustrator) of the product. These sketches allowed me to entertain new ideas and concepts based on the design, and help to identify and solve potential design or manufacturing issues. During this phase, I focused on the physical and aesthetic design for the overall vision of the product and its market.
A large part of my role was putting together a tech package to be sent to overseas manufactures for each product. Each tech pack included:
After conceptualizing the prototype I then and to evaluate if there were any risks to the final product. I had to make sure the materials that we would need to use were prop 65 compliant. I would research what materials we currently had on hand and what we would have to custom dye or order from a new supplier. I also had to evaluate the production timeline. In some cases the manufacture would need more time to produce a product and I had to take into account if this delay would cause a setback in our seasonal launch.
I then would do several rounds of prototype testing and wear to evaluate the product on three levels:
Proportion and construction
Function and comfort
Once I designed these three components to meet Spartina 449's design standard I approved the prototype for final production.
The journey from concept to final product is not always straight forward and can change at any moment. I had to think quickly to adapt to changes with the product, issues with construction, and delays in our timeline. As a product development designer, I learned the importance of details, patience, and communication. The overall experience provided me with heaps of new tools and has transformed myself as a designer not only to be user-centric but to pay attention to the different details required for each product. Here are some of my takeaways:
Think like the customer
We want to be neutral in the design process and always listen to customer feedback from previous seasons. I had to come up with new and edgy designs, but sometimes these designs did not resonate with our customer base. I had to learn to design for the customer and not myself.
Product development is not a linear process
In the prototyping phase there were many times when I thought I was close to the final product, but then realized a change needed to be made to either better satisfy the customer or because of manufacturing issues.
Clear and simple communication is best
The manufactures I worked with were located in various countries across the world. I had to make sure my tech packs and illustrations were clearly communicated to help avoid delays in production from mistakes in the prototype.