I learned a lot about the relationship between designers and manufacturers before I even entered the field. My father worked as an architect, and I was often by his side as he went to visit job sites and collaborate with contractors. Even though my father designed the houses, he respected and invited questions, criticisms, and feedback from the builders he relied on. As a result, each finished project was more successful for everyone involved.
At the top level, product design works much the same way. The relationship between the designer and the manufacturer is paramount when you are producing a consumer product. And when we talk about designing and manufacturing truly innovative products where there’s no previous knowledge to fall back upon, that relationship becomes even more important.
I first met Stephen Key in 2001. Two months later, I used a few recommendations of his — shared over the customary gin tonic — to help a friend double overseas sales in less than two weeks in New Zealand and Australia.
How? Licensing. It can be a beautifully elegant model.
Stephen is somewhat famous in inventing circles for two reasons. First, he consistently earns millions of dollars licensing his ideas to companies like Disney, Nestle, and Coca-Cola. Second, he is fast. It seldom takes him more than three weeks to go from idea to a signed deal. Continue reading →