Category: Creative Inspiration

What Makes a Successful Designer Maker?

Tuesday June 4th 2013

What Makes a Successful Designer-Maker?

Designer-maker: those who both design and make their own products. Who bring together their creative ideas and making skills in the individual production of their designs. Designer-makers also represent designers involved in the small-scale batch production of goods. – Maker’s Yard

Having specific skills will help you to succeed as a designer-maker. I have compiled a list of what I believe those skills to be; you will find you have some, but maybe not others. That is normal, so don’t worry. It is always a good idea to be aware of your weak areas and, over time, bring people into your business who can provide those skills for you.

Someone who is creative, who also has a head for business (and what I mean by ‘head for business’ is that you have to work out your prices correctly, understand that marketing is key, identify how to grow the business etc.).Ali Millard of Milly and Pip

So what skills do the Creative Business Gems team think designer-makers need…?

  1. Creative: a successful designer-maker needs to create commercial products that will attract a customer base. To do well you need an eye for what sells; plus, you need to be able to think creatively to make items that match consumer needs.
  2. Originality: too many designer-makers copy other people’s work. This makes no sense, as you will never do well if you just mimic others. Instead, find your own style and make something unique and different (plus, it goes without saying that copying is plain bad). Yes, be inspired by other craftspeople, but have the confidence to forge your own path. Austin Kleon has written a brilliant book on this called Steal Like an Artist.
  3. Relevant: creating items to sell is very different to creating items for fun. If you want to make money from your makes then the question of relevance needs to be asked daily. Most craftspeople make items they love. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to sell your items, consider what your customers will buy. What is the demographic you are selling to? What styles and items do they like?
  4. Business-minded: having even a small interest in this will make the daily running of your creative empire more enjoyable. You don’t need to know everything, and there are many areas where you can employ people to help. Still, it is a good idea to try and learn as much as you can.
  5. Change-maker: the world of small business changes all the time. Adapting and reacting to these changes is something a smaller company can do much faster than a larger organisation. People can find change stressful, but it is likely you will need to continue to adapt, so try and learn to enjoy the process.
  6. Shows up: a simple but crucial factor to being a successful designer-maker is showing up and being present. Be there for your business every day, work hard, and the pay-offs will come.
  7. Customer service perfectionist: small companies need to strive for customer service that compares to the likes of Harrods and John Lewis. Try and find ways you can go over and above. Could you give your customers a free gift with their purchase, or a discount code for their next purchase?
  8. Social media fan: designer-makers are selling themselves as much as their products. These days, people want to know as much about the person behind the products as the products themselves. Social media is the perfect way to do this (plus, it’s free). This is another area where you can bring in help, but I would suggest trying to give it a go yourself first. Over time you will build a direct relationship with your customer, enabling you to ask them questions and get their feedback.
  9. Teacher and student: being self-employed means you end up learning something new each day. Those lessons keep on coming and coming, you can’t avoid them. After a while, you will become both student and teacher. Once you have learned those lessons, you will find yourself passing that knowledge on to your team.
  10. Trust your instincts: trusting your gut instinct and knowing when an idea is a good one is one of a designer’s most important qualities. These flashes of inspiration are always right, so when you recognise one, hold onto it, write it down, and develop it. Your best ideas will most likely come this way, so it is a good skill to develop.

Do you agree with my list, or would you suggest acquiring some other skills first? If so, I would love to hear what they are, so please add them in the comments bar below.

I’d say it’s a mix of passion, determination, flexibility, commercial realism & great support from family & friends. – Joanna Miller of Bespoke Verse

Photo by Lubos Houska, on Pixabay

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Welcome, I’m Gemma

If you are a Craftsperson, an Artisan, Design-Maker or Micro Manufacturer, looking for product design inspiration then is a blog written for you.

I have run my own Designer-Maker Business, Milly Inspired, for over 7 years now. Today our six-figure company is still growing at 50%. Learn how to get the same results right here!

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