Over the course of our business activity we have been interacting with various creative disciplines, but the following four guidelines have always seemed to reap benefits:
1. Sphere of influence
Watchmaking stands at an intersection between goldsmithing, metalsmithing and leathersmithing techniques. Compared to other fields, the details of a watch design can easily drive the cost up by needlessly increasing manual labour. Working with other engineering fields, we noticed how the watchmaking industry, and the luxury industry in general, had developed some of the most efficient methods of optimizing quality. This reason alone leads us to conclude that at the current state, the tech industry still has to many constraints that prevent it from competing head to head with the level of quality found in the luxury industry.
Unless the professional that you hire has experience with either of these three disciplines, they will have to demonstrate an open mind because the habits of their respective field of expertise will easily lead to production costs higher than needed. So even though an Architect, a mainstream Industrial Designer or a Graphic Designer might do a very good job at designing watches, you have better chances of a cost-efficient solution with an experienced Watch, Jewellery or Accessories Designer.
2. Idea rather than presentation
As counterintuitive as it sounds, make sure that your designer can focus on the design idea rather than the design presentation.We were involved in a project where the entrepreneur had hired a designer who was spending more time on the renderings than the design idea itself. The design presentation was highly detailed, while the design idea itself would have looked very poor after production.
3. Real rather than virtual
Even a watch positioned in the Low Middle End price segment undergoes and extensive polishing process controlled by a skilled craftsman. With all projects we have been involved with since 2001, we have never seen yet a computer rendering that paid justice to a hand-refinished timepiece.
Interestingly, Kickstarter has banned the sole use of 3D computer renderings in favour of samples pictures, because finders need proof that your product exists. Another good reason is that by using photographs of your real product, you capitalise on the finishing quality that you are investing it. When you choose to show 3D rendering only, you are betting on your designer’s understanding of metalsmithing, which is often limited unless that person has followed training in goldsmithing.
For those reasons, you should not choose a designer solely on their ability to provide highly-detailed renderings. It will play its part, but if you hire a designer that is “limited” to producing blueprints and CMF, images of the finished product will still beat still any computer generated image by a long shot.
4. Committing to your Dual Definition Attribute
The Dual Definition Attribute is a framework that we have defined in our Report to help you position your brand in a niche based on a two level grid based on style positioning and price positioning.
We always recommend to start building your brand only after you have clearly defined its Dual Definition Attribute. That doesn’t mean that you should not show flexibility and be able to fine-tune the concept as you go, but we want to emphasise that as founding blocks, your Brand Identity and Design Identity should not be made up along the way.In 2014 we took on a project that was based on a brilliant business idea, even though we should have turned it down and steered the entrepreneur towards an Industrial Designer. The entrepreneur had a previous experience with a watch brand, so we assumed that he was well aware of the different finishing quality by price segment. However, he kept changing the Price Positioning by several segments every two months. This is the worst disservice that an entrepreneur can do to a good business idea, and it helped us understand the importance of communicating the pivotal role of Price Positioning in the Dual Definition Attribute. It is the horse before the cart.
Depending on the Sourcing Model that you decide to follow, you will face the decision of either use a freelance designer unrelated to the manufacturer, or if it is the case, to rely on the manufacturer’s in-house designer. As a rule of thumb, using a freelance designer makes sense if either of the following is part of your business plan:
- Consistency in art direction.
- Planned quantities above 2000 units per model, allowing to amortise the designer’s fee.
|Creative direction remains consistent even when switching between suppliers.||Upfront cost.|
|Possibility to draw from the freelancer's experience with other reputable brands.||Drawing might not be 100% production ready, requiring slight modifications before production.|
In-House ODM Designer
|In Hong Kong and Mainland China, there is no added cost besides tooling and production when sourcing from an ODM.||Switching to another ODM might bring inconsistencies in the art direction since the new inhouse designer will NOT have the same touch nor the same sensibility as the previous one.|
|Drawings are 100% production-ready.||The designer might only have experience with a lower price range than the one aimed at for the brand.|
Suggestion for keeping costs contained
In order to cut cost, the workload could be spread between a freelance designer and the ODM designer.
- The freelance can for example be hired to design the watch case, while having the ODM explore iterations of the dial, hands and strap based on submitted material.
- Using an existing case design from the ODM, the freelance is only hired to do the dial and hands design.