Tag: Project Management

01 Mar 2019
5 Basics Everyone Needs to Create a Website

5 Website Basics Everyone Needs

Website basics, if you know these it’ll make your life easier! If you are thinking of creating a website yourself or wondering what basic items designers will use to create a website for you, this is for you. There are 5 main items that every website needs to have in order to be a true marketing asset. Whether you work with a design firm, a freelancer, or you create these aspects yourself, you will want to make sure this checklist is covered before you launch your new website. While this isn’t a comprehensive list (different websites might have additional things they need) this covers the basics everyone needs.

Goals. What is the goal of the website, your company, sales, etc. You don’t have to have a ton of goals (I do, but I’m an overachiever), but you should have at least a couple. Know what you are trying to achieve with the website and how it applies and helps your business and it’s goals. Is it sharing your story? Attracting tons of traffic? Selling lots of widgets? Answering peoples questions? Providing services? Setting the goals will help you get the right website made, even if it’s just you doing it.

Brand and Content. You need a brand, even if it’s just a color, a font, and a logo. Most graphic designers would cringe hearing this, but with my design background I also understand entrepreneurs and the start-up process. Now that you have a brand (or the start of one) you’ll also need your written content!

Product, Service, or Both. It doesn’t matter what combination you have here, you need to know what you are are providing to your visitors. It doesn’t have to be paid, it could be free, but what is your product or service? What does it do, how does it help the visitor? Make sure these things are at least loosely defined before creating a website. If you end up adjusting and editing during the process, don’t worry that happens. Should it happen, just make sure you know the basics of what you are providing to your visitors. Being clear about you are offering, be it products or services. The choice can determine if you need an ecommerce website or not. Knowing this is very important as the complexity can change quite a bit when you add ecommerce to your website.

Target Market. Who’s this site for? Tall people, short people, sick people healthy people? This matters because it will help define the content and also tells you about how the content should be made, the type of content, where you’ll want to get your website listed, etc. A good place to start if you don’t have a target already is to define one. I suggest starting with a niche, which I talked about in Defining Your Niche – Why it Matters

Budget and Timeline. So, even if you are doing this yourself, you need a budget and a timeline. We’ve talked about these before in 3 Must Haves When Creating a Project Timeline and Time, Budgets & Luxury Any project without a timeline is a project destined to never get done, or at least not this year. Budget zero? Well, it’ll be really hard to get a website up, but there are some places you can create a free site. These options will make it super apparent that you are using the free one because you don’t have a domain and their company branding is all over your website. Because of this it can be a good start, but you’ll want to move on quickly. Budget and timeline become even more important when working with professionals. The benefit is they will help you determine what kind of help you can get and in what time-frame.

If you have these five basics planned when you start creating your website you will be setting yourself up for success. I like success and I’m sure you do to, so make sure to spend the time putting some basic info together for each of these. Even if you are just wanting a quote, any designer giving you a good quote will need these items and possibly a few more details specific to your site in order to publish it completely. 

19 Jan 2018

7 Questions to Ask Before Starting a “Rush” Job

Are you in a rush? There are key advantages to paying for expedited service in the product development world, but over using the magical term “it’s a rush job” won’t do you any good if you can’t back it up. When you tell your developer or designer that you have a rush job for them, you should know a few things about the process, and how it will impact your project. Some developers love them, some don’t do them. Knowing what it means for your developer when you say your project is a rush job, will help make sure things go smoothly, and everything gets delivered on time and to spec. Here are some answers you need to rush your project successfully:
Is it really a rush job?
Make sure this is really a rush job for you. What are the driving factors that are making you want to set your project as a rush job? Talk with your developer, and make sure deadlines are understood. It might be that you thought it would be a rush job, and it isn’t. Don’t just call it a rush job if you are afraid your project won’t be taken seriously or done on time. Great developers always deliver on time or keep you apprised of any delays. In my firm, “rush” means drop everything and rush to get the project complete,  and we charge accordingly.
Do you have the funds and can pay immediately?
Most developers and designers that have any long term contracting experience require at least 75% up front to even begin the work. In a rush they are putting other clients on hold and pushing themselves and their team harder than normal to deliver what you need when you need it. If you are not ready to pay for expedited services up front you will be delaying your own project timeline.
Are you available for quick and frequent communication?
You are asking that your developer drop what they are doing and rush to take care of you. When you do that, the most frustrating thing you can do is take forever to respond or give edits, or be unresponsive at all. If you are not available to respond as quickly as possible to your developer, you are going to slow the project down, and show your developer that you do not actually view the project as a priority.
Do you have a scope of work?
This is absolutely necessary when working with rush jobs. Because the project is being rushed, you don’t want to waste your time or your developers. Making sure you have a list of changes, edits, and/or deliverables before you even mention the word rush to your developer is very important. During any job and (especially with rush jobs) if it isn’t in writing it’s not going to happen. Read our other blog here on creating an effective scope of work.
Do you have all materials ready to give to your developer?
Make sure you have more than everything you think your developer might need. You should do this with any project, but when it is a rush job time matters even more and your developer will be impressed and appreciative if you can produce everything they ask for quickly. Using a file sharing service is often a great idea as you can put everything they might need in one “folder” and share it with them.
Does your developer do rush jobs?
An important question that you might not necessarily think of to ask. Some developers I’ve worked with don’t do rush jobs at all, for which there are many reasons. Sometimes it’s a matter of schedule, or maybe they have a rush job already this week and are busy, even though they’d love to do it. It’s very important to make sure they really can squeeze your project in on your timeline. Especially with less experienced developers, their eyes can be larger than their stomach so to speak.
Are you committed to your project?
With any rush job, you are setting a high level of expectation and commitment from your developer. You should match them. If you loose focus, start to change the project, or give other signs that you aren’t committed, those are red flags to your developer that it isn’t really a rush job, and they might not take it as seriously as you want them to.
Getting your design services expedited will no doubt help you capture revenue opportunities. In order for your rush to be a success make sure you are as committed and prepared as your developer/ design team.

06 Jan 2018

5 Ways to Use Concepting (Ideation) Effectively with Your Designer

Concepting as a step in the design process that actually happens twice. The first concepting step is your original idea. The second time (which is usually when you hire a product developer/designer) is during ideation which happens before refining that idea into your final concept.  Ideation is a crucial point in the creative development of a product. Ideation is the process of taking a single idea, and expanding upon it through a process of exploration and concept generation. For design firms, this usually means taking a clients’ idea or problem and generating a series of concepts or ideas that are usually at the sketch level. We define a sketch level concept as something that is either a traditional sketch, a foam model, or a quick 3D model that shows the concept concisely. Details are usually low as it’s only goal is to convey an idea, not to go to production with the sketch. This phase of the design process generates the largest amount of ideas, which are always cut down during the review process. Here are 5 things to keep in mind while successfully going through the concept steps with your product developer.

  1. Have your documents together. Any sketches, descriptions, images, reference images of similar products, and anything else that might help describe your idea. It may seem silly to have to put this here, but without having this together at the start, it slows the process down.


  1. Give your designer edits for each review session. Almost every ideation process includes several rounds of ideation, where concepts are narrowed down, before more are created. To help with this, make sure you’ve spent plenty of time reviewing the concepts. Also, the best form of communication is visual. Red-lining and marking up the concepts that were presented to you and sending them to your designer before the meeting gives them time to review and think about your thoughts before discussing the concepts.


  1. Quantity vs Quality. At the start of the ideation process, quantity can sometimes be preferred to quality when the project is not narrowly defined. Usually this switches through the process where at the start you want lots of concepts, and then by the end, you are working with only a few concepts that are approaching final quality. This doesn’t mean that the initial ideas are low quality necessarily, but that less time is put into each one to give a wide spread of ideas to work with at the start.


  1. Know your why. While it’s commonly expected for a product developer or designer to be able to explain why for their thoughts and ideas, you should know yours too. Being able to communicate why you want to change something, or why you think a certain feature should be there will help your developer to understand and will help guide them toward the product that will fit your needs. Without a why, it can easily just become a feature that the designer works around, instead of fully understanding its why. This limits your developers ability to create the most effective product.


  1. Clear communication. This I can’t stress enough. It doesn’t mean having the best sketches, or CAD, or being able to write like a bestselling author. It means making sure your thoughts are communicated to the designer, and that you make sure we understand you. Sometimes things don’t click the first time for a developer, we won’t be insulted if you give more information and explain things in a couple ways before a project starts. It’s important that you are comfortable with the level of understanding your product developer has. Because if they don’t understand fully, it automatically causes there to be some mistakes built into the process, which we always want to avoid. It’s your job to make sure we understand you. It’s also the job of a good developer to make sure they understand your idea. When both of those things happen, then everyone can walk away knowing that the idea is understood, and no time will be wasted going down the wrong path.

If you follow these 5 things, you’ll be making the most of the ideation/concepting process that you’ll go through in developing your product. Having this process go smoothly will help set the tone for the rest of the project, and keep things moving along nicely.

30 Dec 2017
5 Stages of Product Development Peterman Design Firm Blog

5 Stages of Product Development You Need to Know

We’ve talked a lot about how product development is a process, but what does it really mean? What is this seemingly mysterious process that every product goes through at least part of? When most people have an idea, they think it’s completely out of reach for them to bring their idea to life. It’s not, it just takes finding the right partner who can navigate you through the process of developing an idea into a product that will help people and make you money. What could be a better result of your hard work? Here I’d like to lay out the overall process of Product Development. This example is generic to make sure you learn about each area of the process so you have an understanding of  everything your product designer must be able to help you with for it to be worth your time and money to hire them.

Step 1 – Invent

  • The very, very first step in Product Development is having an idea. Millions of ideas are generated every day by people all over the world. This is probably the “easiest” part. Everything after this point takes making decisions and taking timely action. While you have the first idea, you also need a Product Developer who has ideas and can generate new ones that will help support your idea on its path to becoming a successful product.
  • Once you have an idea, whether you do this first or with your Product Developer, you should validate the idea and determine its market. Is there a need for the product and does it solve a problem are two very important questions. Then, who would use this product? Does it help seniors, children, cubical workers, sports teams, or someone else? This helps you and your developer to understand what needs to be designed into the product, and what shouldn’t be in the product to appeal to your best market.
  • If you can, make a mock-up of the product. Get the hot-glue out and make some models. Or sketch, even if you think it’s the worst sketch in the world. In some cases, your idea is so far out there it’s hard to communicate, or easy enough that you can grab a couple images from the internet and say, combine these three things and make it orange! This is your first prototype, and it’s just a concept one. Take your idea to your Product Developer and have them create concept artwork and possibly a physical conceptual prototype, if you have the budget.

Step 2 – Develop

  • You need an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) if you are going to ever think about getting a patent. Protecting your idea is important, even if you don’t patent. This is also the time, after you’ve gotten some concept artwork from your Product Developer, to think about involving a patent attorney, or at least getting a provisional patent, if it makes sense. Either way, a free consultation with a lawyer who’s singed an NDA will let you know what you should do. Your Product Developer should have at least one referral for you on this. It’s also worth your time for your developer to do a patent search now so you know if there are going to be hurdles that could stop your project.
  • Now it’s time to design your product. Taking your starting concepts, those should be expanded upon and developed into a product that meets your needs, follows your scope, and can be prototyped. This takes it from a rough idea (with possibly some pretty renderings that have no grounding in reality) to (usually) a 3D CAD model or other models closer to a tangible state. Some things, like soft-goods, usually don’t go into 3D, but have more accurate renderings created that show what the product will look like.
  • Once the design has been solidified to meet the requirements of the product, it’s time to get the first real prototype. Initial prototypes may not work completely the first time (in fact they rarely do) but this is where the idea becomes tangible and closer to its final form.

Step 3 – Validate

  • Using the first prototype, and others after it, we begin to validate the design. Does it work, how well does it work, where does it break, what do we like and not like about it? All of these questions are asked, the prototype is reviewed, and revisions are made. This can be the longest part of product development.
  • Testing can be done in many ways, and can include hiring outside testing companies. This also gives the opportunity to get certain stamps or approval markings, such as the UL rating for electronics. Those companies should be involved early on so changes are made earlier in the process to complete the certifications and tests needed for each product’s industry.
  • The last thing your Product Developer can put together is a panel test or survey. Paying people to review your product, under NDA of course, can give you some great outside feedback from people who are not invested in the idea, and haven’t watched the entire process. This type of input can be made at any stage of the process, though better results are usually had when there is a tangible and working prototype.

Step 4 – Produce

  • You have a final design, it’s been prototyped, validated, patented, the whole 9 yards. Now, the final design stage is here. Design for manufacturability takes your final design and makes all the tweaks and adjustments that are needed for full production. Often prototypes start out as  things that would be hard to mass manufacture, and costing is a huge portion of this. Your product developer will be looking for ways to make parts lighter, stronger, or use off the shelf components if that’s what is desired.
  • You have two options now, the first is getting funded. This is usually the next step as full manufacturing can be very expensive. Prototyping has the advantage of using advanced technologies such as 3D printing to accelerate and decrease costs. Full manufacturing usually costs thousands to millions of dollars, depending on how many units you need for a first run, and how complicated your product is. A fidget spinner didn’t take much to manufacture the first thousand units, but the iPhone cost millions of dollars and needed to have tens of thousands of units made in its first run.
  • The second option is licensing. Instead of trying to get an investor, or putting your own money into producing a product, you can look to sell your IP (Intellectual Property) to an interested 3rd party who maybe has an established business in your chosen market, and would rather buy the idea from you than spend the development time to create a new product. You as an individual working with a Product Developer is much more agile and cost effective than a huge company with massive overhead costs just to keep the lights on.

Step 5 – Profit

  • If you license, then you are done! Money has been made and you can set off on thinking of your next great idea! If you don’t license, the next big step to making money is marketing. While Product Developers usually don’t help from here on, the good ones have partners or referrals that they can send you to for developing your marketing strategy. Website, branding, logos, names, advertising, it all falls under this. Everything you brought to your Product Developer to bring the product to life you should bring to your marketers too. They’ll need to know the who, what, and why to provide you the best resources and chance of success.
  • There are lots of options for selling your product, from strictly Amazon, to selling at shows and conventions, or a local Saturday market. Between your marketer and Product Developer, you should have some options of who to talk to about which direction you should take.
  • Now it’s time to ship your product and have the money come in. Good job!

While it is very hard to guarantee that your product will be a wild success, I can promise that every successful product followed a path similar, if not exact, to what I’ve outlined here. Meeting with a good Product Developer is key to navigating, and possibly being able to skip over some of these steps, which means following the most efficient and cost-effective path possible.

22 Dec 2017

5 Things to Remember When Going Through Edits

So, you’ve got your initial design done, and now you want some changes made. What’s the best way to go about that? Did you discuss revisions and edits with your designer before you started? There is a lot to consider with edits, and defining what an edit is can be a difficult thing, especially when not clearly defined and both sides have a different idea of what an edit is. This list should help clear things up a bit, and help you when you are discussing edits with your product developer.

  1. What is an Edit? – An edit is defined as “a change or correction made as a result of editing” according to the dictionary. But what does it mean for you and your designer/developer? Once an initial design is created, it’s very common to need to make changes to the design to make sure every need has been met, to adjust for discovered issues, and that project scope (more here) has been correctly followed. At the Peterman Design Firm, we define an edit as a request from our client to make a change or adjustment to a current design.
  2. When Should You Edit? – At each review point. A good project plan has review points where the developer meets with you, the client, to review the project. These points are usually defined by the developer, but if there is a specific point where you want to review, then you need to make sure your designer or developer knows this, and can plan around your requirement. These should be specified in your Timeline and your Project Scope
  3. Avoid Over-The-Shoulder Editing. – The over-the-shoulder editing is something you should stay away from at all costs. It slows your developer down, costs more money, and does not allow your developer or designer to work in their space, which is where they are able to come up with the best ideas. I’ve known a few designers that could work with clients like this, however most loath it completely, and will sometimes even refuse to work with anyone who is like this. More about what you should avoid with your designer here.
  4. How Should You Edit? – It really depends on the developer, and both of your styles of communication which works best. For your own protection, and to make sure no edits are ever missed, red-lining drawings or presentations is the clearest and most effective method. It’s why engineering teams use red-lining exclusively when editing designs. Here we like to send a digital presentation or drawing set for our clients to review, red-line, then send it back and have a phone conversation to go over the edits if needed. Having edits in writing protects you as the client, because if an edit is missed, you can call it out and make sure your developer completes the edit before moving on, and it also gives you a reference to make sure you have talked with them about everything you wanted to when going over an edit.
  5. Edits are Almost Always Needed. – In my entire career of developing products over 15 years now, I’ve had two designs go to prototype without needing an edit. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, and designed and developed thousands of individual parts. Edits and revisions are a part of the process, and the product development process is what takes your idea and turns it into a fully manufacturable production ready product.

Use edits to your advantage, they are like reset buttons. Each time you go through a review, it gives you the opportunity to adjust your products course and make sure it hits the mark. Think of it as getting to shoot an arrow, only if you notice half-way through the arrow going to the target that it won’t be a bulls-eye. Then you make an edit, and now it’s aimed closer to the center. Every time you review, you get the opportunity to find flaws in the design, and prevent future issues from arising before they become a real problem, such as going to manufacturing with a feature flaw you could have noticed early in the project. Edits are a tool, use them as such.

01 Dec 2017

3 Things You Should Know About Designers & Engineers

When looking for help developing a new product, your first thought might have been to find an engineer or engineering firm, because everyone knows that engineers design and make things. Then there are those of you who thought you needed a designer and nothing else! I’ve witnessed arguments between designers and engineers, each claiming the supreme ability to create a product without the other. There are generalized statements that work most of the time about each.

  • Generally, engineers are more data and manufacturing focused. Looking pretty, aesthetics, usability, and user focus is not their area of expertise. Not to say there aren’t engineers who can, but their focus is not design, it is engineering.
  • Generally, industrial designers are focused on user experience, style, and brand. Costing, design for manufacturability, and working mechanics are not their specialty. There are industrial designers out there who can really see things as a manufacturer and understand all those processes, but most of the industrial designers you see with the cool portfolios are focused on sketches and renders that are considered concept work.

With that in mind, how do you choose, or really, should you have to? The answer is no. In the world between engineering and design are Product Developers. There is no degree for this, it comes only with years of experience on both sides of the coin bringing products from a concept to a manufacturable product. When you want to turn an idea into a product, you should really be looking for a Product Developer.

  • Product Developers can talk about manufacturing processes and stress loads, as well as talk about how a product elicits an emotion from a user. Their experience is usually broad, and they truly understand the entire process, concept to production, of a product, whether that product is a baby toy or an industrial laser.

You may find yourself asking the question, when do I need an engineer to do that scary math? Well, when you work with a good Product Developer, they can handle pretty much anything that doesn’t need analysis or an engineering stamp, which saves you the extra cost of having a certified engineer work on the project. If you get to a point where an engineer is needed, or a manufacturer should be brought in, a good Product Developer will tell you and help bring on the right people to get your product into production.

25 Nov 2017

9 Great Points on Scope Creep

Some of you may have heard of the terrible thing we call Scope Creep, and others may not have. As a quick over-view, Scope Creep is what happens when you have a well-defined Scope of Work, a set timeline, things are going great, and little by little extra things are added in to the project. The client asks nicely, the designer willingly does the extra work, and then BAM, the designer is angry with the client, the client doesn’t like the new bill, and what seemed to be a great project has now turned into a burning pile of ash. What happened? Scope Creep. Now, some could argue that Scope Creep benefits the client because they are getting more for their money, and the only loser is really the designer. This would be a poor argument. Here are 3 reasons why Scope Creep is bad for everyone, not just the designer.

  • The Timeline. We’ve talked about how to set a timeline here, but what happens to your timeline when you add more stuff to a scope? The project gets longer. This affects everyone, and not in a good way. Expectations are no longer met for either party, and when expectations are broken, relationships break down. Keeping the relationship between client and designer defined and working smoothly means the project can proceed smoothly.
  • Loss of Focus. Having a Scope of Work in the first place is what defines the project and tells everyone what should be focused on. When you start messing with that, without taking a pause to look at the entire picture, you can easily derail a project and get to a point where it will end up costing everyone more time and money to get back on track.
  • Costs. With good designers, many of us protect ourselves and companies from scope creep with clauses that state work outside of the scope document will be charged extra, and we’re always clear when something is going to cost extra. Some designers are not as up front about this, and will happily keep doing extra work, then send a final bill to the client who now is paying possibly thousands of dollars more than agreed upon. This of course causes problems all over.

In the end, Scope Creep costs both parties time, money, or both in the form of delays or extra billings. The easiest way to deal with changes is to make sure an official change order is created, which requires both parties to discuss what the change is, and possible effects it may have to a design.
There are several ways you can handle possible scope creep situations. Designers each have their own ways of handling it, but for us, it’s about 3 things:

  • Expectations. These are guided start to finish, starting with explaining the process to a client, start to finish. Expectations are the biggest component of starting any relationship, and keeping it. Understanding what is expected of both the client and the designer is very important.
  • Scope of Work. This is required for every project we take on, and discussed here. Not only does it help expectations, it lays out specific deliverables, and sets a timeline. I cannot over emphasize the necessity of having such a document.
  • Clear Communication. Communication is important with anything. When scope creep starts to show up, the only way to effectively stop it and keep things moving smoothly is communication. Sometimes things are not understood at the beginning of a project, and there needs to be a conversation to go over what was decided at the beginning of the project. Without effective communication, no relationship will last.

While these all happen when using a good designer, here are a couple of things you can do to help make sure scope creep doesn’t happen.

  • Know What You Want. It sounds simple, but we’ve spoken with many people who didn’t know exactly what they wanted from their project. Knowing what success looks like to you and what you want and even how you’d like to feel at the end of the project makes it easier for a project roadmap to be made in the form of a scope of work.
  • Ask Questions. And ask them at the very beginning. You should understand the process, how your designer works, fees, expectations, timeline, and deliverables before you sign a proposal or start the project fully. We’ve run into a lot of situations where a client didn’t ask a question early on, for one reason or another, and that one question helped them understand something that changed the entire process.
  • Value Your Time. Every time you want to change the scope, add something, or in some way begin to start Scope Creep, whether you know it or not, costs everyone time, including you.

 Keeping these things in mind, and making sure your designer does too, is a great starting point to getting the most out of your project and your designer.

22 Nov 2017

3 Must Haves When Creating a Project Timeline

Timelines. We all need them, but even the best of us don’t get them right every time. How do we create realistic timelines that don’t sound outrageous? Well, it all depends on who is looking at them. Experienced designers can usually look at a project and have a pretty good idea on how long a project might take to design with barely any thought and be right. For a non-designer to make that same estimate is nearly impossible, I’ve trained sales people on how to sell Industrial Design, and it took a lot of training to get someone unfamiliar with this process to be able to accurately quote a timeframe for a project.
There is no magic formula that lets anyone estimate a project as well as a seasoned designer, I’ve looked. And almost any schedule is possible, if you have the funds to pay for it. There are a few things that you should always make sure are known before discussing a timeline. If a designer gives you a timeline and is missing one of these elements, then their estimate will probably be off.

  • Fully Defined Scope of Work. We’ve gone over this previously here, but it really is very important that before you get a timeline from a designer, or before you begin to create your own, you know exactly everything that is going to go into and come out of the project.
  • Response Time from You, the Client. Any good designer can estimate how long they will take to respond, but did they specify how quickly they expect a response from you? When they wrote the timeline, they might have assumed you would be responding within two days, but maybe you have such a busy schedule that it will take at least a week or more before you can review a design that was sent to you. This expectation is very important, and can derail a timeline quickly.
  • Project Hours. This is how long the designer says they are going to take to make the project happen. This gives you the number of hours that will be worked, but not over what duration. This number is also something that unless you have design experience that matches the designer you are hiring, is not a point that is very arguable.

If you and your designer have these three items, then a viable timeline can be created by the designer. It’s always good to give them your gut feeling on this, we prefer our clients give us an idea of what they think it should take. Remember, everything is negotiable as long as you only choose two of the iron triangle to be fixed. Time, Quality, and Cost make up the iron triangle. You can have a fast and high-quality project, but the cost will not be controllable. So, choose wisely which two you care about the most.
Our experience with delays is that a lot of time is lost in getting responses from clients on a revision. While a project may have started out with a one week response time for each revision, when that gets pushed to one and a half weeks, and there are a total of 10 revision points through different phases of a project, that’s an extra 5 weeks on a project that should have only taken say 15 weeks to complete, which makes for a 30% increase in your timeline. No one likes that kind of increase.

11 Nov 2017

The 4 Things Your Scope of Work Should Have

Every project that involves more than one person should have a scope of work, or SOW. Even very small projects, say under $500, benefit from having one. A good scope of work is a tool that will provide the designer, client, and anyone else involved with a clear vision of what is and should be done and how. A SOW can be simple or complex, depending on who writes it and the project. Here are 4 key parts that should be in every SOW, and 4 things to watch out for.
Brief – This is simply a short summery describing what the project is. It should be detailed but concise. A good Brief will give anyone a clear picture of what the project is about.
Deliverables – This is what the designer will hand you when the project is complete. Some examples would be concept sketches, manufacturing documentation, 3D models, or renders. For the job to be complete, everything listed here must be provided.
Requirements – Technical requirements, specifications, product features, manufacturing considerations, costing, and other related details all are included here. Only quantifiable things should be here. “Looking nice” isn’t a requirement you can quantify while “Water proof” is. This is also where specific tasks can be outlined, depending on the project.
Timeline – The timeline is always important to have as it makes it clear what the expectations are exactly. You could say, I’d like this soon, but that means different things to different people, maybe soon is a day, maybe it’s 6 months. This is a subject for another post, but the basics are you need a timeline, period. It can be estimated or exact, we know life happens but keep things realistic. Also, be weary of timelines that come from designers that seem too good to be true, this either means they are super heroes, they don’t understand the project fully, or don’t have experience in your industry.
These areas cover what is commonly considered a SOW. In addition to this, some include admin/management information, such as payment, change request process, legal information, points of contact, etc. At our firm, we put everything together into a single document that covers legal, finance, and SOW. There are many ways to do this, and each firm/designer has their own way of writing up the entire starting packet of documents.
While designers love when a client comes to them with a clear SOW, great designers can also work with clients to develop a clear SOW through a process we call a discovery phase. We realize many people developing new products may need help, and a good designer will be able to gather this information and write a comprehensive SOW for you.

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