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Pitfalls of Prototyping – Back and Forth Between Continents

Things to look out for...

A Near Disaster

One of the most frustrating things about getting your products manufactured in China, India, Vietnam, or even Mexico is the time and distance when sending prototypes back and forth for adjustments or modification – not to mention the language and cultural barriers.

We’ve found that clients who come to us after working with other companies or who work directly with manufacturers themselves, spend six months or more in the prototype phase – sending drawings & specifications to another continent then waiting for the prototype to arrive.

Even using DHL, FedEx or private courier only squeezes the timeframe slightly, but severely increases the cost.

The Language and Cultural Barriers

The language and cultural barriers also increase the time in the prototyping phase because often times the manufacturer’s people will not understand some details of your design, or question it, then alter it to fit with what they think would make sense based on what fits in their own cultural experience or worldview.

You would think that exact drawings, schematics, patterns, and even sending an exact version of what you want them to duplicate would be enough for them to simply reproduce the product as-is without modification.

But sadly, the cultures of East Asia and non-western rural/manufacturing communities are often geared toward squeezing every single penny out of the manufacturing process to make room for the sometimes dozens of people who have their fingers in the supply/manufacture/delivery chain.

Seriously, there can be dozens of people who each get a few cents from each item produced because they hooked someone up, own a gatekeeper business, a position in the government, or who are friends and associates of someone you are working with.

The need to squeeze every penny out of a deal keeps workers looking for ways to alter the product to produce it cheaper, faster, or even to use more material or a specific material type or design (they already have) that to them resembles your specifications – just enough.

A Real Life Example

Here is an example of what I am talking about. One of our clients designs country lifestyle & urban chicken lifestyle aprons, egg aprons, and utility aprons (

They have a gifted designer who spent a lot of time developing a certain apron style and even travelled to the fabric districts of Los Angeles and New York looking for the perfect fabrics that had the right weight, weave, colors, dyes, cotton blend, and really cute prints.

They sent the fabrics, the patterns, and even completed aprons to deconstruct and compare.

What happened will blow your mind. The factory began producing samples that had no resemblance at all to the original prototypes or fabrics.

In fact, if they had actually begun their full run and shipped the products, the client would have been stuck with a container or two full of aprons that would have never sold more than a handful.

First, take a look at the actual aprons
(after we stepped in and took over the process.)
Now take a look at the apron the
manufacturer first produced.
This is why you need an experienced partner on your side.

We’ve been there before and anticipate and avoid these kinds of problems.

We can reduce the prototyping phase to several weeks, instead of several months. And we can ensure the product you receive in your hands is exactly what you had hoped for.

That is what we do.

The Designer's Proof

The First Prototype