Designing a collection – how to stay sane and organised

Designing A Collection: How to Stay Sane & Organized, Sam Osborne for Oh My! Handmade
When you’re creating a new range or collection there are lots of elements that need to come together and it’s easy to lose control of one or more of them if you don’t stay organised and focused. Here are a few organisational tips I learned during the creation of my latest Wondercook collection.
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Getting started:

The start is, in some ways, the hardest part of any project. It’s easy to procrastinate and go round in circles. Most creatives aren’t great with the ‘you can do anything, anytime’ approach so it’s good to put a framework around the project to give you some focus and help get you started.
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  • Write a brief. It doesn’t have to be too specific, maybe no more than a general theme (for my new range it was simply food and cooking). It should be something that interests you and that you think you can continue to be interested in for a while – you’ll be living with it for a long time! Don’t forget to also think about your audience, what kind of people are they? What do they like?
  • What’s the timeframe? Setting a goal for when you’d like to be finished is important. I hung up a big wall planner and stuck a pin in the date I wanted to go live with everything. Seeing it there everyday helped get me moving, it’s amazing how quickly the days start to disappear!
  • Do you have everything you need? Is your workplace tidy and inviting? Do you need to do any research? It’s easy to decide that you can’t make a start today because your desk is a mess or your computer files need reordering. Do it now and get yourself all set up.

Keep the designs moving:

Staying on track when you’re in the design phase can be quite hard. It’s super easy to get lost in the fun of designing, which is awesome, but it can lead to delays in actually getting the work done.
  • Find a workflow that works for you to keeps things moving. I allow myself a set period of time at the start of a project to go crazy, have fun and explore the theme without the pressure of thinking about the end product. Then when it comes to playing out the design for specific products I’ve got loads of icons, motifs and designs to play with – this stops the blank canvas anxiety and saves me lots of time!
  • Keep an eye on the timescale you’re working towards and set yourself deadlines. When I started this collection I wrote a big project plan that included all the phases of creating the range, from initial visuals, through the design phase and manufacturing time. From that plan I then set myself weekly goals so I knew what I was aiming for and could focus on that.
  • Get help, it’s really useful to have someone that you can tell about your goals and deadlines who will check in with you to see how you’ve done that week. OMHG Community members got together recently as accountability partners and this helped hugely during the design phase of this range (thank you Joy!).

Managing manufacture and money:

There is lots more to a collection than the design and creation side. You’ll need to spend a lot of time organising suppliers and/or manufacturers and ensuring that your costs, margins and prices are right so that you can be sure of making some money.

  • Shop around. Whether you make your products yourself by hand or work with manufacturers it’s always good to shop around to find the best people, products and price. I keep a big list in my google docs account of suppliers and price up every possible option before deciding who and what to go with. Don’t forget to send for samples – seeing the items for yourself before buying makes a huge difference, keep notes about the samples with your suppliers info so it’s all in one place for the future.
  • Spreadsheets are your friend (honestly). The amount of costs you need to take into account can feel overwhelming, especially if your brain isn’t wired for numbers. I’m not a natural spreadsheet person, in fact I usually run a mile from them, but it’s hard to see where your costs are going without them. So I dug deep and built a spreadsheet where I can enter unit costs from suppliers or manufacturers at one end, add percentages for design and admin and it works out my overall costs, wholesale prices and retail prices. Find more info on working out your product costs here.

The last mile:

.This can be the worst bit of any project, you think you’ve sorted everything then you realise there are key things you haven’t even thought about or the amount of little tasks left to sort out starts to feel overwhelming.

  • Get yourself a nice new notebook and write The Big List. You’ll feel much better once it’s all down on paper and then you can start ticking items off. I also have a big board on the wall of my studio that I use to keep track of everything, seeing it up on the wall helps make sure nothing is missed and I love the feeling of wiping each one off as I’ve done them!
  • Set a deadline for when it will go live. Not telling the world a ‘go live’ date can be appealing, especially when you’re not sure that you’ll ever make it through the items on your list, but honestly this really helps. Name a date, tell people about it and you’ll have no choice but to stick to it!
  • Reorganise your time. The old adage that 20% of the work takes 80% of the time is true, this last bit will take way longer than you think so try and clear your decks if you can. Reschedule other work, fill the freezer with easy cook meals (or put the takeaway on speed dial), arrange extra childcare or decide that the hoovering can wait.

My Wondercook collection is available now from www.sam-osborne.co.uk/shop

So just a few simple bits of organisation can really help keep a big project like this on track. How do you organise your projects? Do you have any top tips to share?
  • http://hellonifty.com .tif smith

    Thanks for this fabulous post, and your new collection is totally amazing! <3

  • pippa @storyofmum

    Wow! What a gorgeous new collection, Sam – I just love everything that you design! And thanks so much for laying out the key steps to keep us focused – so useful! xx