Guide to Designing a new Leather Product

Recently I have had a few conversations about my design process. People asking me how I develop new products and others saying they wouldn’t know where to start. So I have put together a bit of a how to. I hope it is useful.

  1. Ask yourself questions

    The purpose of this is twofold. To attempt to capture all the needs that the product should fulfil and to make sure you think of all of the aesthetic elements. Here are some examples

    • What is the problem that needs to be solved?
    • What does the new product need to do?
    • What does it need to carry or hold?
    • If more than one thing – what priority of access , if any, is there for each thing?
    • What needs it’s own pocket? On the inside or outside? Zip, magnetic, snap or buckle closure?
    • Which leather?
    • Which stitch?
    • Which closure mechanism? Leading to which hardware?
    • Which strap formation? e.g. backpack or one strap cross body
    • Which colour?
    • Any decoration?
    • Which shapes?
    • Which kind of gusset? Concertina, wet-formed, box, soft?

    Depending on the product there can be many more questions to ask. Once you have answered as many as you can think of move onto stage 2.

  2. Visualise something that answers all the questions

    To help with this you could make sketches, either with pencil and paper or if you have access to a computer you could use a drawing app or SketchUp.

    If you haven’t heard of SketchUp, it is a 3d drawing package. The free version has all you need and the interface is easy to learn with some playing and there are plenty of good tutorials online if you want to get more proficient and efficient. It is a great app.

    Sketching can show you potential problems, structurally and aesthetically and the design can then change accordingly. It can also be a great way to familiarise yourself with how shapes work together and look.

    If sketching isn’t necessary or your thing you could go straight to stage 3.

  3. Mockup to make pattern

    Make a mockup out of paper. Ideally with the things that need to be carried or stored to work around. Again this stage may show up areas that need to change. Seeing it and being able to pick it up and manipulate it may inspire a new idea that changes the design. The paper mockup can then be broken down to the parts that will make up the pattern.

    Use these to mark up a pattern onto paper or card from which you can cut templates to use in stage 4.

  4. Mockup to test pattern

    If the product is small you can test the pattern by using it to make a PVA foam sheet mockup. This behaves similarly to 1-2mm thick leather, making the results more realistic than with a paper or card mockup.If the product is large make a paper or card mockup to test the pattern.

    If happy go onto 5 if not alter pattern accordingly and repeat stage 4.

  5. Prototype

    Make the first one out of leather.

    If you have resisted jumping ahead to this stage, not always easy when you are excited about a new design, this prototype should prove that the design and the pattern you have developed for it is good and fulfils all the needs captured in stage 1.

As with most things there are exceptions but the above is how I usually work out a design for a new product.

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or just want to say hello, email me or use the message form at the bottom of the sidebar. It would be great to hear from you!

Best wishes.