How To Find Your Industrial Design Partner


If you have a problem that needs solving through industrial design but don't have an industrial design partner on deck, or perhaps you aren't impressed with your current partner, where do you turn to find a great one? The good news is, there are loads of strong industrial design partners out there that would be thrilled to work with you. So, let's dig into how to find them.


Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash


Ranked from easiest to hardest, here are seven ways to find your industrial design partner:


1. Raving Referral From A Colleague

Do you have a friend or colleague that is so stoked with the results of their industrial design partner that they shout about it to anybody who will listen?


Look around at your friends and even your competitors to see if they are raving about the experience they had with an industrial designer. If that industrial designer looks like a good fit for you too, reach out to your colleague to ask about their experience in detail.


Pros:

  • Comes with your colleague's "stamp of approval"

  • You can get a firsthand account of what they are like to work with

  • Least amount of search work for you

Cons:

  • If you aren't careful, you could end up picking a subpar partner out of convenience or guilt. Stay picky.


2. Ping Your Network

Again, any recommendation that flows through a friend or colleague carries with it the pre-baked trust that you don't have to build from scratch (so long as it's a friend/colleague you trust).


When looking for your industrial design partner, start your search by pinging your network. Directly email your trusted connections and post a question on your social media channels asking, "Dear product manager friends in the ______ industry, have you worked with an industrial design agency that blew you away? We are looking for an industrial design partner with ______ expertise."


Pros:

  • Comes with your colleague's "stamp of approval"

  • You can get a firsthand account of what they are like to work with

Cons:

  • The referral might come from a distant connection that you're not sure you can trust


3. Connect Through Content

Reputable industrial designers do more than just design. They also drive conversations about design through talks, blogs, podcasts, and free educational content.


If these designers aren't coming to you with their content, go seek it out. Attend industrial design events such as IDSA's (Industrial Designers Society of America) IDC Conference. or search the internet for content pertaining to your specific needs.


Pros:

  • Demonstrates their expertise in a particular space

  • Gives you a chance to determine if their point of view aligns with your business goals before you reach out

Cons:

  • Less immediate and direct way to find a partner

  • Requires time and effort to find and sift through


4. Ask another Industrial Designer

What's making this search so tricky is that you're an outsider, right? You don't know the ins and outs of the industrial design community to understand where to look, but other industrial designers sure do.


Perhaps you know of an industrial design firm that doesn't specialize in what you need or maybe you have a family friend who is part of the industrial design community. Reach out to them and ask if they know who would be a good fit for your specific project. If they don't have the answer to that, ask if they know someone who could get you closer to the answer.


Pros:

  • Helps narrow your search

Cons:

  • The recommendation might be biased to the industrial designer's network or self-interest

  • Not everyone is gracious enough to help


5. Hangout on Instagram

This one might surprise you, but Instagram has become a hot hangout for industrial designers. Fueled by passion, designers obsessively fill their feeds and stories with their latest work and side projects, while giving you a taste of their process. Instagram is a great place to get know designers deeper than their portfolios


Log into Instagram, put on your detective hat, and begin to navigate Instagram's industrial design community. The profile of one designer will lead you to another until you've found a handful of candidates.


Pros:

  • Gives you an inside look at their skills, personality and work ethic

Cons:

  • Less immediate and direct way to find a partner

  • Requires time and effort to sift through the platform

  • Requires you to connect the dots between their skills and your needs


6. Sift Through Behance

There are a few solid portfolio platforms out there, but Behance seems to be the most popular one that is attracting industrial designers right now.


You can search Behance by genre of design or by keyword. You'll be able to flip through the portfolios filled with project work from designers all over the world.

Pros:

  • Behance is full of freelancers who are great for short-term, executional work

  • Since it is portfolio based, Behance provides you with visual examples to quickly judge.

Cons:

  • This option requires a lot of effort on your part as you'll have to scour Behance, weed through contenders and then interview & evaluate candidates that you have no pre-existing connection with.

  • Behance attracts freelancers, but not typically firms, so it's not the best resource if you're in need of something more than a freelancer.

  • Designers simply show off their portfolios on Behance. This means you'll have to know exactly what skills you are looking for and be able to evaluate what work demonstrates those skills.

  • You will have to build trust from the ground up


7. Search Google

When you have zero connections, you have to take matters into your own hands through a cold search.

Hop on Google and start by typing in what you need help with. The more specific the better. Ideally, you want your search results to be a tailored-fit solution to your problem. Once you find about ten contenders, determine who best fits your criteria and then narrow your list down to the strongest 3 to take into an interview.


Pros:

  • Almost everybody can be found through Google, so your search is not limited

Cons:

  • An overwhelming number of choices

  • What you see might not be what you get

  • Requires a lot of searching, evaluating, and vetting on your part

  • You will have to build trust from the ground up


Regardless of how you find your industrial design partner, do it thoughtfully. A little planning goes a long way.


Once you've found your potential partner, try them out. Always start with a small (but real) project that you can both use to experience what it's like to work with one another.

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