179: How to Collaborate With a Product Design Agency Partner

179: Maximize the Value of your Design Agency Partner

June 8, 2023

With Nick Allen, Industrial Designer at Mako Design

Hosted by Kevin Mako, President of MAKO Design + Invent

179: Maximize the Value of your Design Agency Partner
179: Maximize the Value of your Design Agency Partner

Nick Allen, an accomplished industrial designer at Mako Design, brings with him a rich experience of 15 years in the field. Throughout his career, Nick has been involved in the creation of over 100 products, garnering numerous prestigious design accolades, including the highly esteemed Red Dot award. In this insightful discussion, Nick aims to impart valuable wisdom to inventors, startups, and small manufacturers, guiding them on how to effectively collaborate with a hardware product development partner. By fostering a strong partnership, one can unlock the full potential of the relationship, resulting in the development of an exceptional product and, more significantly, the establishment of a thriving hardware startup enterprise.

Today you will hear us talk about:

  • Prioritize your vision. Focus on what you know, and don’t fret over what you don’t know.
  • Capitalize on your experience.
  • Determine the essential functionality and purpose of your product.
  • Document your ideas and plans.
  • Create a simple sketch to visualize your concept.
  • Jot down key points about your target customers.
  • Distinguish between crucial and non-essential features.
  • Clarify the design intent with your design agency partner.
  • Be open to feedback and suggestions from design engineers.
  • Differentiate between necessary and desirable features, prioritizing the minimum viable product (MVP).
  • Collaborate with your design team to prevent feature creep.
  • Emphasize the team effort required to introduce innovative features.
  • Remember that you can always release an improved version in the future.


  • 1:20 – A hardware founder can make a big difference on bringing inventor expertise to a design team.
  •  1:50 – There are pieces of information that a founder can relay to their new design team partner to best ensure the success of a product collaboration
  • 3:30 – What can you as the inventor founder do to maximize your relationship with your industrial design firm partner.
  • 3:45 – Focus on your vision and have confidence in your vision
  • 4:00 – You are the expert in your product vision.
  • 4:20 – The product design agency partner will help with the technical aspects of your product, but as the inventor, you are the one guiding the ship.
  • 4:30 – Understand what you don’t know, and don’t worry about that part, as that’s what your design partner is there to help with.
  • 5:00 – The design firm does not have your vision, you have that.
  • 6:00 – Focus on your own experience and double down on that.
  • 6:50 – Provide that information about your expertise and vision to your design team so they can figure out how to best make a product to satisfy that vision.
  • 8:00 – Provide information on what you want the product to do, and also what you do not want it to do.
  • 8:20 – What is the easiest way to get this information over to your product design team from the onset?
  • 8:20 – A basic pitch deck, basic rough hand sketch, bullet point lists of what it must have and must not have, and who the customer is.
  • 10:20 – Don’t try and perfect it, just get the foundations of this information.
  • 10:45 – Clear vision saves costs and expedites the design with your industrial design firm partner.
  • 11:00 – Sometimes inventors sit on an idea for a long time, but it’s analysis paralysis.
  • 11:15 – The key is getting started on your product so you can build a product business.
  • 11:30 – Collaboration between the hardware founder and the industrial design firm is paramount to creating a great product.
  • 12:00 – Expect some pushback from your design team.
  • 13:00 – Must have vs want to have list.  Needs vs wants.
  • 13:15 – Put a lot of effort into fewer features, so that quality is never sacrificed.
  • 14:00 – You come to an industrial design firm to ensure the process is as smooth, efficient, and cost-effective as possible.
  • 14:15 – The design firm’s role is to be clear with the customer about potential complexities with certain features of a product.
  • 15:00 – Don’t be rigid and boxed in with your design team, work collaboratively to maximize the value of both parties’ expertise.
  • 15:10 – There is a difference between designing the best product and designing a product to ensure a successful product business for a hardware startup.
  • 16:00 – An industrial design firm that works with hardware startups uses very unique processes to ensure the success of the product business through calculated design decisions.
  •  17:00 – Keeping a product MVP as a hardware startup is the best and most successful way to get a new invention idea to market.


Nick Allen Links:

LinkedIn | Mako Design

The Product Startup Podcast Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

PTC Links:
OnShape | Creo

Mako Design Links:
YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Kevin Mako Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Quora | Facebook | Twitter

Partner: PTC’s best-in-class software solutions Onshape: The only cloud-native product development platform that delivers full-featured computer-aided design (CAD), integrated product data management (PDM) and enterprise analytics in a single system, and Creo: 3D CAD solution that provides designers with the most innovative tools to build better products faster, such as generative design, additive manufacturing, real-time simulation, IIoT, and augmented reality.