In-Depth Interview With Sharkskin Design
Patrick Douglas of Sharkskin Design explains why he thinks smaller POP design firms are the future of the industry. With the down turn in the economy, there are a large number of designers and engineers out there without jobs. Some are being proactive and have a great deal of talent to offer. Some are even starting their own companies - small little 1, 2 and 3 person shops that are able to compete both on design and price. These circumstances led to the creation of Sharkskin Design.
What Advantages Are There in Utilizing Smaller Independent POP Design Firms?
I think that you are able to get more customized service than some of the larger companies offer.
In addition, companies can save (on average) about 30 - 40% with projects done with smaller independent design firms. Our overhead is lower, smaller offices, less logistics (i.e. warehouse space, rent, trucks, equipment, insurance, etc.). We are lean to begin with so we have a better price point that most large companies can't compete with.
Do You Work Alone or Have Other Internal Support?
Currently I work alone but can comfortably handle 10 -12 projects at a time and have done so for years. My goal as a company is to be one of the best small design firms out there that puts a great deal of focus on our customers which equals getting them what they want when they need it. I tend to be an over-achiever and like the idea of exceeding our clients expectations. When needed, we will bring in other talent based on project requirements.
Does Sharkskin Specialize in a Specific Industry Design Discipline....Temp, Perm, Rendering, Concepts etc?
Sharkskin creates all of the hand sketches and color renderings that help our clients sell the concept internally or to their outside customers. Our main focus is on permanent and semi-permanent displays such as wood, metal, and acrylic.....or a combination of all three substrates.
From time to time, we do some corrugated display work but only the initial concepts. On these types of projects, our manufacturing partners work closely with us to ensure the design is structurally sound and can be produced cost effectively.
Does Your Firm Provide Manufacturing Resources?
Yes, in addition to design and engineering capabilities, Sharkskin provides outsourcing services with domestic and international manufacturing partners. We find this to be a tremendous advantage for our client base as it eliminates the need for them to contract multiple vendors to find best-cost-offerings. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver everything a customer needs to develop and produce high quality POP displays that support their brands in the marketplace.
Can Sharkskin Provide Table-Cut Samples and Mock-Ups?
Yes we can. We still need to get things manufactured like everyone else so we partner with good suppliers that can provide us with high-quality samples. Our diverse vendor base enables us to get samples on time when the customer needs them, rather than based on the schedule of one sample shop.
What Software Platforms Do You Use on a Daily Basis?
Engineering: Solidworks 2011 (main engineering software) and Inventor if needed, but don't use it all that often.
Design: Rhino 3D... which I think is the best software out there to do full color renderings with high quality realism. Rhino is very fast for creating quick concepts in a matter of hours rather than days like some other programs. Photo shop, illustrator, and InDesign are my main layout packages for presentations and art development.
Sketching: I use Sketch book Pro to take notes on as well as draw up ideas when discussing projects with clients. This software helps to create a clear understanding as to what they need with less follow up calls and emails.
Online: I use Join Me which is a great tool to share my desktop with clients to facilitate online design sessions or presentations. I also use it to work with our manufacturers to discuss production needs. I can have up to 5 people looking at my desktop all over the world at the same time.
Join Me makes it a lot easier to discuss the finer points of a project or flesh out new ideas before rendering them up, not to mention that all of the decision makers can collaborate in one common forum to keep projects as fluid as possible.
Skype: Sharkskin.design. I have a skype address that clients use to send us quick questions if needed. We also use it to communicate with manufacturers in China.
Project Management: Microsoft Project allows me to keep track of all project details such as establishing milestone dates on a project.
Can Smaller POP Design Firms React Faster Than the Larger Display Houses?
Very much so. I can talk directly to the customer on the first sales call and obtain all relevant information immediately without the need of a sales person filtering what they feel I need to know. Info in hand, I can then go back to the office and within 1-2 days, deliver several fully-rendered concepts in a full presentation format to our clients. When I worked for a traditional display manufacturer, this development process took several weeks - typically 2-3 with plenty of back and forth between sales and design.
What is a typical Sharkskin timeline like? Sharkskin recently worked on a project for a candy company in Chicago.....
- Received the request for concepts on a Tuesday:
- By Wednesday afternoon, we presented 4 concepts of which 1 was selected for quotation:
- Sent specifications out for quote on Thursday:
- By the following Tuesday, we were able to submit formal costs to the customer.
We are nimble and can react quickly which enables us to compress these turnaround times without sacrificing accuracy or quality.
Can You Provide a Success Story That Demonstrates Sharkskins Ability to React Quickly and Create Client Wins?
We recently worked on a project for a weather stripping company based out of New Jersey that required concepts for a shelf management system which they wanted to present to their client in 1+1/2 weeks. From our initial phone conversation, we were able to provide our client with a 10 page presentation, prototype and costs in less than a week! From my experiences, larger POP firms require 2 weeks just to output a prototype from their sample shop whereas our diverse vendor base enables us to access many qualified model builders to meet tight deadlines.
Another great example of our ability to react quickly was demonstrated a few months back with a large home improvement retailer who required some complex development work for a furniture fixture. In less than a week we were able to provide our client with several concepts and pricing to help expedite their decision making process. Ironically, I was able to find out that another sales rep was given the same project and still hadn't submitted a concept after 2 weeks of receiving the project brief. In the end, our client decided to go with a stock unit so we didn't win the business but we did build a relationship and were able to showcase our ability to compete against the other 12 POP manufacturers who had full design and engineering departments.
Do Larger Integrated POP Houses Have a Competitive Advantage Based on the Sheer Nature of Their Creative Assets?
They do and they don't.....they do in that sometimes they can throw a larger number of people at a project that requires the all-hands-on-deck approach - for example - developing a full store redesign of a Target store. On the flip side, a large staff could be a disadvantage as coordinating a project through their systems requires deliverables from a team of graphic designers, industrial designers, engineers, sales, marketing, manufacturing, etc. which can bog down the process and add unnecessary time.
I think the perception in the industry is that large manufacturers with many different groups of people are able to service their clients better than the small firms. Customers should look at smaller firms as extensions of their own companies that are able to integrate their needs faster and with greater focus.
How do Smaller Firms Market Themselves and Atract New Clients?
Marketing to the industry as a whole is a bit difficult for firms with smaller budgets as it seems that most resources available to advertisers, such as trade magazines, cater to the larger companies who can pour marketing dollars into them to create an ongoing level of exposure. With the advent of social media and online tools, we are overcoming this hurdle by doing more to show off our work and successes to the industry. We want everyone to know when Sharkskin lands the big account and is able to win on price, quality and customer service.
Given the Current Economic Uncertainty, Where do You See the POP Industry Heading?
I feel that the industry is going to continue moving to an intellectual property model. We may see an increase in smaller design firms that develop ideas directly with customers, streamlining a sometimes disconnected creative development process. This model could lead to a consolidated manufacturing group whose primary focus is producing the designs developed by these smaller firms. At the end of the day, it isn't always about who produces the display but rather who generates the idea and delivers a price point that meets their customers marketing objectives.
Halloween Pop-Up Card Display Incorporates Product as a Display Component
All Out Ultra Launch Fights Mosquitoes
Bosch Steel Tech Wiper End Cap Display Provides a Clear View for Shoppers
Shock Top End of the World Midnight Wheat Finally Hits the Shelves
Tic Tac Brings Awareness With Pink Displays and Limited Edition Strawberry Mints
Air Wick Color Changing Candle Displays Light Up At Retail
Larry The Cable Guy and Prilosec Team Up to Promote New Wildberry Flavor
Scotch Brite Scrubs Up Sales at Retail With Spectacular Display
Tums Freshers Display Help Freshen Breath and Fight Heartburn
Spiderman and Chocos POP Takes Kids Back To School
Innova Showcases Updated Packaging on Holistic Pallet Display
Walmart Private Label Equate Brands Enhance On Shelf Presence
Stride ID Gum POP and Packaging Focuses on Youth Market
PepsiCo and Batman Promotions Still Chillin' In Store
Little Giant POP Display Steps Up Presence at Home Improvement Stores
Rubbermaid POP Display Takes The Plunge at Retail
Microsoft Limited Edition Artist Series on Display at Retail
TIC TAC Promotes Mini Cooper Sweepstakes With Floor Display
Rapala Casts End Cap Display to Promote Advanced Superline
Amazing Spider-Man POP Swings Into Retail
The Optic Wonder Self-Shipper Display Focuses on Simple Set-Up at Retail
Ice Breakers Duo Pallet Display Revitalizes Shoppers
Target Celebrates Summer Fun With Whimsical Ceiling Signs
Huggies(R) Limited Edition Diaper Display Brings Big Island Style to Retail
In-Depth Interview With Sharkskin Design
Glade Expressions Launches New Fragrance Pallet Display
International POP Case Studies - Part 1
International POP Case Studies - Part 2
Cadbury Sweeps Shoppers Off of Their Feet With Spectacular POP
Wake Up & Live! All Natural Coffee Drink Floor Stand Display
All Aboard the Nabisco Holiday POP Train
Glade End Cap Kit Dresses-Up Retail Fixture
Packaging and POP Display Create Seamless Connection On-Shelf
Nintendo Launches 3DS System With a Creative End Cap Header
Hasbro Launches iPhone Binoculars With Stunning 3D Endcap Display
The Official Launch of G Series Pro Kicked Off With Appearances at Selected GNC Stores
Cars 2 Promotions Drive Sales In-Store
Target Brings in Summer Fun With Larger-Than-Life Ceiling Signage
Creative Instore Solutions Produces One Millionth Display Unit
Merging The Power of POMx with POP
Excel Displays and Packaging Opens New Ideation Center
Gatorade G Fit Series End Cap Display
The Key to a Successful Retail Program is Proper Placement
CVS Launches Salma Hayek Nuance With Feature End Cap Display
Maybelline Great Lash Mascara Turns 40