What sucks about being a product designer

The single most frustrating thing about being a product designer is how little of your work ever reaches a user’s hands. Often the work ends up sitting under a NDA in some company vault due to an underestimation of the cost of hardware development, or a change in the company’s strategy. Even when the product does come out, it usually takes years.

This is something I have been frustrated with since the start. Often I have wished that my passion lied with software where startup-costs and time-to-market are so much lower. The reason I am writing about this issue today is that I believe a new way for designers to get their products onto the market has emerged.


Over the last 5 months I have been building DeskGrown, a website for downloading and 3D printing useful products at home; the type of products you would normally find in consumer electronics stores. This is how it works:

  1. People download and 3D print as much as possible of the product at home
  2. The parts that cannot be 3D printed are shipped to the users
  3. The user assembles the final product following a simple how-to guide

DeskGrown Logo

I have been distributing some of my products this way and am excited to share the benefits I have observed.

Benefits for Designers

The first benefit for designers using this approach is huge: startup costs. Wether you go through Kickstarter or a VC firm the reality is that getting a single product onto the market is an expensive undertaking that will often require hundreds of thousands. To go down that route you better be sure of a strong market need. Even some of the best have misstepped here.

The second major benefit of using the DeskGrown approach is that there is no more time-to-market. Once a design is ready it can be shared for people to enjoy the same day. It also allows for the unprecedented concept of updating hardware. If some part malfunctions you can fix it in CAD and then push an updated model for people to 3D print.

Folded 3D printed headphones
After years of unsuccessful attempts, I finally got the Armadillo Headphones onto the market using DeskGrown.

I have been amazed by the results of distributing my own designs this way. A number of my products can be found in hundreds of homes all around the globe, something that would have been impossible using regular methods for manufacturing and distribution.

Benefits for Users

Is everyone going to want to purchase a product manufactured and delivered in this unorthodox way? Of course not. The method does requires access to a 3D printer and a certain willingness to be creative, but the things gained by this approach are quite spectacular.

By taking part in the manufacturing process the user gets a sense of ownership that is not possible with mass manufactured goods. Also the overhead carried by the user is reduced as both distribution and enclosure manufacturing costs are near zero. Repairability of DeskGrown products naturally goes through the roof as you can simply print a new part in most cases of failure.

The greatest benefit of them all is still to be fully realized. As more designers adopt this approach users will get access to a wide array of independently designed products that could not have been possible following the traditional product-to-market formula.

Selling your Products on DeskGrown

We are open
In the near future DeskGrown will open up for all product designers to earn from their creations. If this approach sounds appealing to you, please enter your email below and I’ll get back to you with more information as soon as I have ironed out the details of how this will work.