Make Your Million-Dollar Idea, Part 1 [Infographic]

Are you a product designer, inventor, and/or entrepreneur excited to bring an idea to life, yet regularly discouraged by stumbling blocks along the way? It’s not so easy to manufacture a product and bring it to market, is it?

Welcome to Part 1 of Make Your Million-Dollar Idea. The infographic series was born while walking down Embarcadero Street in San Francisco, just past Autodesk and Instructables’ über-inspiring, 27,000-square-foot maker workshop at Pier 9 (which, by the way, features eight 3D printers, five laser cutters, four CNC machines, and much more).

The sea air might have fueled some oxygen into our idea, but credit is mainly due to the bright mind and amazing experiences of Line//Shape//Space contributor and product-design entrepreneur, Cindy Glass. In every stage of building her business—from scribbles on napkins to unwelcome surprises with vendors in China—Glass has seen it all.

There are many potential landmines for small-business product designers trying to take their ideas from conception to market. Glass and so many others like her have struggled through that journey.

So Line//Shape//Space decided to demystify the process for anyone at the beginning, middle, or even end of the experience. Check out our step-by-step guide, Make Your Million-Dollar Idea, Part 1, which features advice on testing your idea, analyzing the competition, determining your value proposition, checking market opportunity, setting margins, creating prototypes, and weighing new-shoring versus off-shoring manufacturing options.

And yeah, that’s just Part 1 below. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of the manufacturing process, including tips on choosing vendors and materials, quality control, packaging, and more. And then it’s on to Part 3: distribution and sales. Strap on your seatbelts: It’s going to be a bumpy (yet informative) ride.

While you wait for the next installment, learn more about taking an idea from prototype to production, read some confessions of a product designer, and pick up crowdfunding tips to launch your product.

Do you have any awesome stories, nightmares, or awesome nightmare stories about creating your product-design business? Please share with us. Got any survival tips?

million-dollar idea

Kylee Swenson Gordon

Kylee Swenson Gordon is a writer, musician, admirer of great design, editor in chief of Line//Shape//Space, and content marketing manager at Autodesk.

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  • InDezign

    You want to have a survival tip??

    When I was working on my idea – an innovative bottle opener ( – I even tried to work with some Chinese manufacturers.
    The result was pretty the same as many others had before. It was pure crap…
    During the last years I learned (or rather had to learn) that Chinese manufacturers are perfect in reproducing (don’t want to use the word copying) existing products.
    So, when you really have a final product and you already produced it in reality – you might find a Chinese manufacturer who is able to reproduce it.
    But if you ever have an idea for a product which is new and has never been done before – simply forget about Chinese manufacturers.

    Go to a local manufacturer.
    Although he/she might be much more expensive – the result will be much cheaper.
    In my case my local manufacturer – a handcraft specialist for metal  – not only manufactured a fabulous first mini series but he also had an additional suggestion for production which reduced my costs for future items tremendously.

    Maybe this advice can prevent you from doing the same mistakes?

    • LineShapeSpace

      Thanks for your tip, and really cool bottle opener, btw. This topic is one I’m personally invested in. I’ve been trying to think of ways to help my mom new-shore or near-shore manufacturing for her business. She creates hardscapes for miniature gardens (, and her manufacturing in China sounds like one big headache. But she can’t find a U.S. or Mexico-based manufacturer that does polyresin for statues. 
      Apparently, there’s a materials consulting agency called Material ConneXion ( that might be able to help. 

      At any rate, stay tuned for Part 2 of the infographic on manufacturing. I think it’s going to be a good one.

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  • aimeemdoyle

    Thank you for the informative infographic!