The Little Known Design Tips That Could Save Your Start-up

Design Tips That Could Save Your Start-up

Starting a company is like walking a tightrope. It’s exciting but often fraught with anxiety. On one hand, you’ve got a great idea, perhaps even a game-changer. But on the other hand, you’re well aware that lots of start-ups fail – approximately 50% according to the latest UK figures. And it’s a terrible shame. CB Insights and Forbes magazine recently published a study highlighting the top 20 reasons start-ups fail. So, today we’re going to look at some of those reasons and how they can be avoided.

No Market Need

How big is your market and what’s your expected sales volume? Do you have any competitors? These might seem like obvious questions, but a whopping 42% of start-up failures happen because there simply isn’t a need! You might think you’ve got a great idea, but is it actually viable?

Aside from determining the size of the market, it’s also important to understand your customer’s basic need. What motivates them? What need isn’t currently being met? Ask open and fundamental questions. We discussed this at some length in one of our previous articles - check it out here.

Pricing/Cost Issues

18% of start-up failures are due to pricing and cost issues. That’s why it’s important to know your expected selling price, required profit margin and expected volume before designing the product. Your Industrial Designer should consider this throughout the product design process.

Being Out-competed

19% of start-up failures happen because the start-up is out-competed. If you have a unique idea, make sure it stays that way and be very careful who you speak to. Your great idea could be stolen by a larger company with a bigger budget and legal team. Believe me, it happens. So, if you think you have a unique idea, I’d encourage you to speak to a qualified patent attorney as early as possible.

You can protect your intellectual property in a couple of ways. If your product has a unique function (the way it works), it may very well be patentable. A lot of start-ups either don’t realise the value of a patent or else they leave it too late. Another thing you may not realise is that you can also apply for a registered design. Registered designs offer protection for the appearance of your product (distinctive shape, colour, layout and so forth).

In addition, it’s important to check for any existing patents and you should do this as soon as possible. Infringing on someone else’s patent can land you in hot water.

And take care when speaking to potential manufacturers or suppliers. Using overseas manufacturers is often tempting, but it’s not unheard of for products to be copied or stolen. So, I’d avoid sending all your parts to the one manufacturer if possible. Whoever you’re speaking to or working with, it’s always worth having a non-disclosure agreement in place first.

Having a Poor Product

17% of start-up failures are due to poor product design. You can have the best idea in the world, but if it’s poorly executed, you’re in trouble. So, when designing your product, it’s always best to keep an open mind and start broad. It’s easy to make assumptions that define the design direction too early. All ideas should be considered during the early stages, even ones that seem crazy at first. A lot of time and money can be wasted pursuing the wrong solution.

And there are a couple of other things you should also consider when designing your product.

Regulations and Standards

Ensure the product meets any relevant standards or legal requirements. Different design standards may apply depending on the type of product and your intended geographical market. For instance, there are international (ISO) standards, BS standards for Britain, EU or DIN standards for Europe and AS standards for Australia. It’s important to consider and understand your safety and regulatory obligations early in the design process as this can save a lot of heartache later on.


Develop an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), then prototype and test as early as possible.

This allows you to see how users interact with your product. If you’re not sure how to go about that, there are companies that specialise in market research and user testing.

It’s also important to consider and understand the environment your product will be used in. If your product will be used or stored outdoors or exposed to unusual conditions, it may be worth conducting environmental testing and there are specialist facilities that can help you with that too.  It’s possible to test for a range of things including operation at high/low temperatures, UV exposure, altitude testing, exposure to corrosive environments, vibration, shock and expected lifespan to name just a few.

Over to You

Not sure how to turn your idea into a viable product? If so, we’d love to chat. Why not get in touch by contacting us at Or, if you’ve found today’s topic useful, please share this post on social media. You can do so by using one of the sharing buttons below.