Top & Derby: The Design Interview
designed2enable has a few words with Matt and Ben of Canadian design company Top & Derby, the people behind our beautiful new Chatfield Canes and Compression Socks.
Ben: Matt and I met while working for the international furniture retailer, EQ3. I did store planning and design for the each of the company’s corporate stores and independent retail partners around the world. Matt worked as an independent product designer, and designed many of the company’s top selling upholstery and casegood items.
We saw there was a gap in the home healthcare market for well-designed products, and from this little spark, Top & Derby was born.
d2e: What inspired you to focus on healthcare products and on the Chatfield cane as your launch product?
Matt: Although we would have loved to design and launch a large portfolio of products, we decided to focus initially on one product in order to test the market. Since walking canes were once used as a fashion accessory, and they are currently the most frequently used mobility accessory, we decided to launch a cane as our first product.
Additionally, the Chatfield was designed to be a simple and beautiful product, crafted of premium materials. We wanted people to be excited by the cane that they use, since many people are embarrassed to use a cane. Essentially, we started with a product that we felt our customers would be proud to own.
d2e: Was there a particular person who inspired you to produce such a dandy cane?
Matt: We didn’t have one particular person in mind when we designed the Chatfield. We thought about every person who uses clinical looking home healthcare products and how we could enhance their lives; we didn't think it was fair that there was limited choice in the products that they were using. Overall, our goal with Top & Derby has been to make an impact on the industry with unique, design-driven home healthcare products.
d2e: Why did you choose compression socks for your second product?
Ben: We decided to launch compression socks because they represent a meaningful product extension for the Top & Derby product range. Like canes, compression socks are also fashion accessories for people who use home healthcare products. We’ve been delighted with the reception to our decidedly different sock designs.
d2e: You launched your products with Kickstarter funding. Did you have an overwhelming response to the Kickstarter campaign? Can you give us any insight into the pros and cons of the crowdfunding process?
Ben: Kickstarter is a topic that we could write a book about; we've launched two crowdfunding campaigns and have become quite intimate with the process of it. We have been fortunate to receive funding through both of our campaigns, but we don't take for granted the hard work that goes into planning a successful campaign.
In a nutshell, the pros of crowdfunding are twofold.
1) It gives people the opportunity to access capital, test the market with an idea, and generate pre-sales for a product before it goes into production.
2) Crowdfunding provides people the opportunity to gain exposure in the market - sometimes through press and other times through organic site traffic - which helps to generate awareness for both a product and company.
Often, the biggest pitfall for crowdfunders is underestimating the capital required to launch a project. Underestimating capital can compromise a person’s ability to be able to deliver on his or her promises further down the road. Fortunately, we have not encountered these issues. Prior to launching each of our campaigns, we have been quite diligent in fully understanding the strategy and economics of crowdfunding.
d2e: Can you share any information on the design process and how long it took to design the canes.
Matt: The design process for our canes, and for all of our products in development, is often quite long. Ben and I often jam on product concepts, then I start drawing rough sketches. Eventually these sketches are turned into renderings and we will build some rapid (rough) prototypes before finding factories that we might want to work with to produce our designs. Once we narrow down the factories that we want to work with, we get some pre-production prototypes built and refine them until we are happy for them to go into production.
d2e: What challenges/setbacks did you come up against in manufacturing the products - or did the whole process run very smoothly?
Matt: The most challenging thing about manufacturing any type of product is finding high quality manufacturers that can deliver on the vision we have for a product. Since our products often combine multiple materials, it can be challenging to find one manufacturer with the capabilities to produce products that use many different materials and manufacturing processes.
d2e: How do you select the manufacturers that produce your products? Did they have to meet certain criteria?
Matt: We spend a great deal of time finding the high quality manufacturing partners. Once we design rough prototypes, the longest part of the development cycle is finding manufacturers that we want to work with.
d2e: Have you had any specific feedback from retailers/design institutes and the general public? Are the larger department stores buying into the idea?
Ben: The general public (who use home healthcare products) seem to really resonate with the T&D brand and what we are trying to achieve. Larger department stores are not as open to the idea, since they don't believe that consumers want design-driven home healthcare products. However, we believe that it will only be a matter of time before the market demands it.
About the Authors