The next Boost mentees, Charlie and Jasper aka Vektor, are a fabulous design duo – bubbling with an infectious enthusiasm about their unashamedly ‘too cool for school’ product – a piece of laser cut acrylic that fits into the space below the cross bar on bicycles. They were mentored by Keith and Mark of Mini Moderns and Rebecca Chitty of Product of Your Environment.
Charlie and Jasper, what’s the best advice Keith, Mark and Rebecca have given you?
C&J: One piece of advice we found particularly useful was to do with pricing. We were worried that if we couldn’t make the product cheap enough then the end price would be too high. But we were reminded to forget what we would pay for the finished product, after all being students, our budget for cool new design is small.
What’s been the most valuable part of Boost so far?
C&J: Being introduced to so many great people and to have access to a wealth of knowledge from our mentors enabling us to bring the product to market without any hiccups.
What do you hope will happen as a result of taking part?
C&J: Having the Southbank Centre guarantee an initial order is amazing and having CMY sold in the Royal Festival Hall shop is a perfect fit. We hope to continue to meet great people and would absolutely welcome collaborative projects.
Why did you want to be involved?
C&J: The idea of bringing a product to market is daunting for anybody. When we saw the opportunity to have help with this process we had to get involved. We are both very hands on with our approach to graphic design and this was a great outlet for us to try a new field in product design.
What single piece of advice would you give to a new designers in the position you were in before Boost?
C&J: I’d say that when it comes to bringing a product to market that everything will take longer then you expect! Be sure to get a solid timescale and plan in place. And most importantly enjoy it and keep it exciting.
What’s special about CMY?
C&J: CMY is really exciting for us because it’s a completely original product. There is nothing like it out there at the moment. It has also acted as a great way for us to be able to bridge the gap between what we study at university [graphic design] and product design.
How will do your products make people’s lives better?
C&J: By bringing some seriously cool patterns to the bikes of cyclists all over London!
Now for the mentors: – what’s been the most rewarding part of Boost so far?
K&M: The most important part for us was being involved in such an exciting new project and meeting new designers and seeing a fresh collection of new products. We have sold through Southbank Centre shop for some time and have a great relationship with them so we are always interested in the products they have in store.
RC: Realising that the advice I gave Charlie and Jasper, drawing on my experiences of getting products to market, was actually useful to them. And realising how much I have learnt since setting up my business and being able to share this knowledge feels great – it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
What do you think has been the most valuable part for Charlie and Jasper?
RC: I think it has been just being able to talk through their idea with me and working out solutions together – especially with regards to the material and packaging.
Why did you want to be involved?
RC: A few reasons – I have a good relationship with Adam [Head Buyer at the Southbank Centre] and always jump at the chance of getting involved with any Southbank related project. I have done a few talks on various subjects at colleges for students and at the risk of sounding really cheesy, it’s a really nice feeling to be in a position to ‘give something back’, especially as I know how valuable this kind of support is in the early stages of setting up a creative business.
Have you learnt anything from Charlie and Jasper in the process of mentoring them?
RC: I’ve learnt that I’ve also got a lot out of the mentoring process. It’s been a really enjoyable experience and their enthusiasm, energy and belief in their product is infectious.
K&M: CMY was immediately one of our favourite products out of all the entries. We thought it was new and exciting – totally not our market as consumers or designers, but we really understood where it was going. The idea was simple and their presentation was very succinct. But apart from staying out far too late, I have no idea what we have learned from them!
What’s been the hardest part of the process?
K&M: There were a lot of great entries – so the hardest part was the final selection. The standard of presentations was very high. Another aspect was that sometimes the selection panel didn’t agree – so it was rather like a design X Factor in some cases! But we got there in the end.
RC: There haven’t really been any hard bits! I came to the project a little way down the line and Charlie and Jasper have been great at just getting on with what they needed to do.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new designer, what would it be?
K&M: We say this all the time but it’s true – keep your overheads low. We were able to give advice on costing products too – as the make cost, wholesale costs, VAT and then retail price can be very confusing if you aren’t experienced in costing a product this way. You can have a great product but if it costs too much too produce – it will be far too expensive at retail to attract a consumer.
RC: Don’t give up!
Why is mentoring important?
RC: From personal experience it is so vital at any stage of a business to be able to see ‘outside’ of your business. Sometimes it is hard to see areas where things can be improved or understand where things may not be going so well because you are so absorbed in your business. Working with a mentor can really help you do this and encourage you to push yourself and better understand yourself and your business and therefore help your business grow.
K&M: Mentoring is important as it really does give a boost to the finalists in every way – from support and advice to helping to find manufacturers and helping with costing.
Vektor’s CMY will be available in the Soutbank Centre shop from Thursday 11th October alongside products from all the Boost mentees.
Further reading for the especially geeky: