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How to Prevent Design from Killing Your Company

I designed an award-winning product, but it had production problems that were almost financially catastrophic. I almost killed my company with design. These lessons will prevent you from making the same mistakes.

I remember exactly where I was on July 14, 2002. It was my 31st birthday, but that is not why it stands out so clearly in my memory. It stands out because it was the beginning of a personal odyssey that would take ten years, represent the steepest learning curve that I have ever climbed, and teach me—a designer—that design can kill your company.

I spent my birthday at the largest annual gathering of sex product manufacturers in North America: The Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo. At first, I was bit taken aback by what I saw. I was not comfortable or familiar with the category, but eventually I began to see that these products were just like any other widget, and from there the design opportunities became apparent. Sex is extremely important. It is a fundamental part of the human experience and, as I considered the opportunities, I came to believe that products that engage our sexuality should be beautifully designed, made, and presented. To that end, I started sketching, raised money, and created a company called Jimmyjane.

A few years after our launch we introduced a flagship product, FORM 6. It was special because of its cordless charging, which enabled it to be the first genuinely submersible, completely rechargeable vibrator. It was also...

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