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Zak Gibbons

No Mercy Marbles


As industrial designers, we often focus so much on the “design phase” of a project that we forget that there are many other steps that need to happen before our ideas can become a reality. This semester, I decided to do a real-world project where I would take a design and begin the steps necessary to take it to a mass market. Due to the time constraint imposed by the semester end it would be nearly impossible to actually begin larger production runs before graduation, but the project itself is ongoing. This page will take you on my journey as I learned the various aspects of what is needed to bring a product to market.


This journey has taken place over a number of months. One of the hardest things is that I have not been able to control as much of the scheduling as I would if I were simply doing a “one-off” design. Shipping times have been highly volatile dues to COVID and the Suez Canal blockage. I have to work around schedules on the other side of the globe where our factories are, and correspondences that should be able to happen in a few hours can take a few days.


There have been many versions of this game, most of which were actually made before I got my hands on them. There are a number of changes that I would love to implement, however due to the setup of the company, the CEO wants to have an active hand in most design decisions. All designs have to get approval before I could get quotes or order prototypes. It has been an interesting experience doing a “non-theoretical” design, as it has taught me a lot about negotiating and compromise. Most of my work I have done on the board however has been optimizing the design for CNC machining.


The packaging design has been one of the most challenging parts of this project. Management has changed the requirements so many times, and the minimum order quantity from factories in China means that I have had to revise the original packaging several times. Management also wanted me to explore the possibility of getting bags (as per the original ones) as well as a wooden collectors box. Both of these options turned out to be far too expensive for our budget, but are going to be considered again after launching.


Most designers never get to go through the process of negotiating prices with suppliers. Terms like FOB, DDP, MOQ and CPU are a foreign language to designers. One of the newest parts of this project for me was keeping track of quotations for different components at different factories. From these estimations I was able to generate a cost-per-unit value for the game as well as other important financial indicators. These will prove to be a large part of what we base marketing and sales decisions on in the future.


One of the most frustrating aspects of this project was that I was completely at the mercy of someone across the globe for prototyping. Granted, there have been several handmade versions of this game that preceded my particular design, but for the final prototype I was forced to wait several weeks until it arrived from the factory to do any sort of quality evaluation. Thankfully the quality was high enough that only minor modifications needed to be made for the production design. These are the photos I received while the prototype was being made.


Over the next few months I will continue to work on this project and take it the rest of the way into production. The next few steps will be to lock down the rest of our suppliers, order parts for the 50 game set, and begin to set up for online sales. Obviously there are a million other things that will need to be done along the way, but I am looking forward to getting this to market. Our current goal is to be able to launch the 500 game production run and have them available for purchase over the next holiday season. If you would like to stay connected and see the rest of the process, shoot me an email at for updates.