Designers do not “make”, not in the literal sense. We rely on the manufacturing industry to materialize our conceptions. Although we do have certain knowledge of the manufacturing process, we are by no means connoisseurs in this domain with all its range of varieties. Thus like an anxious parent handing the child over to a caregiver, the designer carefully select this caregiver to be one with a great sense of dedication and responsibility. Although it is not always up to the designers to decide whom this manufacturer will be. In some circumstances, the manufacturing party is either appointed by the commissioner or the commissioner takes over full responsibility of the production, such as the case with most publishing houses equipped with their own team of experts on this domain. There are nevertheless pros and cons to this. The advantage of an in-house production team from the commissioner makes the designers’ job easier; simply handing over the production information and doing a quality control check in the end, with one channel of communication and a clear hierarchy between the commissioner and the manufacturer. However, if the designer were to bear full responsibility of the production with a by the commissioner appointed manufacturer, potential complications can arise. To start with, the dedication and the quality of the manufacturer can be uncertain, especially when commissioners base their selection of the appropriate manufacturer on the financial aspects. Secondly, the hierarchy and the channel of communication are unclear. The manufacturers, being first approached by the commissioners, have the tendency in corresponding with the commissioners on technical issues using professional jargons. Most commissioners, being unfamiliar with the subject, turn to the designers for answers and advises. The back and forth of this threesome often result in miscommunication and a lack of hierarchy in leadership. However, we cannot dismiss the possibility that this appointed by the commissioner manufacturer can be a great partner in the production process.
In most situations, the designers are responsible for selecting the manufacturing partner. What is notable of this particular designer-manufacturer relationship is the part the designers play. Here the designers assume the role of the commissioners, representing the commissioners in their absence and bearing the responsibility of the production. This change of role-play can take place when trust is established between the designers and the commissioners.
Manufacturers are often the last in the chain of process, the role they play is crucial yet their credit is more than often undermined. Perhaps for the reason or the assumption that manufacturers do not “create” or “initiate” but “execute”. However, a good manufacturer is one that aids the designer in the search for a creative solution to mass-produce the design; he/she provides not only the service but the knowledge as well. It is always a pleasure for our office to partner with a manufacturer whom after seeing our design would remark, “But if we were to do it this way, then...” Or “Have you thought of trying this...” The design benefits from a manufacturer who apart from execution also questions and participates in the design process.