3D Printing product prototype

Prototype Development and the Design Process

Prototyping Physical Products

An effective product development process cannot exist without prototyping. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs and product managers to assume they’re entirely separate disciplines but, in practice, there is always an element of prototyping involved in any design undertaking. Prototypes can take many forms depending on the context but, in general, we define a prototype as any preliminary model or representation of a concept. If that sounds vague, it’s because they can take on many different forms. For example, a prototype of a webpage might be a series of images stitched together in a Powerpoint slide, whereas a prototype of a cell phone case might be a to-scale model produced by a 3D printer for ergonomic testing. Whether we’re designing services, apps, physical products, or strategy, prototypes continually serve as invaluable tools for testing and improving upon design concepts.


Another common misconception is that prototyping is a fixed step in the design process. In reality, it’s not a gate that a product must pass through prior to final production but, rather, a recurring activity in the product development cycle. This article is intended to be an introduction to the process, methods, and different prototyping tools that are instrumental in developing early representations of physical products.

Creation of prototypes to test TAP Wireless Keyboard & Mouse

Mock-ups and Early Prototype Development

When designing physical products, mock-ups are usually the earliest form of a prototype produced. These mock-ups can be made from virtually any material such as clay, foam, wood and are great for getting a sense of overall size, shape, and function. Many ergonomic issues are tested and worked out in this stage and it serves as a great opportunity to get hands-on feedback before going too deep into the development process. Mockups are generally the most basic form of prototyping with the lowest cost and yet, it’s very critical not to overlook its importance. This is often the stage where crucial learnings lead to meaningful tweaks and refinements which ultimately inform a better user experience. Successful product design teams and agencies often spend a considerable amount of development time on mockups and use this form of prototyping to expedite their problem-solving processes.

3D Printed Prototypes

No article about prototyping can be complete without mentioning one of the most popularized terms in product development, 3D Printing. While the technology may not be in the homes of millions of consumers as predicted a decade ago, it plays an important role throughout the prototyping process. Sometimes designers use it to create early versions of complex components, while in other instances the technology can output parts that make their way into high fidelity and functional prototypes. At Shape, we 3D print both plastic and metal components for different applications. In short, 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process through which a physical object is created from a three-dimensional digital model. The printer works by depositing successive layers of hot plastic one at a time from the bottom up. Since it is an automated process and the materials are relatively inexpensive, 3D printing serves as a great way tool to produce early prototypes. It allows for much more accurate form representation while not requiring a high level of fabrication skills from designers. Depositing one thin layer at a time, however, is a very time-consuming process and output speed is what has held the technology back from revolutionizing the world of manufacturing. The layers are also visible to the naked eye and require extensive manual labour for a polished result. Because of this, 3D printed components are generally used to test ergonomics and functionality but not buyer-facing elements of higher fidelity prototypes. Depending on the size and complexity and strength requirements of the part being prototyped, 3D printing can be an alternative for hand-making mockups or it can be used in a secondary phase of prototyping after refinements stemming from initial mockup testing have been made.

Prototype of Oliso Smart Iron

Design Iteration and Refinement

After testing initial mockups and learning about how the conceptual dimensions translated to the real world, design teams generally jump back into CAD modeling and translate analog findings to their digital models. Having a more informed view of the whole product experience can help steer the product into a more refined state but it can also shed light on major design changes that can improve the product experience. It’s very important to enter into this prototyping stage with an open mind and being willing to learn and take a few steps back if needed. Remember that mock-ups are to test and expose flaws in the design, not to stroke the ego. A mockup that doesn’t lead to at least minor iterations is more often the result of oversight, not proof that the design was perfectly thought through on the first go.

acoustic chamber design of villo speaker

High Fidelity and Functional Prototypes

After several phases of crude prototypes and design refinements, design teams generally move into high fidelity and functional prototyping. These prototypes can serve a number of different purposes but, most often, they’re produced nearing the end of the design process and are meant to be the near-final representation of the product before it goes into production. Whereas early prototypes are meant to be cheap and easy, higher fidelity prototypes are more about showing the design elements from a visual and mechanical perspective. As such, they require a higher level of attention to detail and demand more complex and laborious production methods. Rather than employing the additive process of 3D printing, higher fidelity prototypes often use subtractive manufacturing processes like CNC machining. CNC machining starts with a block of material that is shaped by a number of cutting and spinning tools. This process results in much better dimensional accuracy and can be used with metals, plastics, and wood. Because the process starts with a solid block of material, the final result is generally much stronger and smoother than what can be achieved with a 3d printer. Some materials can’t be CNC’d or 3D printed and need to be injection molded. To avoid the cost and timelines of steel molds, aluminum and silicone molds are often used. For a deeper dive into the different forms of tooling, we recommend checking out our article on different forms of tooling.

After the components have been produced, higher fidelity prototypes generally go through much more post-processing than the models produced at earlier stages in the design process. Different paints and finishes are applied here to better represent what the final production of the product will look like.

Functional prototype of whipr ski erg attachment

Choosing the Right Prototyping Process

In crowdfunding campaigns, we often see the use of high-fidelity non-functional prototypes paired with descriptions of how the product will work once it’s finished. There is nothing inherently wrong with non-functioning prototypes for this purpose as long as the concept has been proven through a semi-functioning prototype somewhere along the process. All too often, we see new entrepreneurs jump into crowdfunding campaigns with very conceptual prototypes that haven’t been properly tested and thought through. While the bold claims and product photography might be enough to secure initial orders, the conceptual nature of the design makes it impossible for factory teams to provide an accurate quote and, if the time finally comes, entrepreneurs usually find that the product is riddled with production issues. 

Ultimately, there is no single prototyping process that we can recommend in an article. The outcome of our product development process is a unique solution and, by nature, can’t be standardized. The needs of the entrepreneur launching a crowdfunding campaign, for example, will be completely different from the needs of a Fortune 500 brand that has already allocated budget for production and marketing. Reputable design agencies and capable teams will work with their stakeholders to understand needs and develop a prototyping plan that supports their go-to-market strategy. They recognize that, while a prototype is often set out as a deliverable, the act of prototyping is really a crucial element of developing more impactful products and should happen throughout the entire design process.

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10 Best Books for Designers in 2020

Our favorite product design books

Without the hours spent piloting our vehicles to the design studio, our podcast consumption has dropped considerably and we’ve been missing the voices of other design thought leaders. On the bright side, however, we’ve managed to squeeze in more armchair time and have rediscovered the books that first inspired us to pursue careers in design along with some new ones to expand our thinking. Below is a list of what we consider to be the top 10 books for aspiring product designers to read in 2020, whether you’re an industrial designer working to develop physical products or a digital product designer crafting on-screen interactions. This list is far from comprehensive but reading ten books before the end of the year is ambitious enough on its own so we’ll save some additional titles for our 2021 list.

Note: Shape is NOT an affiliate with any of the links below. We’re sharing these strictly because we think they’re awesome reads.

The Art of Innovation

by Tom Kelley

We will always jump at the chance to get an inside look at an inspirational design company like IDEO. Kelley strongly believes that everyone can be creative, and between IDEO and the d.school at Stanford, his work over the past 3 decades has been about making innovation a way of life. This book tells stories directly from IDEO while also drawing upon learnings from other leading companies.

The War of Art

by Steven Pressfield

Do you ever sit down at your desk in front of a blank screen only to realize you’re thirsty or that you need to check your inbox for… anything else? This is what Steven Pressfield calls the resistance. The War of Art is an insightful and entertaining book to keep close to your desk and prompt you to jump into the struggle we all must deal with while trying to produce great creative work.

Tom Peters Essentials: Design

by Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a management thinker most known for his 1982 classic, In Search of Excellence. His own search for excellence has led him to become a very vocal ambassador for design. Design is a short book, or perhaps a rant, about why design must be at the heart of every business, and it’s one we highly recommend.

The Laws of Human Nature

by Robert Greene

In order to develop a deep understanding of our users, it’s insightful to strengthen our understanding of human behavior. The Laws of Human Nature provides profound observations seen through the lens of history, psychology, and philosophy. If the author’s name rings a bell, it’s likely because you’ve heard of his previous bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power.

Purple Cow

by Seth Godin

Like Tom Peters, Seth Godin doesn’t come from a design background. Rather, he’s a management thinker on a pursuit to inspire people to do work that matters. Purple cow is a book about creating products and services that are worth marketing in the first place. If that isn’t enough to perk a designer’s ears up, the cover also features some praise from Tom Kelley.

Creative Confidence

by Tom Kelley, David Kelley

Where The Art of Innovation is more about building innovative teams and organizations, Creative Confidence focuses on how each of us can unleash our own creative powers. While this book has major appeal to those outside of the design industry who are looking to be more creative, it also provides an action plan for designers to boost their ability to innovate. As Tom Peters praised “Don’t just read it. Use it. Now.”

Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750

by Adrian Forty

Objects of Desire is a very consumable book filled with brilliant insights from the past 200 years of design and manufacturing. In his book, Forty shows how much truly goes into the design of objects all around us. Written in 1992, Objects of Desire has retained its relevance as a thought-provoking look at how design and society intertwine.

The Design of Everyday Things

by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things is quite possibly the most well known and applicable book on the topic of product design. Whether you’re an industrial designer or UX designer, Don’s six fundamental principles of design likely have vast implications on the work you do. It’s an insightful piece on the psychology behind product interaction and one that should be on every product designer’s bookshelf.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

by Nir Eyal

In Hooked, Nir Eyal draws upon principles of cognitive psychology and decision making to analyze why some products capture our attention while others flop. The result is a how-to guide for building better products and doesn’t require you to pour over hours of abstract theory. This book is geared more towards the UX design community, but delivers valuable insights for industrial designers as well.

Emotional Design

by Don Norman

In his second book on our list, Norman explains how the principles of human psychology inform the invention and design of the new products that surround us. Going beyond his claim that a user’s needs should trump a designer’s aesthetic, Norman argues that human centered design is about creating effective tools that mesh with human emotion.

Reading the way to better design

Rereading some of the older books on this list recently, we were surprised by how relevant they still are despite having been written before the advent of the iPhone. The creative challenges faced by Da Vinci in 1502 as he designed an odometer are not unlike the design challenges we face today. It all comes back to designing experiences that will delight the people who use them. The best way to design better for people is to learn more about them, and we hope that this list serves as a great place to get started.

What the Amazon affiliate rate cut means for your brand

What changed with Amazon’s affiliate program

In mid-April, Amazon made significant cuts to commission rates for members of its affiliate marketing program. Commission revenue through affiliate links is a major source of revenue for many online media entities from independent bloggers to major publications like CNET. If you’re not familiar with this type of marketing strategy, an affiliate program is a performance-based marketing initiative where an external partner (affiliate) is paid a commission for helping an online store generate sales. When you watch a video for “the ten best Bluetooth speakers under $50” there’s a good chance that the links in the description help the channel earn a commission for each sale generated. Here’s an example of affiliate links in a Youtube description:

example of affiliate marketing links for bluetooth speakers

Why the change matters for your brand

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely not a Youtube influencer who’s just had your revenue model slashed by 50-80%, so why should you care? For brands, the biggest impact will be seen in the second and third-order consequences of this action. For the past decade, affiliates have been responsible for generating a significant percentage of sales across a wide range of e-commerce platforms and have become a major component of many PR strategies. Brands have reaped the rewards from this as publications and influencers have considered product reviews to be valuable content. They can help generate direct revenue for the publication while also providing their readers with interesting content that encourages more time spent on-page. This time-on-page also helps boost ad revenue for the publication.

Seeing their revenue drop by as much as 80% in some categories will force these affiliates to re-evaluate their content plans and start looking for alternative revenue generation opportunities. While product reviews generate visits and will never completely dry up, with the revenue-generating potential of a “The ten best Bluetooth speakers under $50” now cut by up to 50-80%, we’re likely to see a significant drop in these types of posts as bloggers and media entities look for better ways to generate revenue.

As the supply of reviews shrinks, established brands and commodity amazon sellers alike will soon need to find alternative ways to generate brand awareness and drive traffic to product pages. An added layer of complexity is that, with consumers in North America confined to their homes, many traditional brand activation campaigns are on hold and the bricks and mortar locations that served as an additional source of revenue are closed, putting increased pressure on non-essential consumer product brands.

What we can learn

It will be interesting to see the chain reaction that this commission rate cut and more interesting to see how product marketers respond. Either way, we hope that it serves as an important reminder of the fragility of building livelihoods upon the platforms of others. When we learn to rely on Amazon’s referral program to generate sales on Amazon’s storefront that are then shipped through Amazon’s warehouse with Amazon’s logistics fleet, we might find ourselves becoming overly reliant on a system that we cannot control. How can we make sure we’re not leaving our brands in a vulnerable position? In addition to diversifying our contact points with consumers, it’s important to remember the value created by a relationship that extends beyond a single transaction.

What can’t be easily taken away from you is the benefit of brand recognition and the attention and respect you earn from your audience by consistently providing value to them and following through on your promises. Yes, a Google or Instagram algorithm might change overnight, making your message harder to find but if you’ve left your customers or audience with a reason to connect with you and enough places to do so, they will.

Should this Exist? A short guide to evaluating your idea’s worth

Should this Exist? A short guide to evaluating your idea’s worth

Should this exist?

In our past two decades of helping our clients launch new brands and build upon existing ones, we’ve observed some factors that increase the likelihood of an idea being adopted in the marketplace. If taking note from our clients wasn’t enough, we’ve even decided to introduce a few products of our own. What’s written here is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to launching your new idea but, rather, aims to help you explore the reality of your ah-ha! moment:

Should this exist beyond my imagination?

We don’t mean “should this exist” as a thought-provoking moral dilemma as is often the case on the popular new podcast sharing the title. No, what we’re asking here is, why is this idea worth pursuing? Is it worth the grueling hours that will need to get it off the ground? Is it worth sacrificing the time you could be doing something else? Is it worth the injected plastic that will, one day, end up in a landfill? Whenever we’re going through the process of launching something new, we always start by asking ourselves two important questions:

    1. Why should this be brought into the world?
    2. Is there an existing alternative that is already solving the problem we’re aiming to?

FABRIQ Speaker design sketches

Why should this be brought into the world?

Rather than proposing elaborate new financial models to evaluate the revenue potential of your idea, our objective is simply to prompt you to think about a few key questions prior to committing your energy to chase after your new idea. For most people, the light bulb goes off when a personal need for something arises but, to be viable beyond a personal prototype, you’ll need more than one customer.

Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to launch an idea that connects with small, specialized audiences across the globe. The continual increase in free-flowing information paired with more efficient logistics infrastructure has made niche groups of consumers more accessible than ever. While specialized audiences may be spread thin geographically, they can often be found in tightknit groups online and generally like to share their experiences with the rest of the community. The caveat to this is that specialized groups of category enthusiasts tend to have stronger pre-existing brand loyalty, higher quality expectations, and are very quick to spot imposters who are just stopping by to make a quick buck. If your idea is meant to address the needs of a specialized niche group, authenticity had better be in your game plan.

Communities exist globally where people will buy niche products online

Whether your idea is specialized or has mass market appeal, to introduce a new product and urge your customers to trade it for their hard earned cash, you’d better have a very compelling story. How is your idea going to contribute to the lives of those who use it? Like a new CRM tool for sales teams, does it help people do more with less? Or, like the output from the entertainment industry, is it based on making people feel good? If your idea doesn’t remove pain points or make a positive contribution to someone’s day, it’s probably time to head back to the drawing board. Unless you have a huge marketing budget to help introduce your idea to the world, you’ll need early support of advocates and this is only made possible by providing a remarkable customer experience. Why not do some preliminary exploration with a sample of your target market before launching headlong after your idea?. When we receive a slow nod and an “I might be interested in that” we know we’re in trouble. While presenting new ideas, we’re looking for jaw-dropping genuine excitement. During the early stages of whatever we’re working on, we refer back to the teachings of Seth Godin and ask ourselves the very basic; is this really worth talking about?

Competition – Do alternatives already exist?

After concluding that an idea has merit and is worth bringing into the world, it’s important to understand the alternatives that are already available. A quick google search is insightful and can help you understand if your new idea isn’t so new, but we advise you go beyond that and identify if there’s anything out there that solves the same problem you’re aiming to.

Access to sourcing websites like Alibaba, intuitive e-commerce platforms like Shopify and the speed at which we can now connect with freelancers on Upwork have made it easy to lay the groundwork of introducing something new to the world. A business can now be started in a local public library and requires little to no mastery. It’s important to remember that, as these barriers are eliminated for you, they’re also being eliminated for your potential competitors. As we continue to build platforms and tools that amplify noise, why is your idea going to stand out from the rest? Remember that long before you compete for sales, you will need to compete for your customer’s attention. Publishing an e-commerce website is one thing, but finding the people to visit it is where the required mastery has now shifted to.

Person making online purchase of product

In our years helping brands introduce new ideas and design new products, we’ve realized that there is a major misconception that being better is enough. Does your new knife stay sharp 15% longer than the leading brand at Target? Unfortunately, 15% is not worth a consumer’s cost of switching or the inconvenience it will cause the buyer to move something else off the shelf. Better is only enough when the odds are already in your favor and this isn’t likely to be the case. Often, you’ll find yourself up against brands that have been spending decades building retail relationships, reliable supplier networks, and international brand awareness. Whether it’s a consumer, buyer or investor, the gatekeepers you need to impress with your idea are already busy doing something else and you’ll need to find a way to get their attention. Once you have their attention, you will then need to convince them that your idea is worth the cost of switching. When it comes to launching new ideas in a crowded space, we advise innovators to aim to launch an idea that provides at least a 10X benefit over the next best thing.


Why 10X?

In his work, Understanding the Psychology of New-Product Adoption, John T. Gourville notes that consumers tend to overvalue products they already own by a factor of three while companies tend to overvalue their new products by a factor of three. As a result, there is a 9X mismatch about what developers think consumers want and what consumers actually want. This model uses only psychological biases and doesn’t take into consideration the market advantages possessed by pre-existing competition so we feel it’s safer to strive for a 10X improvement.

Understanding the Psychology of New-Product Adoption 9x effect model

With this disconnect in mind, new ideas are likely to fall flat if they’re only 2 or 3X better than the entrenched market players. In order to negate the upper hand the existing competition holds and give an idea a chance to succeed, it needs to deliver substantial benefits. Bookstores already existed when Jeff Bezos decided to start one but he figured out a model that would allow Amazon to have 10x the offering. Dollar Shave Club may not have reinvented the razor, but the sum of experiences it offered consumers certainly hit the 10X marker and rattled the chains of major CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) companies. How can you build upon your idea to ensure your competitors’ customers will look beyond the psychological costs of switching from what they’re already invested in?

Take a breath

The spark of a new idea is intoxicating and helps power entrepreneurs through the grueling early stages of development but these early stages require the discipline and humility to slow down and ask the tough questions. Whether you’re creating an entirely new category or diving into an older area filled with competition, in order to make it off the ground, new ideas need to be compelling and worth talking about. At this stage, it’s important to remember that we are all biased and are likely overweighing our idea’s benefits by a factor of three. Prior to taking on a new project, we work with our clients to dig deep and help answer two fundamental questions: Should this be brought into the world? And how can we make it at least 10X better than the next best alternative?

Rather than getting discouraged if your idea can’t pass this test, take a breath, head back to the drawing board and work on creating an idea for your users to love. Day in and day out, we work with brands to help them increase the likelihood that their ideas gain traction. If you’re in the early stages of ideation and need some fresh eyes, we’re here to help.

Your competition already has the upper hand. How are you going to take that from them?

List 4 of Section 301 Tariffs

Return to Tension

As trade relations between the U.S and China seem to be further deteriorating, importers are now at risk of facing a 25 percent tariff on over 3,700 products.

On May 13, the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) published its fourth list of proposed Section 301 tariffs on Chinese products imported into the U.S. The list covers $300 billion worth of Chinese imports. Prior to List 4, the Trump administration had tried to make the tariffs less painful to American shoppers by shielding consumer electronics but that is no longer the case. The newest list proposes a 25% tariff on daily use products like cellphones, televisions, clothing, housewares, pens, and strollers.

List 4 can be viewed here and includes most remaining U.S imports which have not been previously assessed Section 301 tariffs.

Tariffs proposed for products manufactured and imported from China

Tariff summary as of May 16, 2019

Warehousing - A guide to receiving, storing, and shipping your inventory

How to receive, store, and ship your products

If you’re planning on shipping a physical product to customers, you’re going to need a location to store your inventory. The type of location you choose will vary depending on the types of customers you need to ship to but, before we get into that, let’s define some of the different warehousing terms you may have come across so far:

Warehouse: A warehouse is a building that is used to store commercial merchandise. Warehouses generally act as longer-term storage solutions and are used by importers, exporters, and wholesalers/distributors. They’re equipped with loading docks so products can be shipped or received by transport trucks. Warehouses can be owned directly by a wholesaler or operated by a Third Party Logistics provider.

Third Party Logistics Facility (3PL): 3PL facilities are outsourced warehousing options used by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. These facilities can receive, hold, and transport products, but they never take possession (ownership) of the goods.

Distribution Center (DC): A distribution center is a specialized warehouse used for temporary storage and redistribution of goods. Mass retailers use a network of distribution centers as a storage center for retail locations to pull inventory from.

Warehousing - Receiving, storing, and shipping your inventory
Warehousing - Receiving, storing, and shipping your inventory

Key Warehouse Considerations

So, your product design is nailed down and your supplier is about to begin production but needs to know where it will be shipping the finished product. What’s next?

Shipment Volume

First, you will need to consider the volume of product you will be receiving. If you have a small business and only plan on receiving a few boxes of product at a time, a local storage facility or your parent’s garage might do just fine. If you plan on receiving pallets, containers, or truckloads, you will need access to a loading dock in a warehouse. Fortunately for small businesses, in North America, there are large networks of third-party logistics facilities that can receive, store, pack and ship your product for you. With these 3PL providers, you will pay a monthly storage fee (usually per pallet) while incurring variable charges for receiving and shipping your product. Many of these service providers work with all sorts of different small business and can provide a helping hand along the way.

Identifying key customers

The second variable to consider is who your customers are. Online sellers that are are shipping directly to consumers can often operate cost-effectively right out of their garages until the volume becomes too much to handle, Small businesses working with mass retailers, on the other hand, are often required to ship product on pallets which means they will need to have access to a shipping door at an owned warehouse or 3PL facility. To make your life easier, it will be important to select a 3PL provider that already has experience working with the retailers you will be shipping to. This can save time while avoiding financial penalties of improperly shipped product.  

In the early stages of your business, it’s important not to overextend yourself. If you don’t yet need the services provided by a 3PL, there’s no harm in starting small in the space you already have (spare room, garage, ect). As the volume starts to pick up and you find yourself in a time crunch, it might be wise to consider moving your inventory to a 3PL facility or even moving into an office with warehousing space and loading docks while bringing on experienced personnel to manage the logistics side of your business.

Inventory and forklift in shipping container

Choosing a Storage Location

If you’ve decided that working with a 3PL facility is the best option for your business, the next step is determining the best location for your inventory to be stored. This requires a balance between proximity to supply and proximity to demand. Warehousing in the Los Angeles area can be a great option as it’s close to the shipping ports and provides a cost-effective option for receiving inventory from Asia, however, if the majority of your customers are on the East Coast, your FedEx bills will quickly erase any gains in freight savings. For our consumer brands with higher volume, we usually activate a 3PL facility on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. The price to get a container to the east coast is higher but we make up for it very quickly in savings on direct-to-consumer shipments.

Warehouse and product

Understand Your Costs

Every business has different needs and there are many factors to take into consideration when determining how to store and ship your products. Spend the time building out different models to give yourself a full understanding of where your costs will be coming from and where there are opportunities for increased efficiency. While it’s important to choose a solution that allows you to scale, remember not to overburden yourself so much early on that you don’t have the resources to invest in growing your business.

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The U.S - China Trade Conflict Timeline

The U.S - China Trade Conflict Timeline

A few months ago, we wrote a piece on what was the escalating trade tensions between China and the United States. The conflict is an ongoing topic of debate so we’ve decided to reformat in order to make sure you have the most up to date information for your business. Because you likely don’t have hours to mull over all of the threats and drama between Xi and Trump, we’ve condensed the timeline into, what we consider to be, the most important developments.

Many import businesses already have teams in place and are optimized for working with China so switching manufacturing to other countries can be a huge headache. While these trade disputes have generated very little good news for importers, fortunately, most of your competitors are experiencing similar issues and the new tariffs likely haven’t given you a competitive disadvantage. We’re optimistic that some face-to-face time at the G20 will help settle some tensions between Trump and Xi but these past few months have served as a great reminder of just how fickle major economic relationships can be. This fragile nature of trade has exposed the dangers of an overly concentrated manufacturing network and has taught us that there is really no such thing as a status quo.

As of this writing, the United States has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports. The complete lists of affected goods can be found below:

List 1

List 2

List 3

The Timeline

October 25

Trade talks resumed between the two countries. Trump and Xi are reported to be planning discussions to take place during November’s G20 summit in Argentina.

September 24

The US instated tariffs on List 3, affecting $200b worth of Chinese goods. As of September 24, the total value of goods affected by these new tariffs was $250b.

China responded by instating its proposed tariffs on $60b worth of US goods.

September 17 2018

USTR announced that there would be a 10% tariff on the $200b worth of Chinese exports that will go into effect on from Sept 24- Dec 31. Starting early 2019, the tariff rate on that list was proposed to increase to 25%. Immediately afterwards, China announced that it would impose tariffs on an additional $60b of US goods that would go into effect at the same time.

August 23

The US and China go forward and implement tariffs on $16b worth of goods in List 2.

August 3

In retaliation to the United States’ proposed List 3, China proposed a range of tariffs that would affect $60 billion in US products

August 2

President Trump begins considering a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of goods on List 3 as opposed to the original proposed 10 percent.This list included consumer products, construction materials, tools, agricultural products and commercial electronics equipment.

July 6 2018

As promised, the US and China both move forward with tariffs on the  initial $34 billion in imports (List1). During this time, a second round of tariffs to impact $16b in goods on each side is under review (List 2).

June 18 2018

President Trump threatened a 10% tariff on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products. He also stated that another $200 billion would be imposed if China retaliated further. At this stage, the threats pretty much covered all of the United States annual $505.47 billion in Chinese imports.

May 29 2018

The United States announced that it would be moving ahead with its proposed tariffs on $50 billion of imports while also announcing a plan to limit visas for Chinese citizens in an attempt to protect intellectual property.

May 20 2018

The United States and China appear to reach an agreement after China offered to significantly increase purchases goods of U.S origin.

May 3 2018

The United States and China began engaging in trade talks in Beijing. Here, the U.S demanded a trade gap reduction of US$200 billion within the next two years. No agreement was reached.

April 4 2018

In response to the U.S government’s tariff implementation, the Chinese government announced a list of US origin products that will be subject to an addition 25% tariff which would also come into play on July 6 2018. The list covers $34 billion in Chinese imports from the US and can be viewed (in Mandarin) here.

April 3 2018

The U.S Trade Representative (USTR) announced the first list of products that would be impacted. That list contained 818 product lines comprised mostly of non-consumer products and included industries such as aerospace, technology, robotics, industrial machinery, medical equipment, and automobiles. The complete first list represented $34 billion in products and was set to be in effect as of July 6, 2018.

March 22, 2018

President Trump first announced  that the United States would be imposing a 25% tariff hike that would impact $50 billion in Chinese goods imported into the U.S annually.

Bringing a Product to Market: Found Method Podcast

Bringing a Product to Market: Found Method Podcast

Shape’s Director of Marketing, Jordon Sansom, recently had the opportunity to sit down with the guys at Found Method to explore what it takes to bring a product to market. Found Method is a partnership between Cohub and Platoon Studio that looks at the decisions and strategy that go into building, running and growing a business.

On the episode, Zach, Elliot, Charles and Jordon cover product design, brand launch and modern retail while going back and forth on finding a balance between the pursuit of perfection and getting ideas out there. To dig further into some of the product launch information discussed on the podcast, check out our guide to evaluating product ideas.

Listen to the episode on Spotify.

The episode is also available on iTunes and Stitcher.


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U.S - China Tariffs Explained

Trade Tensions

No matter which outlets you subscribe to, your newsfeed is undoubtedly filled with talk of the increasing economic tensions between the United States and China. Given that this is a resource for entrepreneurs and I’m not here to debate who the long-term economic winners and losers or predict the impact on international trade as a whole. The purpose of the post is simply to review what has been said, what has been put in motion and help you identify if there will be any immediate impacts on your business.

President Trump first announced on March 22, 2018, that the United States would be imposing a 25% tariff hike that would impact $50 billion in Chinese goods imported into the U.S annually. On April 3rd the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) announced the first list of products that would be impacted. That list contains 818 product lines comprised mostly of non-consumer products and includes industries such as aerospace, technology, robotics, industrial machinery, medical equipment, and automobiles. The complete first list represents $34 billion in products and will be effective as of July 6, 2018. You can see the full list of product lines here.

The second list covers 284 lines worth $16Billion in annual imports is currently under further review and does not yet have an effective date. The second list can be found here.

Will your product be affected? Visit the links below to find out:



More threats

In response to the U.S government’s tariff implementation, the Chinese government has announced a list of US origin products that will be subject to an addition 25% tariff which will also come into play on July 6 2018. The list covers $34 billion in Chinese imports from the US and can be viewed (in Mandarin) here.

In response (yes, again) to the Chinese government’s tariff implementation, on June 18th President Trump threatened a 10% tariff on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products. He also stated that another $200 billion would be imposed if China retaliates further. These threats pretty much cover all over the United States annual $505.47 billion in Chinese imports. As of this writing, no product lines or official documentation have been released pertaining to these threats.

The trade landscape between China and the United States is changing very quickly so be sure to stay in the loop and monitor how these changes will affect your business.