info [at] nonfiction.design
San Francisco, California
Design & Philosophy
What's special about working with Nonfiction?
We are small, and like to keep it that way. That doesn't mean we haven't taken on big projects. We are exclusively made of highly experienced, intelligent, efficient and well-rounded designers. This means no intern is going to run your project, ever. This is the only way we can guarantee the highest quality of work for each of our clients, from startup to big corporation.
What is your design philosophy?
Fun and sophistication. We bring together design and engineering to ensure innovative product development and beautiful objects down to the last detail.
How do you work?
Every project is unique, but we typically follow a multi-step process. We Discover problems and identify opportunities, Design solutions (sketch, 3D modeling, prototyping), followed by a Refinement phase and Delivery of files. We are often asked to Extend our services through manufacturing, distribution, marketing and more. This extended engagement ensures design intent is kept through the complexities of product development and manufacturing.
During the whole process, we collaborate with the client, PD firm and CM, making decisions together, and advising on calculated risks.
How do you approach sustainability?
Plastic is inherent to mass manufacturing, and we cannot always replace it with a more sustainable material. In those cases, we strive to create beautiful products that people will own for years. We have extensive experience using manufacturing processes that limit or eliminate wasted materials, practice design for disassembly when applicable. We also use recycled and recyclable materials, non-toxic materials and finishes when it makes a difference.
Manufacturing & Engineering
Do you practice lean product development?
Yes, when the client is open for it. Closely aligned design, engineering, and development teams can reduce time to market while mitigating risk and eliminating handoff delays between separate disciplines.
Do you make prototypes?
Yes. Prototyping is integral to our design process. We prototype early and often. 3D printing, foam models, cut-and-sew samples are created in our workshop. High-end cosmetic and functional prototypes are outsourced.
Do you work with overseas vendors?
Definitely. We work directly with manufacturing and prototyping partners on a regular basis – whether onsite factory visits or via conference calls. Strong relationships are the key to a product's success. These relationships help shepherd products through production and ensure quality, durability and attention to detail.
How comfortable are you with Design For Manufacturing?
DFM would be our specialty. This is precisely why we named our company Nonfiction. We don't see the point of fancy concepts that lead to nowhere. Bringing beautiful, useful, well-tested, well-engineered and innovative products to market is what we do best. Over the years, we have become known to solve problems most design studios can't handle. For us, every single detail matters: the shape, the quality of materials, where it is sourced, how it is assembled, the weight and thickness of your product, part alignment, the need for features. We question everything and remove as much as possible. We believe in products that do few things, but do them right.
Can you help us manage our factory?
Yes. Nonfiction has close bilingual partners who offer sourcing, product development and quality control on Chinese ground. They will happily guide you through the process if needed.
Do you have an expertise?
Yes and no. No matter the project, it’s our duty to rapidly learn all the constraints and strategically push them beyond the industry standard. In a sense, we quickly become experts on any project we undertake. Aside from that, we have a lot of experience in audio, consumer electronics, medical devices, luxury, soft goods and packaging.
Do you collaborate with your clients?
Always. We engage with our clients to gain firsthand product insights. We frequently sketch, workshop and whiteboard together. Oftentimes we help construct and actively participate in user studies. We keep the conversation casual, yet targeted. This lowers barriers and encourages open dialogue between ourselves and our clients. The insights we gain help us understand the product limits and how we can exceed expectations.
What kind of client projects do you prefer?
We don't subscribe to a single product category. Rather, we prefer clients that are willing to challenge conventional thinking and have fun while doing it. We engage, collaborate and go wide, then systematically narrow to a focused, cohesive solution.
Do you work for equity share?
Unless you have an excellent track record of building hardware companies and selling them for millions, the answer is no.
Do you bill by project or time and materials?
It depends. Project-based contracts are recommended for the best quality of work because it retains our focused attention on your project. We highly recommend this arrangement for the initial design phase that gets you to the prototyping phase. For anything beyond that, time and materials is most likely more manageable.
I don't see work in my category. How do I know you can work in it?
It is our job as designers to question and rethink the way things have been done in any product category. Additionally, we routinely have to learn new technologies and regulations to adapt to our clients' needs. Our goal is to bring you designs no one else could come up with. Occasionally the idea is so new (yet manufacturable) that you may end up with a patentable idea.
Can you help us design the future of our company?
Absolutely. Branding and product strategies are part of our capabilities. If you have an idea or a technology and would like to turn it into products people desire for the long run, we can help you.
Nonfiction seems pretty small and I'm not sure you can take care of our project.
Each designer at Nonfiction was specifically selected for their talent, professionalism and efficiency. Clients are always surprised by the amount of work that comes out of our studio and how closely aligned it is to their specific needs. Being nimble helps us react quickly to the inevitable mishaps of product development. This is why all of our clients are recurring ones.