How to Take Your Physical Product Idea from Sketch to Sample

October 12, 2018
How to Take Your Physical Product Idea from Sketch to Sample 1

by Tara Eggenspiller

If you’ve ever explored making an app or tech product, then you’ve heard the concept of ‘validating your idea’, or confirming interest in your product before you create it. The goal is to make sure there is a market for your product before investing time, money, and energy in something no one wants. Validating a physical product is equally important but in order to do so you’ll likely need a sample to show your target audience.

When I first started on my fashion design journey, I was extremely intimidated by the process of turning my purse designs into physical samples. Would i have to learn to sew? Where would I find a sample maker who could work with leather? How would i know when my sketch was good enough to submit to them? My experience has been full of trial and error but I am excited to share what I have learned about the sample making process.

Here’s how you can bring your ideas to life in 4 simple steps:

Start with Sketch-storming (I made this phrase up!)

Start by blocking off some time, turning on something inspiring or motivational, and getting out your art supplies. Yes, this is the fun part. The goal is to turn on the artistic side of your brain and let your mind think of new possibilities. Many of us have careers that require us to use our logical, rational left brains so turning on our creativity can be a challenge. I sketch as many potential designs as possible – crossbodies, shoulder bags, etc. Try not to get trapped in a creative box – anything goes at this phase! From these, I narrow it down to a few to proceed to the next step with.

How to Take Your Physical Product Idea from Sketch to Sample 2
A few styles that emerged from a sketch-storming session.

3D Mockups

Once you’ve settled on your designs, it’s time to make 3 dimensional paper prototypes, which is the first step in validating your design in real life. This is time consuming, as you’re literally constructing a paper version of your product, but it often reveals basic design flaws that should be addressed, which can save time and energy later. What needs to be changed based on your initial paper prototype? Is the size and shape feasible? If it’s too difficult to construct with paper, your sample maker might have the same issues.

Life-size Sketches with Measurements

How to Take Your Physical Product Idea from Sketch to Sample 3

Next are flat sketches with exact measurements of each section of the purse. I make a flat sketch like the above for each part of the purse – sides, bottom, top, & handle. I think it’s best to draw these exactly to scale so that you can take accurate measurements while seeing the size in real life. Keep in mind, sample makers often work with centimeters.

Finishing Touches

Before sending you’ll need to add information about the materials that should be used. For easy communication, I use links to Pantone colors and photos of leather swatches to explain the color and texture I want to use. Pantone colors are a global standard recognized in the design community that make it easy to communicate color information across the internet. Pebble and saffiano are examples of leather finishes and the same bag design would look entirely different if it was made out of each.

Send to Sample Maker & Wait for your creation

It’s finally time to send all your work to your sample maker. This could go a few different ways depending on who you plan to work with. Some sample makers require you to send all the materials including zippers and locks to their physical location. If this is the case you should make sure they can actually work with your materials. I’ve gotten excited about a sample maker only for her to let me know a month later her machine couldn’t work with my leather.

In other cases, sample making will be a function within a manufacturing firm, and they can source your materials for you. I find this to be the easiest way, however many people prefer greater control over their product or have a specific texture or print they absolutely must use for their idea.

How to Take Your Physical Product Idea from Sketch to Sample 4
The initial sample is complete!

Getting samples made is just one part of developing a fashion collection. It’s a learning process but very rewarding one when you finally see your idea brought to life.

Other Things to Note

● Pattern making is not mentioned here, as the manufacturer I work with does this internally.
● It may take a while to find a promising sample maker for your project. I probably talked to 25 before I found one to work with. Be sure to get more than one quote. You would be surprised how different prices can be from one to the next.
● Don’t rush your design and sleep on it before you make final decisions. The sample maker will (hopefully) produce exactly what you give them. Still, it is OK if your initial sample isn’t perfect. That’s why it’s called a sample – it’s meant to be revised and perfected!

About the Author: Tara started Angela Mariah handbags as a way for busy professional women to incorporate the simplicity and luxury of the Mediterranean into their wardrobes. Find your effortless chic at – High-quality leather handbags for the thoughtfully curated closet.

About Me


I'm Deborah, a writer, podcaster and published author. As host of Women Entrepreneurs Radio I get to have conversations with women (and men) entrepreneurs from all over the world. Thanks for stopping by! Read More


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