I have been a witness to many cases of wonder and surprise when it comes to how much manufacture of product design cost. This article will serve for better orientation within manufacture and design services costs.


I. Cost of design manufacture.


A. Prototyping.

Prototyping is a necessary step to make sure the product has correct visual and functional properties. It is also a very lengthy process as there are usually many small adjustments necessary even with correctly designed and prepared products. It can take even months to prepare a final prototype with “ideal” properties.

While 3D printing has made the process a lot faster, it can still be strenuous and expensive (with costs of prints ranging from hundreds to thousands if the project is large in size and complex).


B. Steel molds

Most product designs require a manufacture of a steel mold. Steel mold consists of several thick blocks that have tooled in negative shape of the design — or its part.

Steel molds have very different costs based on where they are manufactured. Probably the cheapest molds can be done in China, Europe or USA offers molds in costs 2–3 x higher than China, but usually with more reliable service and result.

Approximate costs of a steel mold for a very simple small (below 10–12 cm on the largest side) product are:

China: 2000–3000 USD and more

Europe / USA: 5000–8000 USD and more

Cost of a mold for a medium sized object (20–30 cm) in Europe is 12 000–17 000 USD or more.

Molds are quite expensive, but if they are successfuly and well manufactured, product cycles can be well beyond 100,000 units.

Note the prices are only orientational and can vary a lot based on concrete supplier of mold tooling, mold complexity and geographical location of the mold maker.


C. Cost of design production

When a mold is prepared, the design is ready for a serial production. In serial production, price of a single unit is usually low as the process is automatized and the production materials are mostly unexpensive. However, suppliers usually require that the product is ordered in a certain minimum number of units which varies but in most cases — is at least 1000 units.

There are certain cases where even price per one unit of a design is severe:

  1. Ordered number of units is very low

2. Materials are expensive (rare materials)

3. Product requires expensive finishing operations

An example of an expensive production can be low volume production of complex crystal glass objects which require cutting and polishing operations — the costs per one object can be in hundreds of dollars and in some cases even beyond 1000+ USD.


D. Cost of import / transportation

A lot has to be considered in this regard — mostly in geographical position of the client, supplier or suppliers. These are added costs (not only in money, but also time) that have to be taken into account when creating a product.


II. Cost of design services.

Cost of a moderately skilled designer per day is around 200–250 USD. Cost of a very skilled designer usually goes well beyond 300+ USD and can reach even a lot more, depending on designer’s status or design complexity / exclusivity.

Naturally, there are cases where designer can accept to work for less — for example if an interesting royalty program is devised.

Royalties can severely alleviate costs of design services and are a viable choice for startups that have limited funds. Royalties are calculated based on selling price of the product and are usually 1–8 % from the total product price.

Collected royalties are dispensed to designer in a cycle concretized in a contract (monthly, quarterly, yearly etc.)

Taken everything into account, costs of design services — although they might seem steep — are actually only a small part of investment into product design.



The path to a successful product design can be very complicated and usually has many challenges along the way but can end in something that has a lot of monetary potential but most importantly — something that lasts and is “real”. Few things can compete with something you can touch and feel the presence of — your own design.