designing a product

Marian ParsonsArtistic Endeavors, my business story103 Comments

A year and a half ago, I was offered the opportunity to design home decor products.  It’s something I had considered. and even hoped for, for a long time, but it just never came together.  I was such a hands-on creator that I struggled with trying to communicate my vision to someone else.  I also had to learn how to design something that could be manufactured (and shipped) on a larger scale.

Well, the opportunity was “learn-as-you-go” and I have learned a lot.  It took designing hundreds of products to learn what would sell and finally, some of the products that sold, have hit the market.  (It takes a long time!)

A few of my products have been floating around for a while, but none of them were branded.  The other day, I received a message from a followers on Instagram.  She had found some enamel signs at Hobby Lobby labeled with my Miss Mustard Seed hang tag.

“Are these yours?!”


I was so excited!  I didn’t know these had hit stores!

So, of course, my mom and I had to make a trip to Hobby Lobby the first day she was here, so we could hunt them down.  After searching half of the store, we found them on one of the display “islands” towards the front of the store.

And, of course, my mom and I had to buy one of each!  Even as I was putting them in the cart, it seemed a little silly.  But, even though they are just simple, black & white, metal signs, they are something I designed and they are being sold in a store with my tag on them and I wanted to celebrate that.

Here is how the design started…

Of course, I designed dozens of variations with different words and fonts and shapes.  Design work of this sort can be a buckshot approach – design a lot, make a lot of samples, and see what buyers like.  Hobby Lobby picked up six of the designs.

(Market, Welcome, Laundry, Ladies, Gentleman, and Farmer’s Market.)

They also picked up this wooden sign…

They wanted a chicken instead of a pig, so the sign was modified to meet their request.  This one didn’t have my hangtag on it, though.

Another product I designed that hit the market, but didn’t have my branding on it was this Christmas tree sign…

I designed it over a year and a half ago and, this Christmas season, I finally saw it for sale!

I have many more designs that have been purchased, but I don’t know where they are being sold or even if they hit the market, yet.  Since I’m designing for the manufacturer, not the retailer, I’m pretty far removed from the customer.  So, the life of a product is something like this…

  1. I design and submit a product
  2. The manufacturer makes a sample of the product and takes it to the retailer/wholesaler market and/or shows it to buyers who visit their factory to buy direct.
  3. Buyers order a sample of the product to take to a retailer’s market, like AmericasMart in Atlanta.  (Some larger retailers will skip this step and order a large quantity for their own stores, cutting out the need to take it to market.)
  4. If a retailer likes the product I design, they place an order with the wholesaler who then places an order with the manufacturer.
  5. The products are then produced, shipped to the wholesaler, then to the retailer, then they are available to the end customer.

Whew!  This process means it takes a long time for products to become available for purchase and they jump through a lot of hoops to get to market.  It also means that I don’t always know who buys what and where the products will end up.  So, it’s like a little treasure hunt and it’s always exciting when I stumble across one of my designs that was sent out into the world.

One of my favorite designs that just hit the retailer market is this ice cream sign…

I designed it over a year ago and had the opportunity to fine-tune it when I was in China.

(My hair tools blew up the first day, so I was doing my best!)

My licensing agent just spotted it in several showrooms at AmericasMart last week…

I am hoping to get my hands on one!  (Update: One of my readers found the ice cream sign for sale HERE)

I have learned a ton going through a full design life-cycle with a few products.  I’ve learned that there are satisfying moments, like filling my cart with products that finally made it to a store, and there are frustrations, like when my favorite designs don’t get picked up, because they are too bulky to ship or too expensive to reproduce. I’m also having to learn a new customer base.  I knew what would sell at Lucketts, but on the mass market?  That’s a totally different animal that I still don’t understand completely.

I don’t know where this design work will lead.  Maybe it will just be a little side thing, as it is now, or maybe it will grow into something more.  As I’ve shared many times, though, I started this business simply to earn some grocery money.  It has far exceeded any hopes I had for it, so I view opportunities like this one with optimism, but not with expectation.

And I’m just going to soak in each little victory as it comes, even if it’s a small metal sign with my tag on it…

Oh!  And I just found another one…


designing a product

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103 Comments on “designing a product”

  1. I saw the “fresh cut trees” sign and instantly fell in love! I am tickeled pink to know that a favorite sign of mine was designed by a person/brand I know!

  2. Oh I have to go see if I can find them anywhere. I have been trying to find a laundry sign for ages.

  3. Seriously so excited for you! It’s been so much fun to follow your journey from making ornaments to painting furniture to your move and now these signs. You work really hard and deserve all good things! Congratulations and big hugs, CoCo

  4. I’ve seen the Christmas tree sign and had wondered if it was you. I am so excited for you! I would have bought some too! Congrats!

  5. Hi! I just read all this and felt familiar with your “Farmer’s Market” sign. It was part of the house of a popular YouTuber that I follow and I thought it was so pretty!! I think she got it at Target.

    Anyway, wish you the best with this experience and the next ones that it might open!

  6. Congratulations Marian! So happy for you. If you find out where the Homemade Ice Cream sign can be purchased will you please let us know. I would love to get one! Enjoy the time with your Mom. 🙂

  7. Congratulations Marian!!! I can’t imagine how exciting it must be to see your products in a store. You’ve worked so hard for all your successes and I’m so happy for you. Thanks for sharing them with us. 🙂

  8. So great, Marian!

    I’ve loved watching your business grow and change and I appreciate how you share it all with us, not just the victories but the learning curves, too!

    I need to get to Hobby Lobby!

  9. This is fantastic, I can’t wait to go to Hobby Lobby. So happy for you as you pursue this new venture.

  10. How exciting for you!!! I am looking forward to a trip to Hobby Lobby to see your merchandise. On another note, I thought of you this morning when I was listening to the weather channel and saw all the snow that is hitting MN. Any differences from a PA snow storm?

  11. This is so wonderful for you and such a blessing from God & proof positive that He continues to provide for those who love & honor Him! Can’t wait to pick up a few of these for gifts & even one or two to enjoy in our home!

  12. I bought one of the market signs probably three weeks ago and love it! I had no idea you designed it but after just looking I see your name on the tag. Great job!!!

  13. I think I’ve seen that same “Fresh Cut Christmas Trees” sign on other blogs/Instagram sites, just can’t remember which ones. (I regularly read The Lettered Cottage’ “5 Instagram Photos” series, as well as several other bloggers.) Wish I could remember. At the time, I thought, “That looks like something Marian might design”.
    Guess I will keep my eyes peeled next time I go to Hobby Lobby:-)
    Anyway, congratulations on your success!

  14. Homemade ice cream was being sold by Antique farm House for $48 ( sold out) maybe they’ll do their creamery sale again xx

  15. I was at Americasmart last week but I missed your sign.. I would love to carry them in my store. Can you tell me what company featured them? Want to get an order in.!

  16. Congratulations, Marian! Woot! Woot!
    Silly retailers, don’t they know you have a huge following, and they should have a sign on the door;
    Miss Mustard signs sold here!
    I am off to Hobby Lobby!

    1. I agree! Your brand should be part of the promo, it would help draw customers. I’ve also seen the Fresh Cut trees sign somewhere – very familiar. Congratulations on branded items hitting the stores!

  17. Just curious, but how do you get your “grocery money”? Are you paid for your designs or are you paid by the items that they produce and sell? Guess I don’t know how all of that works.

    1. It’s a combination. I’m paid a design fee up front and then a commission on sales on top of that. It’s just a side business at this point, but I imagine it could grow to be more than that.

  18. I can’t believe you have pay for your own work! Why doesn’t an agent, or someone in the middle, let you know and then send you one? Anyway, congratulations. I so admire your work ethic and have watched your career since the beginning. To me it signals hope for a future for entrepreneurs.

    1. I do get some samples, but it’s very expensive to ship them to me. I don’t need one of everything, anyway! I just want certain things. 🙂

  19. Wow! Amazing and exciting! Congrats Marian! So happy for you and to see how much you’ve accomplished in just a few short years. You’re an inspiration to all of us!

  20. Congratulations! My mother sold American flags through the New York Times in 1938 so they could go to
    Europe. That’s where her little venture took her. Of course had they not gone in June of 1939 we all know
    what happened in September of that year. So you never know until you try. And Marian you tried and won!

  21. That is beyond exciting! As a former home decor store owner when we lived in Hawaii, we would hit the market a couple of times a year and it was always so fun to see the new merchandise available for us to purchase. I will check these out at Hobby Lobby! As a newer blogger, you really do inspire me. Keep on doin’ what you’re doing!

  22. Wow i am very excited for you and me, congratulations. Hobby Lobby is one of my favorites and i was just thinking today i needed to see if they had any metal signs. Have a good visit with your mom.

  23. How exciting, Marian!! I wish all your designs were branded so we’d know they were yours. I’ll be on the lookout now, especially when I go to Americasmart in Atlanta in a couple of months!

    1. I do, too! I don’t have much control over that, though. It depends on the retailer. I was really surprised that Hobby Lobby kept my branding on for these, so I hope that will happen more!

      1. Some of my designs are sold on Antique Farmhouse, Decor Steals, and I just linked to a small online shop that has the ice cream signs in stock. I’m not sure about the small enamel ones, though. I’ll let you know if they are available from another source.

  24. I am so excited for you! I’ve seen some of those signs and I feel so special that I “KNOW” the creator of them! Congrats!

  25. What makes these any different from the hundreds of others you see everywhere with the same wording or style? I assume they are not trademarked and anyone could copy them.

    1. It is a tricky thing, since there are so many similar products. The key is trying to design something that is trendy or popular, but isn’t exactly like everything else. So, I make variations in the font I use, the shape of the sign, the wording (when it’s more than one or two words), the composition, etc. I can also pull from antique graphics and writing/quotes that are public domain. Each thing I design, though, is unique in some way from what I have seen on the market already, but it is hard to differentiate in a market flooded with designs that are all following the same trend. I’ll write about it sometime, because it is definitely a challenge!

  26. WOW!! That’s great for you!!! I like them all but the laundry “drop your drawers” one is so clever!! Well done!! And Congrats!!!!

  27. I got my “market” sign in Lexington Ky!! I had seen them but had not looked at them until I saw your post…went out that night to get one 😊I really enjoy following you–your style; tips–it adds to my day.

  28. God just continues blessing you, faithful servant.

    I just approached a salesperson at Hobby Lobby this weekend about how an idea I have could get on the market and found they are very approachable to new designers!!!! I’m so glad you are one of them and this does give encouragement to some of us who are looking to get a foot in the door. Hobby Lobby is literally a Godsend.

  29. Congratulations! This is so exciting! Who knew the process was so long and removed from the original designer. I will keep my eyes out my next trip to Hobby Lobby.
    Ps: your hair looks cute despite your issue with blown up hair equipment!

  30. Marian, This is so cool!!! I would be on cloud 9! I think this is a big aachievement. You broke into a new market! (Did you invent your milk paint or hire someone to do that?)


    1. I didn’t invent milk paint, but I designed the colors in my line, the branding, some of the companion products (and curated the rest).

  31. How fun! I bet it’s such a rush to see one of your designs in the store! They’re all beautiful – I might have to pick up a few of those Hobby Lobby signs!

  32. Marian, I am so happy for you! I am excited to know some of your items are available at Hobby Lobby. It is my favorite store! I enjoy following your blog & watching you make your new home into your style. 😊

  33. Dear Marion,
    Your signs in Holly Hobby – how would a person buy the outside the US? Or. Will they also eventually be in your shop ?
    They look fabulous. The ‘the laundry draws’.
    Regards Greta

  34. Congratulations! I saw some of these signs online over the holidays and had no idea you designed them. I should have known since I like everything you design! Keep up the good work; I’ll be on the lookout for more of your products!

  35. carries your Homemade Ice Cream Sign –
    (I was obsessed with finding it 😆)!

  36. Congratulations Marian! I love having a “front row” seat with your trials and successes! You go girl….God is still sending blessings your way!

  37. This is so cool!!! I have to go to Hobby Lobby! I buy all my drawer pulls from there when I redo a piece of furniture. Have you thought of designing those items?

  38. My favorite “ drop your drawers here!” The humor makes this sign wonderful. Congratulations Marian!

  39. Marion, I saw your fabric collection on the Free Spirit website yesterday, and after viewing the swatches I thought, yep, that’s the Miss Mustard Seed I know about! Congratulations! Maybe your other readers knew this long ago, but for me it was a nice surprise. With Free Spirit, you are in very good company, indeed.

  40. You could definitely teach a class on this Marian and I’d be one of the first in line to learn how to license a product. Would love to know more about that on the business end!

    1. Me too! I would love to know how you did this from design phase all the way through. I love what you do.

        1. I’d love to know more about this as well! It’s been so fun hearing about the process a bit through your posts! I’d happily take a course that really digs into the topic if you maybe want to offer that in the future! 😉

  41. Happy for you Marian. I like to support Christians as your self and Hobby Lobby. I am curious why a couple of your followers would not shop at Hobby Lobby.

    1. Many people will not shop at Hobby Lobby due to their refusal to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their female employees. Thus requiring their minimum wage employees to pick up this expense entirely on their own, should they choose to use contraception. For this reason, I also will not support the store and instead give my money to companies which support their employees fully.

  42. How very, very exciting to find your creations in a store!! I don’t blame you at all for wanting to buy one of everything! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. It’s not a result of the China trip, but the China trip was a part of developing products, seeing them in person, etc.

  43. Hooray!! So glad your items are being offered. It must be very exciting. I can’t imagine why a manufacturer would go to the expense to license your designs and then not use the brand as a value-added when selling on down the line to wholesalers/brokers and retailers. It’s all about branding. If they just had one sign (which costs practically NOTHING at HL, they’d build traffic and incremental sales on other products. I hope you have a good agent for this. Your brand needs to be handled with great care. All the best to you – loving your blog for years now!

  44. I just went to the Hobby Lobby website and saw your signs and it does show
    your name as the brand. Congrats!

    1. Yes! I didn’t know they had made it public, yet! I’ll be sharing all of the details of that on my blog soon!

  45. I bought one of the Fresh Cut Christmas Trees sign in November and love it! I’m sorry to say didn’t have your name on it. I love your style and will be on the hunt for more of your products!

  46. How exciting it must be to walk into a store and see your name on a product you helped design and market. Its like a singer hearing their song on the radio the very first time. I must admit I am not a big fan of re-pop décor as it never seems to have the same patina and character as true vintage but I do like your Fresh Cut Christmas tree sign.

    I saw these signs on a smaller scale at Target this year but it didn’t have your logo so that has be wondering if there are a number of different manufacturers producing this same sign?

  47. How wonderful! Every time I go into Hobby Lobby they have items that imitate your style and I think “those stinkers stole Miss Mustard Seed’s ideas!” Who knew it was really you! Congratulations. Put it toward your boys’ college fund!

  48. Cracker Barrel has some really cute large ” farm house” and ” wash and dry” signs in their stores and online right now. Wondered if they are your design. Congrats!!

  49. So happy for you, Marian! I pray that your business will increase! What a great place to carry your items! I love Hobby Lobby! I also admire their Christian stance on so many things! So great to see them stand up for things they believe in! God has blessed Hobby Lobby greatly! May He continue to bless you, too!

    We do not have any Hobby Lobby stores here in Canada where I live and I sure miss them. They have such a great selection and their prices are really good too! Next time we go down to the U.S. I will look for your items! I really need some of them for our country home!

    Blessings! Have a wonderful week!

  50. Marian so PROUD of You, from someone whose watched your business for a while now! Keep following your dreams and doing the things you love. Blessings to you.

  51. LOL… too funny! Went to Hobby Lobby looking for candle holders … and the only two things I really wanted were the “Welcome” sign & the Organic chicken wooden sign…. little did I know they were yours…. didn’t get them because they weren’t candle holders but now I HAVE to go get them, since they are yours!!

  52. This is me clapping and jumping up and down. Way to go, Marian! Thanks so much for sharing the thrilling moment of seeing your completed, branded designs in a local store. So much work and patience went into this on your end. I had no idea how chaotic and drawn out the process was. It makes your accomplishment all the more impressive. May this be the start of many satisfying moments like this one. I’ll bet it was a proud moment for your mom, too. It’s cool that you were able to share it with her.

  53. Way to go Marian. I had no idea the designer was so far removed from the final product. You just keep growing and growing!

    We had 5 inches of snow in Colorado last night and I know from family today that there is 12 new inches of snow and still coming as I write. I’m coming “home” Thursday and can’t

    Stay warm!

  54. Oh my gosh – I am SO proud of you. This is absolutely awesome.

    Well done, Marian. You are so talented – and make this world a cuter place,
    that’s for SURE! Thank you – keep up the good work!!!!!

  55. I ran into the same signs during Christmas and my sister bought a few for me for Christmas gifts. I was flabbergasted when seeing the Miss Mistard Seed label and didn’t know if I had missed this posting on creating products or not. I was just really excited for you, even though I don’t know you personally. Good luck and I hope many more good things come to you!!

  56. Can’t wait to find your products on my next trip to Hobby Lobby! Congrats on your continued success!

  57. I picked up the wooden market fresh rooster sign several months ago! The pig would have been so cute too! Congratulations on another success!

  58. This must be so exciting for you. The products are all wonderful. I saw the Fresh Cut Trees last fall and loved it. So glad to know it was one of yours. Can’t wait to see what else you’ve designed!

  59. Omg! Even I get a thrill seeing your tags on them! I love the Market sign. The font is perfect! They’re really cute! I’m totally gonna keep a look out now!


  60. How exciting that your designs are finally hitting the shelves!!
    I will most definitely be on the lookout.
    You should consider adding a tab to your site showcasing your designs that have been picked up, that way everyone will know what products to look for when they’re out shopping!

  61. I remember your post about designing and creating the Christmas Tree sign, and your trip to China as well. And, over the holidays, I was wondering if the Christmas Tree sign would be available. I am so happy knowing that all that work has come to fruition. So glad that this venture has a happy and successful outcome !!

  62. So awesome! I picked up a few items from Hobby Lobby this last Saturday and the ‘Laundry’ sign caught my eye! I have it and about to hang it on my laundry room door! LOVE IT!

  63. Very nice designs! Love the Laundry sign! I’ve been following you since I purchased your milk paint for painting my closet shelves and will definitely be keeping my eyes open for your products. I’m a bit curious about the manufacturing process. Did you submit designs to a manufacturer or did the manufacturer approach you? I’ve created some designs and am playing around with the idea of finding a manufacturer. Any advice/knowledge you’re willing to share on finding and submitting designs to a manufacturer would be appreciated. Thank you and best of luck with your designs!

  64. Yay so pleased for you 😁
    Any international sellers? I believe Trumpy is visiting later this year ask him to include it in his trade talks

  65. I’m so happy for you and delighted that your enamel, metal signs are being sold at Hobby Lobby. That is one of my favorite stores to shop at and I will be sure to look for them.

  66. I bought your christmas tree sign at a locally owned retailer in Houston, TX last fall. It is so amazing! I got so many compliments on it. Its a nice size and looked great on my porch for the holidays. So cool to learn you designed this!

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