How to Design a Jewelry Collection part 2

collection part2 hero

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs

“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” Coco Chanel

“Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communications: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge. Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically related to the process.” Paul Rand 

In my first blog on Designing a Collection, or as one student calls it, Demystifying Design, I covered being a designer, creating a collection or body of work and some basic design principles. In this second article, I want to cover the act of creating a collection, how to take your work to the next level, what you might want to think about as you design your work and who is your ultimate customer.

The third and final blog will cover more comprehensive thoughts about being a designer and designing, as well as touching on the complex, fascinating and debatable subject of the difference between being an artist and being a designer. There are literally hundreds of websites, quotes and blogs about this very subject, so you can read up about it before the next blog is posted, and I would love it if you shared your thoughts and opinions.

Necklace from designer Kirsten Rothe's Cube Collection

Necklace from designer Kirsten Rothe’s Cube Collection

So let’s get down to the work of designing a collection. If you are the designer, you are also an engineer. You must make sure your pieces sit evenly and hang right around the neck, ears, and arms. They can’t be too heavy or flip over. They also need to be easy to put on and get off and require no complicated findings that need a manual to operate. And you don’t want your pieces to snag on the customer’s hair, clothing or skin. So, in essence, your jewelry needs to be user-friendly. You are an innovator. You are bringing new concepts, designs, visions, mechanics to the world of jewelry. And you are also a customer advocate, bringing to your audience work they will find appealing and beautiful to wear (or give). You understand their needs and what they value and you fill them.

Remember that to be a designer you need to have the ultimate customer in your mind during the entire design process. You need to consider usability and the function of each piece. And your design’s purpose must be self-evident and not need instructions or explanations.


Creating a Collection from the Beginning

I mentioned in the first blog that I wanted you to do 40 thumbnail sketches using a single element. This will help you discover just how many ways you can stretch a single, simple idea. This part can be very creative. To be able to find new and exciting ways to create around a single element makes you start to view your designs as more than just a single piece but as a collection, the beginning of a look, your “look.” At the end of this blog, I am attaching a merchandising list that should help you visualize different ways you can use your “element.”

A second necklace from Kirsten Rothe's Cube Collection. It uses some of the same elements in the first necklace in a different.

A second necklace from Kirsten Rothe’s Cube Collection. It uses the same elements present in the first necklace in a different way.

The second part of the process of creating a collection is to collect words that describe your work. Collecting words is one of the first steps in knowing your work. You want visual words, words that paint a picture, words that tell a story. Instead of “inspired by nature” use starfish, branches, snowflakes. Instead of “unique” use fashion-forward, elegant, classic, whimsical. And don’t edit your list of words, let it grow. Your word list will help you understand who you are, where you are going and what you are designing and to be able to vocalize it. Collect and write down at least 25 words.

After you have collected at least 25 words, you can now implement what I call 2.2.2. Take two words and create a tag line that is approximately two words. Then take your strongest words and form a two-sentence collection description. Your two sentences are perfect for business cards, short artist statements, brochures and postcards. Finally write two paragraphs about your collection (or about your business or artist statement). These 25 words you will use over and over again on brochures, on your website, on social media channels, in interviews … everywhere. Keep them and revisit them periodically. They will also help you keep on track with your designs. I recommend printing them in a large font and putting them above your work bench/desk as a reminder that you are designing starfish jewelry not rainbow jewelry.

A third necklace in Kirsten Rothe's Cube Collection uses the same element in yet another way.

A third necklace in Kirsten Rothe’s Cube Collection uses the same element in yet another way.

As I stated before, you are not limited to one collection. You may have any number of collections, but they all should work well together and have a similar aesthetic, style, process, materials. You might be able to use the same 25 words for more than one collection since they should have a similar feel.


Who is your Customer?

Back in a 2013 blog, I covered how to find and attract your ideal customer in depth. But I want to go over the salient points again. When you visualize who your ultimate customers are, answer these tangible questions about who they are:

What is their age?

Are they local, national, international customers?

Are they in the northern, eastern, western, or southern parts of the U.S.?

Are they male or female?

What is their education level?

What is their income level?

Are they urban, rural or suburban?

Do they have special interests?  Horses, gardeners, mothers, brides, LGBT etc.?

Are they collectors or occasional purchasers?

What generation are they from? Baby boomers? High school students? Generation X? Y? Millennials?

Are they seasonal or year-round clients?

What churches, organizations, schools do they belong to?

What types of events do they attend?

Where do they buy their jewelry and what experience do they want?

The answers to these questions will give you a better view of your specific customers and how best to get your jewelry in front of them. Then try to see your work through your customers’ eyes. What do they like? What draws them in? What is their aesthetic? This will all help you become a better designer.


Pulling It Altogether

Earrings in Kirsten Rothe's Cube Collection.

Earrings in Kirsten Rothe’s Cube Collection.

Once you have a collection and you know who your customer is, you are ready to begin your design journey. You can start to understand that design Is about the whole experience. You can start to see the details of your work and other products that have been designed. What is working and what isn’t? And why? Start looking at the world with new eyes and a new understanding of design and how much it impacts every aspect of our lives. It is truly about the whole experience.


Merchandising List

This list will be helpful when you want to stretch you line even further. Refer back to it often.


Suit/lapel, hat pin, stick, pin/necklace


tie tacks, studs, tie bar/clip 


Bracelets/necklaces, beads, drink (wine glasses)


Posts/studs, clip-ons, dangles, chandelier, hoops, wires, pierced, ear cuff, ear climbers


Nose, tongue, lip, eye brow, other


Charm, bangle, link, cuff, leather cord, beaded, tube with ball


Stacking, center stone, wedding, engagement, fashion, costume, with charm, expandable wrap, mother’s rings


Commitment, stacking


Symbolic, chains, bolo, locket, adjustable chain, coil


Wow, chain, lengths (double over), pearls, beaded, lariat, ribbon or cord, coil


Hair lips/combs, barrettes, money clips, buttons, bridal party jewelry, children’s jewelry, belt buckles



TED Talks

Tony Fadell, The First Secret of Design is…Noticing.

Interaction Design Foundation, 5 Awesome TED talks for Designers.

Don Norman, Three Ways Design Makes you Happy.


Square Circle Triangle by Bruno Munari. 

Design as Art by Bruno Munari.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.










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