As industrial designers, a lot of us dream of having product design hits, where we design something so popular that those royalty checks start piling up. But the obstacles are manifold. To sell units in the thousands you've got to find a deep-pocketed manufacturer to sign on, unless you're able to front the tooling costs yourself, you've got to hope that the raw materials supply, marketing and distribution all work out, and of course you've got to design something that thousands of people really want or need in the first place.
Ron Paulk not only has a bona fide design hit on his hands with the Paulk Workbench, but has also neatly sidestepped all of those obstacles we just mentioned. The factory is actually the end-user, and by all accounts they're happy to build the product themselves. Perhaps the most amazing part is that the marketing of it has all happened completely by accident. It is an absolute best-case product design scenario: Ron designed and built the workbench for his own personal use, then discovered there was demand—mass demand—for his design, and figured out a way to distribute it. Ron tells us the story below.
As he mentions towards the end of the video, in addition to selling plans for the Paulk Workbench, Ron is also selling plans for his Miter Stand (a standalone item) and his Cross-Cut Jig (which attaches to the Paulk Workbench).
Selling blueprints to a DIY project is nothing new; hobbyist magazines have had little ads in the back of them for decades. But with YouTube taking care of the marketing, the internet taking care of the distribution, the end-users themselves taking care of the materials supply and fabrication, and with Ron himself handling the most important element, the clever design, Paulk has pointed the way towards a potential product design future—one that's much more hands-on than 3D printing—that I could not have imagined when I was back in design school.