How does Red Clay work?

Red Clay makes product design simple making it easy to find highly qualified freelance designers and giving you online tools to manage your design projects with them from idea to manufacturing. For more details about the system and our designers, check out our How It Works page.

How do I pick the right designers?

We use a tried and true 4 step process to help you find the best possible team for the job.

  1. Write a brief. We’ll guide you through the brief-writing process to make sure you are clearly explaining your vision to potential designers.
  2. Wait for designers to join. Once you publish your brief, a notice goes out to our community of hundreds of designers letting them know there is a new project on Red Clay. They will be able to see a shortened version of your project* and will let you know if they’re interested in participating.
  3. Browse portfolios and pick your team. You’ll start to see portraits of designers who are excited to work on your project on your dashboard. Look through their portfolios, read more about them and their areas of expertise, and pick the designers you want on your team.
  4. Start your project!

This system guarantees that you only work with designers who are passionate about your project, and designers whose capabilities match your vision.

*At this stage, designers will only be able to see brand name, project title, and a one-sentence description of your project.

What is the fee?

Our flexible pricing ensures that you’ll only pay for what you need. Each project starts with a $50 project publishing fee to share your brief with our designers. From there, you’ll pay $200 for every design concept you receive and you'll set the buyout fee for your final design files.  You should set the buyout fee (the bulk of your project cost) based on the complexity of your project, and your budget. Designers will take the buyout fee into account when deciding whether or not to opt in to your project. 

For more information, check out our pricing page.

What does the design buyout include?

When you buy out a design on Red Clay, you’re purchasing full, exclusive intellectual property rights the rights to the design from the designer. You will own this design exclusively forever, meaning you can manufacture, modify and commercialize the product as you see fit. No other business or entity will be able to buy or customize the design.

All designers are required to sign a project-specific non-disclosure agreement for a full year after the design phase begins. If you do not want your winning designer to use your design for portfolio purposes, please include these instructions in the “Special Terms and Conditions” section when writing your brief.

Have questions about buyout contracts?  Please refer to our Legal section.

What happens if I don’t like the designs?

We understand that miscommunications happen, and we’ve set up several safeguards to put you and your design team on the path to success. The brief process is designed to help you clearly express your vision and goals so designers understand what you’re looking for and what you value in a product. We’ve also built the revision process, messaging tools and annotation tools to make the feedback process clear and efficient. All of these features help steer designers in the right direction.

But, in the rare event that our best-laid plans don’t produce designs you love, we will do everything we can to guarantee your satisfaction. If you’re unhappy with your designs, contact us and we’ll set you up with additional rounds of revisions, free of charge. If that doesn’t work, we will let you re-run the project with new designers, also free of charge. And if these steps still don’t produce designs that match our brief, we will refund the project in full.

Having issues with your designs? Get in touch

How can I protect my idea when it’s being shown to hundreds of designers?

Protecting your ideas is a top priority for Red Clay. That's why it is completely up to you how much information you share initially. If you need to protect your brand identity, you can use a generic brand name for the short version of the brief that goes out to our entire community. Once you’ve selected the designers you want to work on your project and those designers have agreed to Red Clay’s project specific non-disclosure agreement, the full brief becomes available to your selected designers.

All the communication is on the platform...could I call the designers?

After running nearly 200 products through the platform, we’ve found that 99% of the communication required to complete a product is better handled by the communication tools within the platform. That said, in a rare case, we do encourage video conferencing or a quick phone call between you and your design team.

Can I email designers directly?

While you could email designers directly, our platform provides a better solution to the burden of juggling and tracking multiple email threads on top of crowded inbox.

Each time a designer sends you a message on the Red Clay platform (or when you send your designer a message), you receive an email notification. You can reply to the designer by responding directly to the notification email, and even attach files in your email. This system provides the ease of collaborating via email, while also tracking and organizing all project communications in one place on the platform.

Does Red Clay offer support throughout the design process?

Absolutely. All of our customers are extremely important to us, and we are here to help you every step of the way. From writing your brief, to choosing designers, using our collaboration tools, or anything else you may need, we're just a phone call or email away (and we love to chat).

Where are the designers from?

When we say we have a world-class community of incredible designers, we mean world-class! Our talented design community includes several international award-winners  hailing from global cities such as Milan, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. Many are alumni of top design programs like RISD, Pratt, and SCAD, and have portfolio experiences global design leaders with Nike, Design Within Reach, and IDEO. Their styles range from edgy and modern to traditional.

What kind of designers are in your community? Are there engineers?

We have a broad range of design talent in our community. Their skills range from graphic, to industrial, to packaging. They do anything from light fixtures to wearables, greeting cards to home decor. We don’t officially have any designers that are strictly engineers, but many of our designers have backgrounds in both design thinking and engineering and are familiar with what it takes to holistically build a functioning product.

Is Red Clay like 99 designs?

While both Red Clay and 99 Designs are both crowdsourced design platforms, we differentiate ourselves in two key ways. First, we carefully curate our design community so that every single designer on our platform is capable of producing truly exceptional design. Our designers come from all over the world, have trained at some of the top programs in the world (RISD, SCAD, Pratt, etc.) and worked for some of the most design-forward companies on earth including IDEO, Warby Parker and Nike.

Second, we strongly believe in fair compensation and make sure our designers are paid at every step of the process for their incredible work. This system helps us attract and retain top-notch talent, and it allows brands to only pay for what they need -- ultimately saving them thousands of dollars per project.

How do you select who is a Red Clay designer?

If you check out our "About Us" page, you'll notice that a very qualified and talented designer is our co-founder and CCO. Ashley Etling and her team personally review every single portfolio that comes through our designer application process. We are committed to keeping the quality of our design community extremely high, and believe this is the key to promising and delivering on better design (while still making the process faster and more affordable).

How many projects can I publish on Red Clay?

You can publish as many projects as you like. With a design community several hundred strong, there is always enough talent to go around. Plus, our collaboration tools and project management software schedule everything for you, and keep projects on track. We take the hassle out of coordinating and managing an entire design team.

I have my own in-house design team. How can Red Clay help us?

If you enjoy the structure and tools integrated into the Red Clay platform, but also love your tried and true design talent, we offer the option to use the platform with your existing designers in “Internal Teams” mode. Companies that use the Internal Teams setting can bring their own designers, suppliers, vendors and colleagues onto the platform. This allows them to refine and perfect the design process they’ve been using all along.

I don’t have a patent or IP protection yet. Can you help protect my idea?

Yes, Red Clay protects you in two different ways while you’re on the platform.

1) All designs on that are created during your project are covered by an NDA that all designers must sign before accessing your full creative brief. This NDA lasts for 365 days after the project is complete. The designs you do not select to move forward are allowed to be used by the designers in their portfolio after the 365 day NDA agreement has lapsed.

2) The design you do choose during the Select/Deliver phase is owned entirely by you. The terms and conditions at this phase transfer the rights for that design from the designer to you, allowing you to patent the idea and move forward free and clear.


What is my time commitment during the project?

The average project takes about four to eight weeks from the time the brief is published to the time you turn in your final files. A standard design project is six phases. The following table explains each phase and the estimated timing for its completion:

Phase Description Timing
JOIN Designers are shown an overview of the project and asked to opt-in. Brands select designers to participate based on skills. 8 days
DESIGN Designers create and submit original, early-stage concept drawings and/or renderings. 7-14 days
REVIEW Brand reviews the submitted designs and chooses the most promising ones for further revision. 5+ days
REVISE Designers submit revised iterations of their concepts based on brand feedback. 7 days
SELECT Brand considers revised concepts and chooses the winning design(s) for buyout. 10 days
DELIVER Winning designer creates final deliverables according to brand’s requested specs. 14 days

How are designers compensated through Red Clay?

When you are selected as a designer for a design project, Red Clay will provide you with automatic payment options. Our pay period is every two weeks.

You will be paid for all iterations of your ideas, even the early submissions. Compensation for concepts, revisions, and the final buyout license are set by the brand, and you can take these rewards into account when you decide whether or not to express interest in a project. 

Do I get to negotiate my fee for each project?

We strongly believe in fair compensation for designers, and that you shouldn’t have to do unnecessary spec work for the chance to work on cutting-edge design projects with great brands. We’ve done our due diligence in talking to designers and brands about compensation, and have heard resoundingly that $180 for each initial concept and revision is a fair price for the work involved.

Brands set their own buyout fee based on the complexity level and budget of their project. You can take this into account when you decide whether or not to work on the project, but we do not have a bidding or negotiating system in place.

While fees are not negotiable for Red Clay projects, we revisit our payment system periodically and are always open to feedback. 

Who owns Intellectual Property on these designs?

When a brand selects your final design for a buyout, they own all rights including production rights to the product. Unless otherwise specified, you may use the design for portfolio purposes after 1 year from the time the Design phase begins.

As stated in the designer terms, Red Clay holds and owns the IP for all designs that are not selected for buyout within the project for one year. After this period, we encourage you to use your designs in your portfolio, as the rights to all designs not selected for a buyout return to you.

Questions about IP? Please refer to our legal section.

What is required of me during each phase?

From the time you opt into your project, we encourage you to check the platform and your email regularly to make sure you see all communications and instructions from the brand.

During the initial Design phase, you are expected to produce a clean sketch that clearly communicates your idea. The expectation is you’ll only spend 2-3 hours on this early concept -- there is no need to provide something over-polished at this stage.

During the Revise phase, you are expected to produce an early rendering of the design you have revised with your brand. We anticipate that you should spend only 3-4 hours producing this rendering for your brand.

During the Deliver phase, you should provide a detailed technical drawing based on the specs provided by your brand.

What kind of designers do you accept?

Our designers are freelancers, moonlighters, and even agencies looking to work with exciting brands large and small on cutting-edge design projects. As a result, we have a broad range of design talent in our community. Our designers specialize in graphic, industrial, and packaging. They do anything from light fixtures to wearables, greeting cards to home decor. We continue expanding the type of projects we take as we grow, and we look forward to adding more areas of expertise to that list.

Interested in becoming a Red Clay designer? Apply to our design community!

Is it possible to match to the retailer?

No, as a designer you can opt in to as many projects as you want, but they will have to select you. If you choose not to opt in to a project, a retailer can’t choose you. It’s a double confirmation system so that we know everyone involved is working on something they feel strongly about.

Are you ready to bring your product to life?

Get Started

Brand Sign-up

Great to meet another visionary!

Fill out these basic account details and let's get you started on the platform.

Once you kick-off your project, you'll be introduced to our great designers and creativity can commence.

Form not loading? click here

Designer Sign-up

Thank you for your interest in joining the Red Clay Design Community.

Applying to our community is simple and only takes a few minutes.

First, give us a little information about yourself, and then share some images of your best work. We’ll take a look and get back to you soon.

We're excited to see what you can do!

Form not loading? click here

Form not loading? click here