Designs from the cutting edge of innovation

Design Edge CEO Matt Nuccio, with friends.

By GREGORY ZELLER // Mark and Linda Nuccio hung out the Design Edge shingle on their Merrick garage in 1987, offering you-name-it design and product development services to comers of all size.

Mark’s expertise was from the toy industry, including stints at Ideal, Aura and Long Beach’s HG Toys, where he rose to be vice president of design and marketing. Linda, an illustrator and art teacher, had her own finely tuned eye.

But the couple knew Design Edge had to be something more than yet another graphic design shop, and so they decided to offer pretty much everything, including design, development, marketing and production for the widest possible variety of industries.

It worked. Within a year, the company had grown from two-person freelance outfit to a full-fledged design and production company, and the Merrick garage was quickly traded for space on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue.

Today, Design Edge is a Bethpage-based manufacturer creating products, packaging, promotional displays and prototypes for tinkerers and entrepreneurs of every size, as well as in-house products that have achieved their own levels of international success. Ancillary revenue streams come from licensing-agent services provided to dozens of inventors and from work as a sourcing agent – a go-between for inventors and manufacturers – in China and the United States.

The international connection began in the mid-1990s, when North Carolina-based apparel-maker HanesBrands contracted Design Edge for packaging work.

The Nuccio’s son, Matt, then a recent college grad, took on the project and headed to China to explore less-expensive production options. His hard work convinced HanesBrands to name Design Edge a preferred vendor, and soon other major-league corporations were lining up.

Today, with a full-time office in Hong Kong and satellite operations in Chinese cities Guangzhou and Qingdao, Design Edge boasts clients including Dunkin’ Donuts, Hasbro, Fisher-Price, Restaurant Depot, Barnes & Noble and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Toy manufacturers remain a company mainstay, though Matt – a former co-chair of the Toy Industry Association who sits on the board of directors of the United Inventors Association – is quick to note the family biz isn’t all fun and games.

Food packaging is also a major part of the firm’s business, as is specialty work for trading firms that buy up big lots of goods – cell phone cases, for instance – and need packaging to get them to market.

And while Design Edge has truly gone global, it still counts on Long Island clientele. The firm has recently done work for ClipFix, a Commack-based tech startup with a quick fix for busted modular cables, and a Long Island inventor who’s created a new carrier for EpiPens, the DIY epinephrine injectors.

“It’s a global market, so the percentage is not large,” Matt noted. “But we do get consistent business from Long Island. At any given moment, we’re definitely working on something that originated on Long Island.”

Packaging remains the company’s No. 1 vertical, Matt said, thanks to the continuing need to keep a product’s consumer appeal fresh.

“You design a product once and it can have a lifespan of three or four different versions,” he said. “But the packaging gets changed a lot. Packaging is a lot trendier. Sometimes, we’ll invent the packaging before we even invent the product.”

But that doesn’t mean Design Edge is all sizzle and no steak. The company has always excelled by looking ahead – “We got into computers before anyone else, we got into 3D printing before anyone else,” Matt noted – and anticipating client needs.

Design Edge has also built itself into an approved licensing agent for a number of major corporations that rookie inventors might like to pitch, Matt said, meaning it can gain an audience “for inventors who can’t get a meeting with Mattel or Hasbro.”

“They call with the idea,” he said, “and we handle the complete development for them.”

Matt has also served as a consultant on the Science Network program “All-American Makers,” an amateur inventor’s showcase shot in Brooklyn and offering expert advice on cost, design, manufacturing and other factors.

Mark and Linda are semi-retired, leaving Matt and his cousin Chris – a vice president and designer – to balance the big projects with the small.

Each of those smaller jobs, of course, has the potential to explode into the next big thing.

Like Design Edge.