Give credit. Share what you learn.
Let others know where you learned stuff from. It will encourage them to keep sharing their knowledge. And in turn when you learn stuff, share it to pay it forward.
What’s my motivation?
That’s what actors ask, but you should ask it too when you’re designing fursuit electronics. Is there a story of why your character glows? Some sort of unexpected mutation? Did your bear character go after a bunch of fireflies instead of a beehive? Perhaps your story will give you additional ideas to enhance your fursuit’s design or performance. Perhaps you can carry a prop to support your schtick.
Bad craftspeople blame their tools…
So buy good tools! A good tool will last. Cheap tools break, waste your time, and you end up paying for them again and again.
Someone who is experienced might be able to make do with a substandard tool in a pinch. But if you’re a beginner and there’s a problem, you’ll learn faster knowing that you’re to blame and not your tools.
Designers at companies like SparkFun and Adafruit often design products to fit many hobbyists’ needs, but then some Far East companies come along and make cheap knockoffs. Do try to buy from the original companies whenever possible and support the designers. Who knows, some of them might even be furries… ;o)
Use similar parts
Try to use similar parts throughout your fursuit. If you’re designing a custom module for your head, could the same one be used in your paws? It makes swapping out bad modules easier. Remember Apollo 13!
Use common parts
Often IC’s and other parts are discontinued without notice. Be wary of sole-source parts with very specific functions. (ahem, Maxim!) Try to use common, popular parts whenever possible.
Try to use off-the-shelf parts. Eg. if you need a multiconductor cable, would an Ethernet cable suffice? If so, you’ll be able to buy a replacement just about anywhere.
Watch out for surplus parts – you might get a great deal once, but if you need to reorder they might no longer be available.
Use quality parts
It’s possible to get counterfeit IC’s if you don’t order from a reputable distributor. And some off-brand electrolytic capacitors are notorious for failing early. Especially if you’re a beginner, buy good-quality parts so if they fail, you know you’re to blame and not the part.
Keep it simple!
Go for the simplest design that works. Your audience will only see the end product, not what you did behind the scenes (or under the fur).
Keep a task list
Whenever you think of something that needs to be done on your project, put it on a task list. Group similar items together so they can be worked on most efficiently. (eg. stuff you need to order parts for, so you can place one large order)
Do a post-mortem
As soon as you get back from a con or event, make note of what worked, what didn’t. Or even do it during the con on your phone. That way if things break or don’t work quite right, you’ll have all the information you need to start fixing it.
Thou shall check voltages
As Dave Jones is fond of saying, when something doesn’t work, always check voltages first.
Check for loose connections
Connectors and wiring is often a weak point.
Avoid light patterns that may trigger eplilepsy
Have a hard off switch
That way, if your electronics malfunction and flash inappropriately, you can shut the suit down quickly.
Use appropriate fusing as close to the battery pack as possible
Ensure lithium cells have built-in protection circuitry
Use a quality charger