A Quick Guide to the Product Design Process

Many of us fancy ourselves as budding inventors. The distinguishing characteristic between those who dream of designing a new product and those who do it is exactly that; it is all in the actualisation of our ideas.

But how are our ideas actualised? To answer that question, here is a quick guide to the product design process.

  • Conceptualisation

The first stage in any design process is the conceptualisation of a product. Hence, this initial stage involves the conception of an idea and exploring an idea via drawing up sketches and beginning to explore and determine whether the idea, in theory, may result in a viable product.

  • Product Research

Secondary to the initial conceptualisation stage is the first product research stage.

At this early point in your product design process, research involves determining whether the product you have dreamed up already exists or if a similar product is already out there and in the market.

If so, this needn’t necessarily mean that your product is redundant or unmarketable; rather, you need to ask yourself: how does my product differ and how can I create a more effective or cost effective alternative to the similar products already out there? Provided you can answer this question, there is no reason to doubt the viability of your product or scrap the idea completely.

  • Design Development

The design development stage involves addressing and working to answer and solve the issues above.

Namely, at this point you will need to address the following issues in order for your product to go any further in the design process:

  1. Use: what is the use of my product?
  2. Wear and Tear: Will my conceived product withstand its use?
  3. Reliability: Will my idea/ design as it stands prove reliable, and how?
  4. Simplicity: How simple is my design and are there any ways in which I can further simplify my design without compromising its functionality?
  5. Cost: Will the potential cost of creating and manufacturing my product allow a margin for profit?
  • Secondary Development

Then, the secondary development stage is a period in which you can address any of the issues raised but not yet resolved in the primary developmental stage.

Take this time, ahead of beginning the design process in earnest to try and fine tune and hone your initial design, sketches and blueprint. After all, beyond this point, making sizable changes could begin to cost you financially.

  • CAD

CAD is an acronym which stands for: computer aided design. As explained in more detail via the Techopedia website article: Computer-Aided Design, CAD is a computer technology and integral part of any product design. In essence, CAD enables a designer or design team to fully begin to realise an actual and potential design of a proposed product.

As part of the CAD process, a creator will use CAD software or task a designer or specialist design team to turn their sketches and ideas into technical diagrams which also assess and configure a product in order to work out the potential materials required to actualise a design as well as the processes and dimensions of a design.

CAD software is also utilised at this stage to evaluate the potential tolerance and ‘hardiness’ of a design yet to be actualised. In order to explore these areas, CAD software may be used to create 2D and / or 3D designs.

  • CAM

Like CAD, CAM is an acronym. In this instance the acronym stands for: computer aided manufacturing. You can learn more about the scopes and uses of CAM in product design by reading the Siemens Website article: CAM / Computer-Aided Manufacturing.

In summary, CAM proceeds the CAD stage; at this point and armed with CAD designs, CAM software is used to computer engineer a representation of what will become your prototype.

This enables you to evaluate an intended prototype ahead of going to the length of actually realising it, which of course costs money and recourses. Hence, this is a pivotal and important stage in the overall design process.

  • Prototyping

At last, a prototype of your product is created.

This is the first actual (rather than virtual) model of your design to be made. Hence, it is an exciting and illuminating stage in any engineering process.

The prototype created may have altered significantly from your original designs or not much at all, depending on the results of the stages that have lead to this point.

At the point, you will as a designer need to set aside any sentiment you might feel and instead evaluate the efficiency and practicality of your prototype with a keen and critical eye. Whilst doing so ask of your prototype the following questions:

  1. Does it withstand all tests?
  2. Can it be improved?
  3. What are the weakest points of you prototype?
  4. Does it stand up to testing?

Being able to honestly and objectively answer these questions will also answer the question of whether you need to return to the design development stage and rethink or make some potentially serious tweaks in order to ensure your product gets beyond the prototyping stage.

  • From Manufacturing to Marketing

The manufacturing stage is one of the most exciting and edifying as well as final stages in the design process for any designer or inventor. This is also why during the prototyping stage it is imperative that you are objective and rational about your product; at the manufacturing stage you will get to finally see your product being created.

Because, in all likelihood, your product will require numerous materials you will at this stage need to think carefully about the amount of money you are willing to put into creating your product. Further, this will then also involve being hard and practical when it comes to deciding on whether to opt to create low or high batch number; what your product is, your intentions and ambitions for it beyond this stage and the complexity of your product will all go in some length to help you answer the question of batch size.

Meanwhile, for further advice at this pivotal point in the design process of your product and how to get it from the manufacturing stage to market it is well worth referring to the Cambridge Design Technology website and their article and infographic: Getting Your Product to Market.


David Griffin

David Griffin