AN INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER’S 5-STEP PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
By Grace Fetzer | December 17, 2021
The quality of our lives are in large part defined by the quality of our environment. The environment of our modern society is defined in large part by the objects we choose to surround ourselves with and use everyday.
The things that we end up really loving, and that make the biggest difference in our lives, are the products of the industrial design process.
Technically speaking, industrial design is the design of products from both the view of form and function. These two perspectives culminate in excellent design with both the artist and user in mind. Great design can be achieved by anyone.
Here are a few steps to outline the process that makes industrial design unique, effective, and so impactful in people’s lives.
RESEARCH AND IDEATION
The first step in the industrial design process is research and ideation. It is essential to have a deep understanding of the problem, your customer, and full use of the design. Research should start with the market. What are your competitors up to? What is trending? How have your competitors tried to solve this same problem? These questions will help guide your design process and are necessary to ask at the forefront. If these answers are discovered later on, you have discovered the first principal of the industrial design process- it is iterative to its core! Meaning that ultimately, the true industrial designer understands that every design, no matter how good it seems, can and should be improved on.
Developing the concept is the next step in the design process. This, the most pivotal part of the process, is where we go from zero to one. Once you have the ground floor of market research and an understanding of the problem, useful and intelligent design can take shape. Concept development is often what is most closely associated with design but is only one portion of a detailed process. During concept design it is imperative to balance the restrictions of the project with one’s imagination. Use the research as a guide to boost your creativity. Oftentimes creating under some constraints creates a more fruitful outcome.
PROTOTYPING AND VALIDATION
Prototyping is an especially exciting part of the process where you can see your design come to life. This step brings your design into actuality and allows for you to have an even higher level of scrutiny. The prototype should be tested in the same, or very similar environment as the end product. Keep in mind that changes can and will be made between the prototype and final production. These changes could include materials, finishes, and dimensions. Prototyping is the best way to test usability of your product.
TESTING AND REFINING
Testing your product can immediately follow prototyping and involves using your prototype in the real world to collect data on its features. This data includes responses from future customers. Testing the design with customers of various ages, interests, and abilities is ideal. Some important points include usability, functionality, affordability, aesthetics and desirability. These questions often cannot be asked directly and will need to be addressed in a range of questions. Once these data points are collected, refining can begin.
Refining the product includes taking input in and editing the product to match your customers’ needs more directly for a better fit to the brief. This editing phase may have several waves of back and forth between refining and testing so that the product is just right.
This phase also includes testing the manufacturer’s ability to make the product. The initial builds may not meet proper specifications, or edits may need to be made to accommodate the manufacturer. Changes may need to be made on the manufacturer’s side, designer’s side, or both for a desired product.
The execution of the design is the last and most important step. Execution involves bringing the design to market. This includes close involvement with the manufacturer as the line is set up and manufacturing begins, and solidifying plans for the entirety of production. Without proper execution, even the best design will not see the light of day. Careful planning and execution are critical for a design to be actualized into a consumable product.
These steps allow the designers at Emergnt Design and Engineering to create both beautiful and functional products that connect with consumers. By taking time to research, develop your concept, prototype, test, and properly execute, we can help ensure your product’s success.
A creative product designer, Grace is driven to use her ideation and concept art skills to improve the way humans experience and interact with the world.
B.A. in Industrial and Product Design, Kendall College of Art and Design