Product Design

What is product design?


Product design is the process of finding a solution to a problem, ultimately developing a product that meets an end user’s requirements. A successful product design process runs from initial concepts and visualisation through to manufacture of a final product.

Through the project a designer must traverse the end user’s requirements, the client’s requirements & resources, manufacturing capabilities and skilfully navigate to a genuine solution for all stakeholders.

Over the years, product design has grown to encompass not just physical products but also digital elements like software and services. Due to Nebulem’s nature of business, this page has a slight slant toward physical products.

Integrating function into a product as part of product design and development services

1.  What does the product design process look like?

These seven steps are the foundation.

1. Understand the product and the people who use it – speak with the client and do market research into who these people are, why they use the product and what the problem they’re experiencing is – and how it could be further enhanced.

2. Define your user and the problem – once you fully understand the product vision, what people want from it, and what they’re not getting, you can pinpoint the task in hand. Create a project brief that clearly identifies exactly what the problem is, what the solution must do, where is must do it, and who will use it.

3. Conceptualise – sketch ideas and brainstorm solutions to fix meet that now finite brief, with feasible, realistic and practical solutions. Creating visual renders is a great way to allow stakeholders to visualise early concepts.

4. Develop it – develop the chosen concept, refine the design using the CAD model, integrate any electronics, asses the ergonomics and meet the environmental requirements. This phase also includes design for manufacture and design for assembly to ensure the design is feasible.

5. Prototype – this is the opportunity to hold and use the new design of the product in real life form. Test, assess and review all of its improvements with regards to its fit and function.

6. Testing –  hold and use the new version of the product in real life form. Test, assess and review all of its improvements with regards to its fit and function

7. Manufacture – production of components. This includes injection moulding, CNC, pressings, die casting, investment casting, and blow moulding.

It’s important to remember that the product design process isn’t a linear one in reality. The research phase may take longer in some cases, and there may be some back and forth between prototyping and testing to ensure the process is completely effective.

At the end of each phase a review should be held to ensure the project brief has been met, if not the process might need to go back one or several phases.

product design process

2. What types of tools does the product design process require?

Product designers use lots of tools because the process involves several stages. Some of the tools we use as a product design consultancy in the UK include:
  • Prototyping tools
  • Graphic tools
  • CAD software (computer aided design)
  • Prototyping tools & material, form cardboard sheets to 3D printers.
  • Rendering software for visualisation.
  • Finally, don’t forget the essential pencil and paper to sketch ideas!

3. What’s the thinking when generating product design concepts? 

A product design process involves understanding a problem before correctly being able to develop a solution. There are certain questions that you need to ask, including:
  • What’s the problem with the product?
  • Who has this problem?
  • What’s the best solution we want to achieve?
  • Where will the solution be used?
  • How will the solution be used?

4. What’s the difference between product and industrial design?

The distinctions between product design and industrial design are often confused, even by those in the design sector, and a google will quickly find conflicting definitions. In truth, there is probably no longer a clear distinction.

In the past it was felt industrial design was the more creative and research orientated phases at the start of the project while product design would then take over for the later stages evolving the design to something that is manufactured.

Studying a university prospectus for either topic you will notice many common modules between the two with both at least covering the basics of the other. Both courses lead to similar job roles where experience of the full design and manufacture process mean most don’t feel pigeonholed to one title or the other.

Today most companies or individuals may headline a particular title but are able to offer a complete package of capabilities, instead choosing a title that makes sense to the wider public. For example, tell most people uninitiated with design you are an industrial designer and you may often get asked “does that mean you design factories?” while product design tends to give a more obvious message.

5.  What is sustainable product design?

Sustainable product design is about creating a product that’s designed to be eco and environmentally friendly in all forms.
But what does that entail? It means designing a product that:
  • is recyclable at its end of life
  • is efficient during its usage
  • is reusable
  • has a timeless aesthetic to improve its long term appeal to the user
  • minimises its impact during manufacture.

6. Why is good design important for a product?

If a product has been designed effectively, firstly it will meet the initial project brief requirements, leading to a great product, but it will also make the whole process getting to that point will be much more efficient.

Concepts will be reviewed on feasibility, reducing the chances of unforeseen hurdles and delays further down the process.

Manufacturability will be is a core of the design development minimising the time taken moving the design from a prototype to manufactured product. The manufacturing processes chosen will be the most cost effective. This all means quicker time to market, lower development costs, efficient manufacturing and a better final product to attract more customers.

7. What is ergonomics in product design?

Ergonomics and human factors in product design is the discipline of ensuring users are able to fit and/or operate the final product correctly.

For example, think about the design of a kettle or an office chair. Designing a kettle to have a very small handle could result in some users not being able to correctly grip the handle and dropping boiling water on themselves or others.

An office chair without sufficient functionality to adjust the seat’s height and back position might result in workers experiencing back pain. You’d want your product user to be able to safely pick up the kettle, or to adjust the seat so that it’s comfortable and practical enough to sit on at a desk for prolonged periods of time.

You can discover how we can help you with our product design and development services.

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