The Product Design Process Step By Step

While about 30,000 products are released every year, only 5% gain a following from consumers. That’s enough to make any creator hesitate. However, with a well-defined product design process, they can eliminate many barriers that make new offerings flounder and increase their chance of success. 

One of the most significant factors to success is the right partnerships. Most new creators are entering an entirely new arena. Having the guidance of an experienced firm will help them overcome the many barriers they’ll face along the way. Through this, they can layout a product development process that takes them through to their first successful manufacturing run. 

Problems and Solutions in the Product Design Process 

Optimizing the product design process

The product design process is exciting for any new creator. Here, they get to see their vision become a reality. Amid that excitement, they may overlook some barriers that lead to stalls in the project. Breaking the product design process down to five stages allows creators to see the issues they may run into and prepare for them. 

Step #1: Define the Vision 

At this stage, the creator needs to establish a detailed description of their idea to explain it to their product developer. That includes things like the basic design of the product, the purpose, and decorative details like color, materials, and finishes. While this is a relatively simple step, there are some issues creators will still face:

  • An unclear vision leads to difficulties in understanding the concept.
  • Lack of expertise means the creator may not understand some of the limitations of their idea.
  • Concerns over intellectual property theft may make the creator less willing to share their plan with third parties. 

The solution to these issues will come from the parties the creator chooses. An experienced product design engineer will provide the expertise and direction needed to make critical product decisions. Meanwhile, a reputable firm will offer confidentiality that limits the risk of IP theft. 

Step #2: Research the Concept 

The research stage is a means of reviewing the concept to make sure it is viable for the market before getting too deep into product development. Creators may search out similar ideas and direct competitors and review their target audiences to get an initial idea of demand. Common issues discovered at this stage include:

  • The creator’s vision is not novel and risks infringing on an existing patent.
  • The need for the solution is low or non-existent.
  • The market the creator targets is already saturated, and a new idea would be unlikely to gain attention. 

All three of these issues are project killers that indicate the idea is not viable. If discovered, the creator should return to step one and reimagine their design to target new markets or offer a more novel approach. If there are no such issues, it’s safe to move onto the prototyping phase. 

Step #3: Prototype 

During prototyping, the creator will build a working model of their initial design concept. This step may include using processes like 3D printing, urethane molding, or CNC machining, among others. In some cases, a rapid prototyping process helps to get the working model out faster. Barriers to completion here may include:

  • Limited access to technology may force the creator to stick to a single method for a realization that isn’t ideal for the project.
  • Attempts to create a perfect, manufacturing-ready model may run out the budget. 
  • The process used to develop the prototype may be unrealistic for future mass manufacturing methods. 

Focusing on a prototype that is “good enough” as opposed to perfect is the key at this stage, as it gives room for the creator to grow. Expertise is vital because the designer should develop a product to allow for process replication during manufacturing. 

Step #4: Test 

An iterative product development process ensures the creator can work out all the bugs with the initial design and future manufacturing process. At this stage, they’ll test the prototype and solicit feedback from team members and focus groups. There are a few issues the creator can run into here:

  • Excessive feedback results in conflicting design opinions.  
  • The creator has a hard time leaving the testing stage as they want to make the product perfect.
  • There is too much focus on decorative features at the expense of product efficacy. 

Solutions to the above problem are all about mindset. The creator needs to lead their team, act as the final decision maker, and remember that the more important part of prototyping is product design, not cosmetic features. 

Step #5: Commercialize 

After completing prototyping, the creator will be ready to bring their product to the mass market. They’ll market their design, develop manufacturing and distribution partnerships, and consider additions to their product line. There are a few issues with this stage:

  • Over-manufacturing results in an excess stock that must be maintained and stored.   
  • Underestimated demand causes backlogs of orders that are hard to satisfy.  
  • Manufacturers create unusable or defective products. 

Focusing on design for manufacturing, where the product development also becomes the process for future manufacturing, helps eliminate issues in the production process later. Using small-run manufacturing allows creators to test demand and scale up as needed. 

An Experienced Partner Minimizes Product Design Barriers 

Almost all of the roadblocks in the product design process are conquerable by choosing the right partner. This firm will offer a wide range of techniques and technologies for prototyping. They will also have an extensive portfolio of completed projects to help creators understand their process. Finally, they will follow lean production methods and design for manufacturing standards to ensure a seamless transition to production. 

A creator who wants to move seamlessly through the product design process will carefully choose their partner. An end-to-end solution where the firm can offer everything from the initial prototype to small-run manufacturing is ideal. With the right team in their corner, creators can build a product that gains the attention of consumers for years to come.

Pacific Research Laboratories can take you through the product design process and offer small run manufacturing when you’re ready to enter the market. Visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603 for more details on how we can help you.