Companies often enlist the services of architects, designers and engineers to create innovative, in-demand products that solve their customers’ problems. These professionals systematically approach each problem with a seven-step process, referred to as “the engineering design process.” Learn what the design process is, how it works and which steps to take to create a solution product for your company.
What is the design process?
The design process is a project management guide used to oversee the execution of a large project. The project is typically broken down into seven actionable steps with progress evaluated at scheduled milestones. Designers, engineers, architects or scientists facilitate these steps to produce a solution to a specific problem.
The seven steps of the design process
The engineering design process is typically approached in these seven steps:
- Define the problem
- Conduct research
- Brainstorm and conceptualize
- Create a prototype
- Build and market your product
- Product analysis
1. Define the problem
Crucial to solving any design problem is to begin by asking the right questions. Consider the pain point or need of the problem you're trying to solve, whose pain point it is and why you should solve it—keeping in mind how competitors may have already addressed this need. Use the following questions to help you formulate answers:
- What are the main goals of this project?
- Who is the end-user of this product?
- What is the pain point that this product will address?
- How will this product address the pain point?
- What resources will you need to complete this project?
- How will you measure success?
- What is this product's unique value proposition?
- Are there similar products on the market?
How will this be better than similar products on the market?
Read more: What Is Design Thinking?
2. Conduct research
Research competitors and study similar projects, taking note of opportunities for improvement and positive outcomes. Work with your marketing and R&D teams to conduct competitive analysis, consumer behavior and market trends to better understand the scope of the overall market. Ask yourself these questions to promote results-driven research:
- Why would a user choose this product?
- How often will a user realistically use this product?
- What other solutions to this pain point has the user tried?
- Where do users generally shop for similar products?
What changes would make an existing product better serve the user?
3. Brainstorm and conceptualize
After you've defined the basis for your project and its specific requirements, ideas will begin to form. Come together with your team to brainstorm and compare ideas to decide on the best features for your product.
Use personas, scenarios and storyboards to help you get a clear user perspective to outline your product’s development and marketing strategy.
4. Create a prototype
Test your concepts by creating a prototype that mimics the finished product. Throughout this process, you'll likely find new areas of improvement as well as user experience validation of your existing concepts. User testing of your prototype will clarify answers to important questions as well as identify potential flaws or drawbacks. This feedback will help you troubleshoot and reiterate your prototype as many times as needed to produce a final product.
5. Select and finalize
Review all the feedback you gathered from prototype testing and begin building the 'final' product. When your finished product is ready to be released to the public, it's time to prepare for the next step, which is product analysis.
6. Product analysis
When your product has been bought, used and reviewed, you can begin to evaluate and gain insight into how your product accomplished solving the originally stated problem. Feedback about the user experience is extremely important to consider when developing the next version of your product. It will tell you what needs to be adjusted, why the adjustments are necessary and how an updated version will better serve the needs of the end-user.
Gather all user feedback, prototype testing, competitor analysis and market sales to inform and improve upon your product. Use this information to create a more customized solution to your market’s unique problem or need.