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What Is Product Design? An Overview

Designing a new product is an exciting prospect. You may have some great ideas about the functionality of the end design, but you may not have the knowledge or expertise to actually guide the design process. Understanding how product design works can help you effectively and efficiently design a new product. Learn what product design is, understand the typical product design process, know what to consider when designing a product and review the details of the product designer role.

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What is product design?

Product design is the process of creating a new item to sell to customers. Usually, this is a lengthy process that involves many people and ideas and can take weeks, months or years to come to fruition. Product design often starts with a basic idea and concludes when the company has made a marketable product.

Related:Product Designer Job Description Sample

Overview of the product design process

The specifics of your product design process may differ depending on your industry, company make-up, budget and time constraints, but most product designs follow this typical progression:

1. Identify your vision

In this initial stage, work to clarify your vision. Consider whether there’s a need for your product idea and define exactly what you hope to achieve by creating this new product. Try working backward once you’ve arrived at a fairly detailed vision for your product by creating an imaginary press release listing all the details of the product to see if it makes sense.

2. Perform research

It’s vital that you perform research to ensure your product is necessary and meets the needs of the target market. Consider the following tactics to gather useful data:

  • Interviews:Conduct interviews with the intended target market to see what they think about your proposed product. You can hold a dynamic conversation in person, making it easy to follow up on specific points.
  • Surveys:Surveys, particularly online surveys, give you access to a wide range of respondents, and if you use yes or no questions, computers can easily scan and sort responses, which saves your team time.
  • Observation:See how your potential customers interact with their environment to understand whether or not your proposed product will bring them value.
  • Market research:Market research will help you understand your competitors and allow you to shape an enticing value proposition.

3. Analyze data

Use the data you gathered during your research to help shape your product and further define its specifics. You can also use the data you gathered about your target market to create buyer personas, which will help you effectively market your new product.

4. Generate ideas

The ideation step often involves multiple, somewhat autonomous teams, all working on creating effective plans and strategies to successfully sell the new product. The marketing team will take the buyer personas and start crafting a marketing strategy. The design team will work with the research and data to begin sketching the product. The web team will work on updating the website for e-commerce or other digital needs. All of these ideas will converge to create an effective business plan prior to product launch.

5. Select and design

For the design team specifically, after selecting the best two-dimensional rendering of the new product, they’ll build an actual, useable prototype of the product. This stage can take some time, as it may take several rounds of design before the team creates a prototype that functions effectively.

6. Test the prototype

After arriving at the ideal prototype, perform a series of tests with various stakeholders to refine and perfect the product. Start with the in-house team. Have people from various departments within the company test the product and provide feedback. Next, give the prototype to actual company customers or members of the target demographic for feedback.

7. Tweak and perfect

Use the information you gather from your prototype tests to fix any problems, add any suggested elements and create a final model. You may go through several iterations of the prototype and testing process before finalizing your end product for launch.

Related:Hiring a Web Designer: Key Skills, Roles and Duties

Considerations when designing a product

Keep these considerations in mind when designing your product to ensure it’s not only effective but also ready for the marketplace:

Market viability

Ensure your product is inexpensive enough to manufacture so that you’ll make a profit on it when you bring it to market. Products that are too expensive to build can create financial hardship for your company.

Value

Ensure the perceived value of the product matches the consumer price point. If you set the price of the product too low, consumers may think there’s intrinsically something wrong with the product, and they may be wary of making a purchase. If the product is more expensive than the perceived value, the consumer may look for a similar product at a lower price point elsewhere.

Appearance

Ensure the product looks great, including the packaging. If consumers are faced with multiple products that perform the same function, they’ll likely go with the one that has a more attractive design.

Function

Functionality is a key factor for continued sales. While some consumers may initially select your product due to appearance or successful marketing, the effectiveness of the product will determine whether or not the product succeeds long term.

Construction

Most products undergo some updating over time. Consider a modular construction to make it easy for consumers to purchase replacement elements or for designers to update certain aspects of the product without the need to redo the entire product.

The product designer role

Product designers may go by several other job titles, including user experience designer, information architect, customer experience architect, interaction designer or user interface designer. Their primary job responsibility is ensuring a positive user experience from the final product.

Product designers often act as team leaders, overseeing and guiding the technical roles within the design process to ensure all stakeholders understand their job and strive to meet the determined objectives. They almost always have technical backgrounds and oversee or perform many technical design tasks. Common job responsibilities include:

  • Establishing design practices and concepts
  • Presenting ideas to internal and external stakeholders
  • Creating prototypes, wire frames, mock-ups and user journey maps
  • Overseeing prototype development
  • Leading product testing
  • Communicating with multiple department heads throughout the company
  • Understanding and apply market trends and concepts to product development
  • Modifying designs as needed to reflect research and testing

Depending on the industry and type of products they design, product designers can have varied backgrounds and skills. Common attributes for product designers include:

  • Technical skills like the use of CAD software
  • Excellent spatial awareness
  • Industry-specific training and education
  • Manufacturing knowledge
  • Understanding of basic marketing principles
  • Effective communication
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Motivated by challenge and set back

Product design is a dynamic process that often requires the assistance of every member of your organization. Understand how the process works and what to look for in an outstanding product designer to ensure your next product comes to market fully viable and ready for sale.

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