The Complete Guide to Product Design (2024)

Industrial design, also known as product design, is the process of creating and developing new products that are functional, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly. It involves a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, materials science, ergonomics, and marketing, and it is an essential part of the overall product development process.

A Brief History of Industrial Design

The history of industrial design can be traced back to the late 19th century and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which advocated for the use of traditional craftsmanship and materials in the design of manufactured goods. This movement signified a shift away from the mass-produced, machine-made goods produced in the Industrial Revolution and toward a more artisanal approach to design.

In Germany in the early 20th century, the Bauhaus school further developed the concept of industrial design. Founded by Walter Gropius, the school brought together artists, architects, and engineers to create functional, well-designed objects that could be mass-produced. Bauhaus-trained designers such as Marianne Brandt and Wilhelm Wagenfeld produced a variety of products, ranging from lighting fixtures to furniture and household items, that were characterized by clean lines and functional simplicity.

After World War II, industrial design continued to evolve, with a focus on creating products that were both functional and visually appealing. In the 1950s and 1960s, designers like Dieter Rams and Richard Sapper began to develop a minimalist approach to design, characterized by a focus on simplicity, functionality, and ergonomics.

As technology has advanced, industrial design has also embraced new materials, production methods, and digital tools to create more complex and sophisticated products. Today, industrial designers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, developing products that are not only functional but also sustainable and interactive.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that uses a human-centered mindset to understand the needs and wants of users in order to uncover underlying issues or problems that a product can help the user address. It has gained popularity among professionals in both business and design fields, especially those who consider the impact of products on society. Design thinking emphasizes empathy and the ability to see the world from the user’s perspective, which allows the design team to gain a deep understanding of the problem that needs to be solved.

The Product Design Process

The first step in the product design process is the research and concept development stage. During this stage, designers will research the market, user needs, and any relevant regulations or standards. They brainstorm their ideas for the product, taking into account factors such as its intended use and any constraints—such as cost or manufacturing limitations. This stage is critical for the success of the product, as it sets the foundation for the design and helps to ensure the final product meets the needs of the end-user and the company. They then develop preliminary concepts and ideas for the product.

Once a concept for the product design has been chosen, the next stage is design development, which includes sketching and modeling. Here, the design team will create detailed drawings and 3D models of the product using computer-aided design (CAD) software. These models help to refine the design and explore various ideas and are used for preliminary testing of the product design and function. This step often leads the team to make necessary changes or adjustments.

Following design finalization, it is important to ensure that the product is safe, functional, and meets any regulatory requirements that are applicable to the product. This typically involves prototype evaluation and testing, both in a lab and in real-world use cases, to ensure that the product performs as intended and meets (or exceeds) safety and performance standards.

After the product has been designed and tested, it enters the manufacturing stage, which involves creating the final product using various materials, processes, and technologies like injection molding, stamping, or CNC machining. The design team works closely with the manufacturing team to ensure that the final product meets the intended design and that it can be manufactured efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively.

Once the product is manufactured, it enters the sales and marketing phase to market and sell the product. Industrial designers may also be involved in this stage, helping to create a sales strategy as well as product literature, packaging, and point-of-purchase displays (if applicable) that will grab the attention of potential customers and showcase the product’s features.

Industrial design also takes into consideration the design of a product’s life cycle. This includes the product’s packaging, usage, maintenance, recyclability or reusability, and end of life, often striving for the product design and materials to have a minimal impact on the environment.

Industrial product design plays a crucial role in shaping the products that we use in our daily lives. The process of product design is a collaboration of various experts, from designers, engineers, manufacturers, marketers, and more. It includes research, conceptualization, development, manufacturing, and launching, as well as post-launch support for end-users. Product design requires a combination of creativity, technical knowledge, and communication skills.

At CHOI Design, our team of experts can provide support with your product design process. If you’re interested in learning how we can help, please contact us today.