Not a long time ago, product design was a term associated mostly with retail business who's selling products in a store. Nowadays, product design principles are being used in digital products such as websites, mobile applications, and software.
“Design is a really, loaded word. I don’t know what it means. So we don’t talk a lot about design around here, we just talk about how things work. Most people think it’s about how they look, but it’s about how they work”. - Steve Jobs
"Product design" is a hard concept to explain. When people see product design, they automatically think of graphic designers and Adobe Photoshop. Yes, these are some of the aspects that make up product design, but product design is so much more.
What is product design?
The definition of product design isn't black and white. There is no correct answer and the job varies based on each project. Think of product design as a range of shades that help shape a final product from start to finish.
Product design is the process of researching, understanding, brainstorming, and finding new and improved solutions to unique problems tailored to every product.
The product design process
Every project is different, and the process of product design will change and adjust to adapt. Here are the 5 basic steps product design is based around.
1. Learn the product or service
Phase 1 of the design process is to learn. This is not limited to just learning about the product or idea. Learn about the people behind the idea; their values and visions. Become a vacuum for knowledge in every project.
The more you know, the better the outcome. Every small detail matters. A good product is made up of hundreds if not thousands of small thoughtful details.
2. Understand and define the vision
Phase 2 of the design process is to turn the vision into strategy through product research, user research, and market research, to understand and define a clear goal for the product and a product strategy.
This is the step where questions like "Why are we doing this?" becomes "How are we doing this?".
3. Ideate Improvise Implement.
Now is when the artistry starts. Once there is a clear strategy for the product, brainstorming can begin.
This phase must be done with no limitations. The product design team should come up with as many creative solutions as possible with total freedom.
There are many methods and different ways to approach this. The creative solutions can be visualized with sketches, storyboards, and more.
4. Prototype. The conversation you have with your ideas.
Phase 4 is the prototype phase. A prototype is an early sample of a product built to test a concept or process. They are inexpensive and fast to build to maximize efficiency.
The intention behind prototyping is to validate the design of the actual product. The prototype is built to test ideas created in phase 3.
By prototyping, product designers can see if their ideas are on the right track or if they got taken off-course. This phase often sparks more creativity and brings product designers back to the drawing board for more brainstorming.
5. Testing is the learning process all over again.
This is the final phase of the design process, but it might not be the last.
The testing phase helps the product design team see if the created concept is working as it is intended to. The product is tested with real users for real feedback.
Why this step might not be the last? Because if the product or concept is not working or not as well as intended, the team will have to circle back to the early stages to rethink and reevaluate their strategy.
Product design is often overlooked, but it is one of the most important processes for creating the perfect product. From a thorough understanding of the idea and the creators behind it to detailed market analysis and prototype, product design can greatly improve product quality and effectiveness.
This is the building block and infrastructure for every great project.
"You can't build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you're going to have a strong superstructure." - Gordon B. Hinckley