Product Design: Core Concepts
As the name suggests, product design refers to the process of creating a new product to solve or address a specific problem. This definition seems abstract and, in fact, for several years, there has been no universally accepted definition for product design.
Generally speaking, product design covers everything from the process of identifying a market opportunity, defining the statement of the problem that you intend to solve, developing an appropriate solution for the problem, and testing out the model or prototype with real users. After getting a positive response from the target audience, you start mass production of the particular product.
Who Is a Product Designer?
The term product designer refers to anyone who takes charge of the entire process mentioned above and, in particular, identifying a problem and creating possible solutions. Product designers bring together design skills and technical knowledge to make the customer’s life simpler by developing products that get a particular job done efficiently.
A product designer can also modify an existing product to change the way it is used or to solve a new problem; they need not necessarily make a product from scratch. Any entity that we use, from everyday items like kitchen cutlery and electronics to specialized objects like medical equipment and software tools, was designed by product designers to address a particular issue.
In the domain of product design today, there are seven key trends that every aspiring designer should know:
- Sustainable Product Design: Making products that do not harm the environment
- Portable Product Design: Designing of lightweight products, making it easy for the customers to carry it around
- Multi-Functional Product Design: Combining several entities in one, thereby increasing the customers’ convenience
- Designing for Plastic Alternatives: As mentioned before, trying to find new, renewable materials that can replace plastic
- Designing for Self-Care and Conveyance: Providing a suitable experience to the customer, especially in the hospitality sector
- Designing for Additive Manufacturing: Making the most of novel manufacturing techniques that bring down the time and cost of creating products
- Product Design for IoT (Internet of Things): IoT improves connectivity, helping you to realize more applications and ideas for your product(s)
The unique aspect of product design is that it is a highly effective way to explain concepts and ideas to others. The progress in this domain is so rapid that coming up with innovations is necessary, making you undergo continuous learning.
The process of converting an idea to a real product helps you explain the utility of the product to others because you can demonstrate its usage in real-life situations. A product designer, thus, enlightens everyone, including the others who proposed the idea and the end customer.
Today, product designers have adequate software and hardware support to design and visualize their creations better. These tools ultimately make the end-users’ experience more realistic and understandable.
Technical Overview: Process
- Empathize: The first technical step is to understand the problem at hand from the customer’s point of view. Conduct surveys and research to understand your customers.
- Define: Using that understanding, define the problem statement.
- Ideate: Come up with creative and novel solutions to the problem at hand. You can develop new products or modify existing ones appropriately.
- Prototype: Convert your most feasible idea into a prototype. Doing so also gives the designer an idea if they are on the right track.
- Test: Select a target audience and ask them to try the prototype you have created. If it works fine, send the model for mass production. If not, use the audience feedback to improve it further.
- Entry Level: Based on the organization you work for, your entry position would typically be Product Designer or Junior Designer (usually for OEMs).
- Senior Level: As a Senior Designer or Team Leader, you have to work more independently and also train your juniors and new recruits.
- Top Management: At this level of experience, you can continue to remain as a team leader or become a Project Manager, taking entire responsibility for a project from start to finish.
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