Guide to Industrial Design process
Updated: Jun 7
Criador Labs | Product Design and Development Firm | USA & India
The germination of an idea to a product needs to go through a streamlined process to realize the vision to its fullest. This design process is at the core of the industrial design of any product, where every aspect of the physical product is meticulously researched, ideated, refined, and executed.
The process can be split into 4 stages:
Every product has a unique developmental path. However, the process that forges that path ahead is universal. Understanding the problem statement that the product solves is the key to defining its functionalities and features.
At this point, questions of the nature, what, when, where, who, and whys are asked to elaborate and drill down the problem statement. In some cases, the goal would also be to solve a significant problem with an existing product in the market.
Once the problem is clear, arriving at the solution becomes easier. Hence, finding the objective would be the first step taken in the design process. The deeper we dwell into this, the more accurate will the design solution become.
Arguably the most critical aspect of the Industrial design process, the research lays the foundation for all the steps that follow. Insights gathered from the research stage act as the guiding principles of the ideation and execution of the product design.
The research phase could contain-
Target consumer mapping
Current product teardown
The market scenario is mapped out to identify what are the existing solutions and competitors in the space, what are their advantages and challenges, what lessons could be learned from their success/failure, and where would the new product slot itself into the spectrum of the market. This helps further define the details of the product that need to be focused upon.
Understanding whom the product is being designed for makes the designing process simpler. Getting to know their personas i.e behavioral patterns, occupation, location, gender, likes/dislikes, pain points, dressing, hobbies, mental state, help craft the solutions to the problem statement and also dictate the design details like colour, material, and finish off the product which could have a direct impact on the business end of the product too.
Conducting user interviews to understand their needs and pain points, following their use case journey would trigger multiple insights that would play a vital role in helping solve key design problems.
Exploration of ideas would be the next phase in the design process where the ideas that address the project brief are brought to life, refined, and developed further. Insights from the research guide this stage. Multiple ideas are explored from different perspectives and thought processes. Ideas could germinate from the specific pain points of the user interviews or be derived from the inspiration board that is created from insights gathered through research.
Ideas are brainstormed with high-level details of the product for the interaction between the user and the product, colour material and finish of the product, along with the shape and size. The nature of the ideation could range from simple 2D sketches to 3D CAD models to rough mockups. Ideas are bounced back and forth amongst the team, and multiple iterations of ideas help refine the solution to a better state.
Gathering and deriving insights based on the research phase
A set of visual cues are assimilated to help draw inspiration for possible solutions. These images could be used for aesthetic and functional solutions.
Quick pen/digital sketches are created in large volumes to assemble a set of ideas from which further ideas could be evolved here. The goal would be to get as many varied ideas as possible which would eventually lead to the product.
Ideas are explored and refined based on design reviews conducted amongst the team members and detailed out on a high level.
3D surface modeling
Few ideas that are shortlisted from the concept exploration are visualized in a 3D space to better understand the concept.
Quick mockups using cardboard, foam, paper, or wood are created to test out the proposed ideas and refine if needed
Exploration of ideas would also consist of evaluating different types of colours, materials, and finishes, which would be driven by the design requirements and target user understanding.
A cross-functional design review would be conducted to shortlisted ideas based on how well they address the problem statement and how much potential exists in the idea to be further refined and manufactured. The shortlisted ideas would then be further refined and detailed based on the design review to truly nail the solution to the problem statement.
Here the ideas that make it are further detailed out in 3D, making realistic models of the design solutions, with photorealistic renders of the design to truly visualize the concepts in all angles.
Contextual renders such as the product in its appropriate environment and use case would be created to further communicate the intent and nature of the concept.
In some cases, non-functional mock-ups of the finalized idea would be created wither through 3D printing to better understand the possible finer details of the concept design and make any changes to the design if need be. A final design would be chosen among a few developed ones to further detail it out and make it manufacturable.
The finalized design solution would be now developed and engineered for a pilot testing program with the target consumers to understand how they feel about and react to the proposed solution. Feedback would be collected and brought into the design table, where changes would be made if necessary to the design, further improving the solution.
The Colour, material, and finish of the product would also be finalized around this stage and incorporated into the design, which would be prototyped and engineered for manufacturing.