• Team Criador Labs

How Do You Design a Product if You Are a Start-Up?

Updated: Mar 3

Criador Labs | Product Design Firm | USA & India


We understand the struggle of limited resources; that is why it is important not to rush the design phase in your eagerness to get your design off the paper and to have something tangible in your hands. Today we will talk about how a start-up can use design to refine their ideas with limited resources.



Over time at our design lab, we have often encountered one question: at what stage should I consider product design?


Most tech start-ups neglect product design because they see it as secondary to the technical aspect. Design is simply part of aesthetics and it will be covered once they have finished the functionality. In another scenario we observed, new start-ups have a great idea. However, they struggle when it comes to resources. They decide it is not very feasible to invest in product design in such a case. In both situations, the failure to invest in design and build it into the product’s DNA ends up hurting their original idea – and limiting their success. We are firm believers in design. We think of design as the empowerment of an idea. It can bring attention to your product's more delicate and crucial aspects and productivity. Why is design required for start-ups? First, it allows you to explore more possibilities. In a short time, you can validate your idea without developing a fully-fledged prototype. Design always focuses on users first. It is for them you are solving the problem. This helps to ensure fewer errors in your first product. Good design planning can also add an extra element to your product - something that might give you a decisive edge over your competitor. We talked about these points in our earlier blog; check it out here.


We understand the struggle of limited resources; that is why it is important not to rush the design phase in your eagerness to get your design off the paper and to have something tangible in your hands. Today we will talk about how a start-up can use design to refine their ideas with limited resources.


1. Define your product

Defining your product is very crucial if you have a fresh idea. This can be done through industry segmentation, consumer profiling, and behavioral analytics. Recognizing your consumer’s demographics, such as economic stature and behavioral features, with lifestyle and usability among them, is the only successful way to write the script of your product’s success. By undertaking these activities, you will know what is expected by your target consumers. This will help you define your product’s worth, price, competition & usability.



2. Create the product sketch

The next step in your product design arc is to create an absolute product architect diagram. This is similar to what you drew in school: a simple block diagram. That is all. Try to include all the elements, features, and practical value.


3. Build the minimum demo-able product

Build a minimum demonstrable product based on the architect diagram (we call it MDP). Entrepreneurs can make it using cardboard, polystyrene, or any material which is easy to form. A demonstrable product is a look-alike device that does not necessarily have functionality, but it should have the same feeling and shape factor as your product. The demonstrable product allows you to understand how the product will look at the end. Of course, there will be many revisions to get to your original idea, but this is an essential first step. For example, imagine making a water bottle that we thought would make a cool one-liter water bottle with a ton of smart features in it. Instead, we build a demonstrable product using cardboard and realize it is too big to carry comfortably. So we revisit our product features and specifications to refine our ideas further.


4. Design Research

Once you have a demonstrable product, now it is time to gather some questions from your potential consumers. First, make a list of the things a user needs to know to use your product. This might include: to whom the product is relevant? How do you view the demonstrable product? When will you use this product in your day-to-day life? What sort of color, material, and finishing would you prefer? What kind of shape and feel would you prefer? The list can go on and on, depending on what you are building. We suggest you collect questions from at least 20-30 potential future consumers of your product and analyze their responses. Try to identify the gap between what you want and what they want. Design research will provide you with a clear vision of your consumer's needs of your product and their expectations of similar types of products.


5. Minimum viable product

Based on data you gathered from your design research, you can create some concepts and build a minimum viable product that can perform the product's primary features. Always look at this stage to integrate existing components and parts to keep costs down when building the minimum viable product. If you can use 3D printing or additive manufacturing processes at this stage, this can also help to keep costs down. The other benefit of adopting 3D printing technology at this stage is that, often, it will produce a better finish than traditional approaches at this stage. Once you have the MVP, go back to the users you interviewed earlier and ask them again about their experience and views of your minimum viable product. This time, they can see the product function so that they can provide more constructive feedback on your product ideas.



6. Concept design & selection

Now you need the assistance of professional industrial designers, like us. We can help you develop different concept designs (5-20 concepts, minimum). We will make hand sketches to explore different shape and form factors around the product application. Also, we will help you to perform CMF (color, material, and finishing analysis) for your product to get an idea about how your product look and feels with different material and colors. Discuss this results stage again with your consumers and your team before deciding on the one concept you like the most: freeze it and move further.


7. Engineering design and Technology development

Once you are done with concept design and have selected the best option according to consumer needs and applications., you are now ready to progress with engineering design and technology development. Next, you can work on:

  • Electronics design and development

This includes the following:

  • Components selection and Bill of Materials

  • Firmware development - Device drivers, Application software

  • Hardware development - Schematics capture, PCB layout design


  • Mechanical engineering

This includes the following:

  • 3D modeling and DFM (Design for Manufacturing) of enclosure/ casing

  • 2D manufacturing drawings with GD&T

  • Mechanism design and development

  • Simulations /CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering)

  • Bill of Materials


  • Software development

This includes the following:

  • Web application development

  • Mobile application development

  • Cloud setup, and integration

  • Data Analytics

  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence


These stages will help you refine your ideas – then you will need help to source potential manufacturing partners and get your ideas to market. Being an end-to-end product design and development firm, we can help with every stage of this process. If you would like support, please get in touch.