What makes a good product? Could a product be more than just an idea that is made real?
Product design defines the implementation method and form of the dimensions, features and details of a product: the concrete product is created in phases as the designs are shaped from written conceptual descriptions into drawings, models and possibly a functional prototype.
The product design of a service product is about creating a service concept and designing the standard processes by which the service is provided to customers. To support the service product, documentation, brochures, instructions, marketing materials and price lists are prepared to help distribute the service product. The design of these background materials is an essential part of the productisation of a service product.
The process phases of the design of an item can differ from those of a service, as the nature of the results is different. However, the key questions are the same in terms of the inherent goals and principles, irrespective of whether the product design concerns an item or service.
Finding the added value of a product
The goal of product design is to find an implementable production method for a product idea. In addition, the aim is to find qualitative added value for the product in order to make it as useful, appealing and functional as possible for the target customers.
Product design seeks to conjure up at least the following added value dimensions from the preliminary product:
• Technical functionality: The product must function efficiently in accordance with its purpose of use, and its use must be problem-free.
• Durability: The product must be able to endure various types of use and conditions without breaking.
• Suitability for production: This is necessary in order to cost-efficiently mass produce a product or service.
• Financial profitability: The costs of manufacturing and distributing the product or service must be low enough for the retail price to yield the targeted profit margin.
• Safety: The various safety risks of the product must be tested, and the product must not cause hazardous situations, even under extraordinary conditions of use. Some products are subject to official regulations and requirements in terms of the safety of their use and environmental effects (for example, toys and food items).
• Eligibility for protection: An implementation that enables applying for a patent, utility model, design right or trademark can be found for the operating principle, design, visual appearance or name of the product.
• Polished design: The design and visual appearance of the product should be practical, pleasing and appealing. The quality of the design will make the product stand out and provide a strong competitive edge on the market.
• Suitability for sales and marketing: It must be possible to convey the utility value, convenience, visual appeal, packaging, product name and other dimensions of the product to the customers in such a way that the product will, in effect, sell itself.
User-orientation in product design is normally the primary principle when speaking of the factors behind a product’s success. Product design should not be conducted in closed chambers amongst designers. Instead, user experiences should also be gathered at the early stages of developing a product idea. Collecting user feedback in all phases of product development is the most certain way to ensure that the design process is on the right path and will result in a product that customers will want to buy.
The many details involved in product design require expertise from a variety of areas, which means that it is common for SMEs, for example, to lack some of the types of expertise required. If this is the case, it is advisable to utilise the services of experts with skill and experience in steering the product design in the desired direction. Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, provides support funding for utilising experts and skilled consultants.