Design Process

Design process, a step by step guide to a typical design project.




Product objective - what is the design to achieve.

The client must give clear instruction of what the design is to do and what the design project deliverables will be.


Product definition - what are the features of the design that will help it to meet the product objectives.

These stages are crucial, projects can struggle for years and eventually fail due to confused feature definition from vague objectives.


Project Plan – a detailed forecast of component parts, broken down into systems.

This plan will include a logical order in which to design the parts and the manpower required to design them. It will build into the production parts list and timing programme for prototype purchase, build and test.


Concept design – which could start with a layout of simple blocks to represent major components for a package concept, or it could start with a close look at key features to define major dimensions that will drive the shape of the product.

It is essential that the concept be good. "over 70% of the final product's manufacturing cost will be committed at this early concept stage, no amount of high class manufacturing will recover a poor concept and bring it into profit." * (* quote - Prof. Derek Sheldon, Coventry University)

Steve Prentice Design are expert at creating really good concept designs. Using our manufacturing experience and design flair we can produce concepts better than our clients could have ever imagined.


Motion analysis & Finite element analysis - "first pass analysis" should be used at this early stage to help define the major dimensions.

Traditionally analysis was complex and expensive, it often started late and results arrived too late to be incorporated into the design. The new generation of "first pass analysis" tools can be used by concept designers and give results in minutes instead of weeks.


Concept review - share the concept design with everyone involved: customers, suppliers, manufacturing, sales, service, design and corporate hierarchy.

Get people to input to the design so that everyone "owns" the project. Hold reviews as early as possible, not at the end of the project when it's too late to change anything.


Design CAD models - beyond the concept phase each component is CAD modelled, system sub-assemblies and general assemblies are built.


Design reviews - the design must continue to be shared with the wider team, as with the concept review, at system and component level. Regular progress reporting is also essential if all the design threads are to come together on time for "job one", the start of production.

Further analysis - will be needed on key components and systems. This may require a more detailed investigation than the earlier "first pass analysis". The results must arrive in time to be useful to the project.


Design detail drawings – following CAD model phase and review approval, detail drawings are made for each component and assembly. CAD data can be supplied for casting and machining tooling.

Parts should not be detail draughted until the whole system design is complete. It is common practice for parts to be detailed and procured before the mating part has been designed. This is claimed to be "concurrent engineering", but it's often wasteful as the first part has to be re-worked before the system will fit together.


Product visualisation - can be used to communicate the design at every stage above. Images photorendered can form the basis of "bid documents" or "sales brochures". Animations add real impact at presentations, design reviews or exhibitions.

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