Conceptual design is the first or a very early phase of the design process. In the conceptual design phase designers explore ideas for the project using a variety of tools including drawings, physical models and 3d renderings of basic, preliminary ideas. They usually ignore technical information such as dimensions, so that they can be reviewed and modified quickly and easily.

In order to create a great product, conceptual design is key. Conceptual design is the phase of development where engineers and designers work to understand any design issues and find a solution. It is one of the earliest phases of development and usually involves creating a number of solutions so that the direction of the design can be slowly narrowed down.

Why is it so important early on in the design process?

Conceptual design undoubtedly has to be the first step because it is the results of this step that feed into the detail of the design and engineering process further down the line. Development only increases in cost the longer you have to wait to have a completed and solid concept foundation. The success of a product often depends on how well thought out and produced the initial concept design is.

What are the benefits of creating a conceptual design?

  • The first benefit to conceptual design is always the clarity it provides of what a product can do and what its intended use is. This is key when creating a product and without this, the process will encounter problems later down the line.
  • Conceptual designs help to create a clear user interface which is easy to understand and interpret.
  • It helps to describe the roles of different users and their requirements in detail so that the project is better understood from the offset.
  • The design will help to carefully consider the users points of view making the final results easier the achieve as well as current design trends and materials.
  • Without a good conceptual design, the various processes involved in creating a product will become drawn out meaning more time and money will have to be funnelled into the project to achieve the desired result. This process can be easily streamlined by using a good conceptual design as this will help prevent repetitive tasks.

What should you be looking at achieving with conceptual design?

The point of conceptualising and not just going all in is to make sure that creating your product makes sense to create and sell. What you need to figure out by the end of the conceptual design stage is whether the cost and the technical ability makes the end product feasible.

According to a study by PTC the conceptual design phase is where most of the development costs are committed, at least 75% of manufacturings costs (of a typical product) is nailed down by the end of this phase, with only 25% of a products cost being influenced by decisions made after this time. This is why the conceptual design phase is so important to product design, as it serves to confirm and set guidelines for the creation and production of your final product.