The Design Process

There are new products on the market everyday, more and more of them featuring electronic displays, touch screens, or some variation thereof.  But who comes up with these products? Where do they begin their process, and how can you learn to design something in an effectual and realistic manner of problem solving? This simple process defines the basic steps in not only coming up with how to build something, but how to tackle your issue as effectively as possible.

Step 1: Identification

Before starting anything else relating to a physical end product, you must first identify the problem you want to solve. Figure out what the purpose of the design is going to be. Why are you making this product? What do you hope to accomplish at the end of the design process? Moreover, identify what constraining factors there might be. This includes anything from safety (e.g. Will I have to use a lower operating voltage to avoid injury?), finances (Will I have sufficient funding to prototype effectively?) or pre-defined customer needs that may influence design choices. Rank these in order of importance, determining which ones it is absolutely necessary to fulfill and which it may be easier to set aside.

Step 2: Research

After you’ve identified the problem and your limiting factors: research the problem! How have other people solved similar problems in the past? If you’re inventing something truly new to the world… what technologies already exist that you may be able to implement in your design? Ask yourself these questions as you move through the design process. You’ll want to remember not to get ‘tunnel vision’ on any particular design, either. Find conflicting ideas, technologies, and methods, and take note of the pros and cons of each. This will come in useful later on.

Step 3: Brainstorm!

Start coming up with possible design solutions for each aspect of your problem. Don’t focus so much on the final result yet, but brainstorm ideas for smaller aspects of the design. If you need moving parts or touchscreens for example, will they need motors or controllers for their electronics? Will micro-controllers work, or will a computer be necessary? How will these components be powered? Come up with multiple solutions for each sub-problem, no matter how much you may be biased towards one or another just yet.

Step 4: Select a design

Compare your potential solutions for each subsystem, taking into account your ranked list of constraints from step 1. The solution you choose should be the most effective in solving its particular sub-problem without sacrificing any of the most important restrictions on your project. Figure out how your subsystems will work together to complete your overarching goal. Here, the general details of your design should become apparent and you should have a rough outline of a final product.

Step 5: Prototype

After you’ve come up with a design that can effectively incorporate your subsystems- build it! Again- start small. After buying your components, controllers, or screens, begin work on one subsystem at a time. Have a working model of each. Then, connect the subsystems and finalize a casing or housing for your product.

Step 6: Test

Now that you have a prototype, test it. What works in your design? What do you find could have been done better? Given your constraints, how possible is it that you can do better? If something doesn’t work, try to identify and hone in on the root problem. If a particular subsystem isn’t working, should it be remodeled?

Step 7: Redesign

Now that you’ve identified what you like and dislike about your prototype, is there anything that you can do to improve it? If its good enough as is, great job! But more often than not designs can be improved ergonomically, in efficiency, or overall performance. Go back to step 4 and replace subsystems that don’t work, or improve on the ones that do.

Step 8: Repeat

This process is a cycle. Repeat steps 3-7 as many times as needed; sometimes you have no choice but to go back to the drawing board and restart the process! Hopefully for you however that is not the case, and you’ve successfully identified and solved a problem.

Extra Steps

Interested in designing a product with a display panel or a touch screen interface but need more direction than this? Subscribe to our blog for display updates and product design advice, or email for help finding the right panel for your particular project. Good luck, and happy inventing!