Iterative design

Home learning focus

Learn the basics of iterative design.

This lesson includes:

  • two video clips demonstrating iterative design and the importance of testing

  • two activities to try at home


An iteration is a new version of something.

Iterative design is a circular design process where you make and test iterations several times.

You need to think about and test your design at regular points so that you can improve it and make it the best that it can be.

The steps of iterative design:

  • Analyse - Starting with a design brief, you need to explore the design issue and how you are going to solve it
  • Design - Create a series of design ideas that may help to solve the problem
  • Model - By creating these ideas in 3D out of card, paper, clay or other materials you can quickly and cheaply visualise them
  • Test - Once a model has been made you can test it to see if it works and if it solves your design issue as well as showing it to people who might use the product and seeing if they like it (market testing)
  • Evaluate - The test results will need to be looked at to see if you need to change your design in any way
  • Modify - You then go back to the model, change its design to make it better and repeat

In the following video, Richard talks about how he uses iterative design when designing buildings as an architect.

The iterative process in the design of buildings.

By testing your design and making new iterations, you can:

  • find problems with the design that you may not have noticed
  • get feedback on your design and see if people actually like it
  • save large amounts of money ahead of the product being made

In the following video, taken from the 'You Too Can be an Absolute Genius' series, Fran Scott discovers the importance of testing a design.

We hear from Yusuf Muhammad and Mark Champkins about the detailed testing processes that they have taken their designs through, testing them with real people to find any flaws.

The importance of testing a product.


Now you can try and put some of what you have learned about iterative design into action.

Activity 1

We’re going to take a boat through the iterative design process.

First, you will need to build a boat of your own - using materials from around your house, how creative can you be in the design?

Have a think about what you know about boats already, eg their shape.

Activity 2

Time to test your design! Your design may or may not float - it doesn't matter as long as you know why because this is the first iteration. Have a think about the size, weight and shape of your boat, as well as the materials you used.

It is important to record your findings so we can make use of them in the next iteration - you can use the worksheet for this and you will need a pen or pencil.

Boat building - Activity 2

By the end of this process you should have an iteration of your boat that is the best design of the set.

Where next?

Continue your learning with these links:

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

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