Developing ideas

Developmental research

The iterative design process helps to develop designs, focusing on improving them and making them more successful. It is important at this stage for designers to consider the design as a whole, rather than the separate components in isolation. It is also crucial for designers to consider user feedback in their design decisions as it will help generate and evaluate new developmental ideas and produce a successful chosen design.

Developing ideas will highlight areas of uncertainty that may require further research to strengthen the success of the idea:

  • Which areas of the design specification does the design not meet? What could the designer find out to help meet these criteria?
  • Could successful features from other ideas or existing products be merged to make the design more successful?
  • How will the product actually work?
  • How could it be manufactured?
  • Are there any potential sustainability issues?
  • Are there any potential safety implications or does it comply with standards, eg British Standards Institution (BSI)?
  • How could it appeal more to the user?

Modelling and simulation

Modelling and prototyping to help with the design process

Making a model allows designers to visualise and test how a product looks and performs in 3D and is a great way of checking a product’s viability.

Modelling can be time-consuming and expensive, but a physical model allows a person to see and handle a product unlike viewing it on a screen through computer aided design (CAD). computer aided manufacture (CAM) models made on a 3D printer using a CAD drawing are very accurate but also expensive, time-consuming and limited to 3D-printable materials. Designers can use easy-to-form and easily accessible materials, eg balsa, jelutong and cardboard, to create cheap models quickly and cheaply.

A 3D model of a bedroom with a bed, customised drawers, a dressing table and a wardrobe.
A 3D model of a bedroom

Quick textile designs can be modelled out of newspaper and more detailed models can be made from cotton or calico. Fabric models are called toiles and can be made on a mannequin to test the dimensions and drape of a garment.

A college student draping a mannequin in a fashion design class.
Student creating a toile

Breadboards are used in the early development of electronic products. They are boards containing a series of holes that electrical components can be pushed into to allow current flow without making a permanent join. Components can then be easily swapped to improve the function before making the final circuit.

A side view of a prototype of a solderless breadboard with components placed on top.
Example of a breadboard

Prototypes can be full-size, working models of a product, and are the next stage of development after modelling. They are often made from the same material as the product and often have fully functioning parts. Prototyping is expensive, so a product needs to have already been modelled and tested.

Reasons for prototyping

  • manufacturing plans can be made, allowing for the planning of cost, materials and quantities
  • following client and user feedback, small changes and improvements in aesthetics and function can be made before production starts
  • user trials with a prototype can check functionality, marketability and whether a product is fit for purpose before spending money on production
  • specialist tools and equipment can be planned for and costed for when the product is later produced for the mass market

Prototyping can help work out the cost of manufacturing a product, including how much material is needed and what machinery is required. The percentage profit can be worked out from this and can be improved by lowering production costs, for example by using cheaper materials or fewer workers.

Once a prototype has been made it can be tested in a variety of ways:

  • destructive testing - tests the product to its extreme to see what conditions it can tolerate before being destroyed, to help decide on the best materials and construction methods to use
  • non-destructive testing - tests the model to identify areas of weakness without destroying it, to test the function of the product and highlight any unexpected design flaws
  • market testing - tests the product with its target market to give feedback on performance and design

Analysis, evaluation and modifications of design ideas

Throughout the iterative design process, the design ideas and models or prototypes will need to be analysed and evaluated to inform the choice of design to take forward, to make modifications and to develop into the final chosen design solution. The designer will also need to consider:

  • suitable materials - materials have different properties and should be selected appropriately
  • suitable techniques and processes - these will be partly defined by the selection of suitable materials
  • feedback from users
  • developmental research

These consideration, as well as the design brief, design specification and feedback from the user, must be constantly utilised to ensure that the designer stays on the right track and produces a successful chosen design.