Product design process

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The design problem: Reasoning from function to form

Figure 1: Design: reasoning from function to form.[1]

In the product planning phase one seeks product ideas that fit with needs in the market. Once a decision has been made concerning the new product, the variety of functions it should fulfill are defined. The new product is designed by reasoning from those defined functions to a three-dimensional form. One can think up all sorts of functions and try to design a product for them, but will us­ers use the product as intended? To begin with, this of course depends on its form, for the form determines the properties. Each product has many properties, and each property, or group of properties, represents a possibility to function. But there is more: a product must also be used in a particular manner. Properties only become apparent when we interact with the product. The intended use and context of use are not given facts for the designer, like the function, but are thought up - together with the form of the product - and thus is an essential part of the design. This is the kernel of the design problem: the form plus the use of the product constitute the design. The most important mode of reasoning in designing is thus to reason from function to form. The form of the product to be designed is then the unknown. The question arises whether we can develop the geometrical and physico-chemical form from the function by conclusive reasoning. The answer is no: in principle there are always innumerable possibilities and solutions. Through trial and error designers explore these possibilities and solutions. imagining ideas and testing them on their usefullness. And here lies the great challenge for designers: the most important step in designing is to predict the form and use of a product, based on a particular set of functions and properties[1].

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Roozenburg N. and Eekels J. (1998) Product Design: Fundamentals and Methods, Wiley, Chichester, 2nd ed.
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