Compendium of Design

A Body of Knowledge
Learn from those who designed before you.

The Design Process

The 'Design Process' is a series of phases and activities that a designer follows in order to conceptualise, research, design, test, market and manufacture a design solution to a given problem. Although there is not a definitive or set design process, most designers will use a similar process to that in the figures and explanations below.

It is important to understand that the design process is cyclical and non-lineal in nature. That is, it is a process that is continually repeated in the pursuit of improving the function or quality of a product . It is not necessarily a prescriptive process that must be completed from start to finish. Each phase can be completed or revisited depending on the improvements of the product being developed or redesigned.


The Four Phases of the Design Process

The Design Process

01 Investigating and Defining

In this phase of the design process the designer aims to identify the design need(s) of the client and / or end user. The designer composes a design brief and begins initial research on the client and / or end user and the product's design requirements.

02 Design & Development

The Design & Development phase of the design process represents the creative development, exploration and experimentation of design ideas to solve the client and/or end user's problem. It is in this phase that the designer sketches ideas that reference related research about the client and / or end user, explores and experiments with the elements and principles of design, materials, and media. The designer strategises which production methods and presentation techniques or manufacturing techniques best suit the final design.

03 Planning & Production

This phase of the design process concentrates on planning for production. This entails the preparation of working drawings, the documentation of the manufacturing processes and the actual production work itself.

04 Evaluation

The final stage of the design process aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the process undertaken by the designer. In this phase, the designer evaluates if the design requirements of the brief have been met, the effectiveness of the design process, and the effectiveness of the manufacturing processes. This also allows the designer to reflect on the changes that were made, why they were made and how they could be avoided in future design processes.

The Design Phase Activities

The Design Phase Activities

The four phases of the design process can be broken down into smaller steps or activities. Each of these activities centers around the individual steps a designer completes to ensure they are meeting the requirements to solve a design problem. A brief explanation of each of the activities is given blow:

Identifying the Design Need

The designer identifies who the design problem involves, what the design problem is, and the design need that stems from the problem. This activity can also involve site visits, understanding the user experience, and graphically presenting the user, the problem and the product design factors relating to the problem.

The Design Brief

This activity focusses on the creation of a written document that outlines who is involved, the design problem, a proposed direction, and the design specifications for the design solution.

Design Criteria

Using the product design factors listed in the design brief, the designer identifies evaluation criteria that will be used throughout the design process to judge if the design solution will meet the expectations of the users or client.


In this phase, the designer uses a range visual techniques to help understand the design problem and generate ideas. They use related imagery to explore design elements and principles and a wide variety of drawing systems to illustrate their ideas. 

Design Options

Once the designer believes they have explored and experimented with their design ideas in order to resolve the design problem, they will typically present a limited number of potential design ideas to the user/client. It is in this phase that the designer will invite the users/client to evaluate and critique the design options.

Working Drawings

In order to model, prototype, or produce a design concept or final solution, the design needs to have a full set of working drawings made. This phase of the design process focusses on documenting the geometry of all parts of the design. 

Production Plan

The product plan outlines how the individual parts will be created including the processing of raw material, the production techniques to be used, assembly techniques required and the health and safety aspects related to all activities used in the sourcing, processing and creation of parts.


Production is all about the creation of a prototype or production version of the design solution. It is in this phase that the designer uses a wide range of workshop skills to manipulate materials in order to create the design's individual parts.

Production Evaluation

The first of the two evaluation phases, the production evaluation is all about identifying the difference between what was planned and what occurred. This is not a phase to self critise but one to learn from. It is in this stage that the designer evaluates if the design solution could have been further refined, if the choosen material or process was fit for purpose and above all, what changes had to be accommodated for.

Planning & Process Evaluation

Similiar to the previous phase, in this one, the designer analyses the effectiveness of the planning and process phases. In this evaluation, the designer evaluates the entire design process. The aim of this phases to identify what worked and what could be improved next time around.


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