Where do great products start? With great concept design. Here are four tips for making sure your concept design starts off on the right foot.

1. Return to First Principles

When starting a new project, our natural tendency is to build on what’s come before; whether it’s one of our previous products or a competitor’s. As many as 68% of design concepts leverage existing or previous designs... but don’t dive into design reuse mindlessly.

Try first principles thinking. This thinking approach encourages you to disregard assumptions and knowledge about the current solutions and start over from scratch. Ask yourself... what must this product do? What are my requirements, constraints, and goals? If there are some components you must use, lay those out first and then design around them. If your products have an established industrial design, start from there and work inward.

2. Embrace Your Artistic Side

It's a pretty well-known idea that customers want a great-looking product. Individuals are attracted to products with interesting shapes, beautiful curves, shiny surfaces, visual appeal, and aesthetic appeal.

Industrial Design CAD tools have the ability to create shapes and surfaces with explicitly defined curves for boundaries, trajectories, and sections. Other methods allow you to design by “feel,” dynamically creating and manipulating surfaces by dragging in 3D space. Another technique imitates modeling in clay, where you start with a lump and push and pull the shape to the intended form.

Why limit yourself to any single approach? Explore a combination of techniques to create beautiful concepts and, ultimately, products that people will love.

3. Try Alternatives

Don’t lock a product’s design with only a single concept. “One and done” almost never results in the best solution possible. Instead, let your creativity and imagination run free by testing different ideas. The more concepts you try, the more likely you are to develop a truly outstanding, innovative product. So how can you output more alternatives in less time?

    1. Use a tool that organizes and branches your concept design alternatives, so you can quickly and cleanly access, leverage, and modify variants (something like Creo Design Exploration). No more copying and saving in folders. Everything resides in your source CAD file.
    2. Use artificial intelligence to suggest design concepts for you. A good generative design engine can produce numerous alternatives that meet whatever constraints you set.
    3. Increase collaboration by sharing your designs with team members in a common repository, such as a PDM system. This ensures your ideas are accessible, shareable, and secure.

4. Think Like a Customer and a Marketer

The best way to design a product is to design the kind of product that you yourself would buy. Really consider what would make you buy that product or what makes you buy any product in general. What features would you like? How would you like it to look? How would you want it to operate? Also, get perspective on how your product looks when it’s in the showroom or catalog. Try the following:

  • 1. Image rendering tools show what your product would look like in an environment with actual lighting, like Keyshot.
  • 2. Animations of your concepts demonstrate how they would operate mechanically, while simple “turntable” animations act as if you were showing your product in a showroom.
  • 3. Augmented reality experiences let you view what your product would look like in the real world. Most applications are so simple that you can use your phone or tablet to see it. AR experiences even allow you to see it's actual size, shape, and more.

These visual tools will increase your ability to develop concepts and then judge them objectively. Plus, they’re an effective, creative way to make sure that individuals fully understand your ideas and concepts.