Industrial design knowledge base
Glossary of Product Design Terms
There are currently 129 terms in this directory
2D design is the creation of flat or two-dimensional images to visualize for example front and side views of products or packaging, labels, graphical user interfaces etc. 2D design is often used in the early stages of product design to quickly explore possibilities before starting 3D design. Most common ways do 2D design are hand drawing (sketching) and computer-aided drafting.
3D design is the creation of spatial or three-dimensional representations of a (product-) design with help of 3D computer software. The result is called a 3D model. 3D models can be visualized as flat images or animations (movies) on a computer screen. The 3D model can also be physically created using 3D printing techniques.
3D printing is the process of making a physical object from a (digital) 3D model. This is typically done by printing many thin layers of a material in succession until a 3D shape is formed.
Moving images (or movie) of a design created with 3D computer software. Animations are often used to visualize and assess a design in 3D without building a physical sample or prototype.
App (or application)
An app is a piece of computer software formerly also called (computer-) program but nowadays called app or application.
Assembly (or product assembly)
A collection of components and product parts that are related and have interconnections. Parts joined together form the assembled product. A product assembly can be physical or digital within CAD.
Back-end (or ‘Muddy Backend’)
The later phases of a design program, closer to manufacturing. Within some organizations some of these activities are identified as engineering.
Benchmarking (also benchmark product)
An improvement process in which a company measures the performance of its products or processes against that of best-in-class products or companies, determines how the product or company achieved their performance level, and uses the information to improve its own performance.
Bill of materials (BOM)
A list of the components and sub-assemblies with the quantity required to produce an end product. A BOM can include other information like pricing, material, maintenance information, etc. depending on the intended use.
A method in which a group of people tries to come up with ideas related to predefined topic. The focus lies on generating a large quantity of ideas in a short period of time.
Brief or briefing
A document in which the scope and deliverables of a specific project are defined. The document can also contain other information such as inspiration, budget, milestones, etc.
A business case is an investment plan which is used to consider whether or not a certain investment will be made. This will be based on the result of a cost-benefit analysis. It can be linked to a project, task or specific business plan.
Abbreviation for ‘Computer Aided Design’, which comprises of designing with the use of computer software, both in 3D and 2D.
The confirmation that a certain service, product or organization meets the applicable requirements or standards.
A sample product that can be used for demonstrations or the promotion, before the final product will be released.
Concept design is a phase within the design process in which not all elements of the design are resolved yet, but there is an overall consensus that the product idea is feasible.
A product concept is a design idea that is developed to a state where its broad outlines with respect to function and form are defined.
Consumer driven design
Design approach which considers human perspectives throughout the design process.
A design research approach that takes a holistic perspective on a certain topic. By including people with a relation to the topic at the start of the design process, a context is mapped, which shows the values of all stakeholders.
A customer journey is a collection of all the sequential steps and interactions that a customer goes through with a certain product or service.
Design thinking is an approach to solve problems the way designers do. The methodology allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use their tools to solve a wide range of challenges.
A phase at the end of the design process, where a product or service is defined to a state in which it will be ready to transfer to production.
A design approach in which designers strive to design products or services with a low impact on the environment.
A discipline where anatomy, physiology, psychology, engineering and statistics come together to strive for design which takes the capabilities and limitations of a human-product interaction into account.
Finite element analysis is a computer based tool to simulate products and systems within their environment, for the purpose of optimization or finding potential performance hazards.
Feasibility Study (or feasibility check)
A study in which the ability to complete a project successfully is assessed, taking into account all relevant factors.
Front end (also known as the fuzzy front end)
The first phase of a project, where preliminary specifications and attributes are established.
General Assembly (GA)
The main assembly, containing all the component that are included in the finished product.
The consideration of how humans behave within particular environments and interact with products or services.
A visual representation of an idea related to a certain design challenge. IdeaCards are used to start a discussion with clients on which ideas are within the scope of the project.
Designing products or services with the aim to make it usable for a wide range of people. By researching the variation in capabilities, needs, and aspirations, designers can make deliberate decisions on the group of people that will be included as an end user.
Intellectual property (or IP)
Intellectual property is a form of intangible property that consists of creations, which are protected from unauthorized use.
Design process with a focus on creating meaningful relations between the user and the product/service.
Lean Product Development
A product development process that stems from lean thinking principles, that focuses on sustainably and systematically improving a product development system. The main goals consists of reducing waste and costs, creating value for the end user and making improvements toward the manufacturing and assembly of products.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
Life cycle analysis is a methodology that can be used to quantify the environmental impact of a product, taking into account the whole process from extracting raw material to end-of-life disposal.
A new product development based on a specific demand or request from the market. Product development is a reaction on what users want.
Designing for the future, by creating advanced products or services that people will still be willing to accept and embrace.
Mould (or mold)
A tool used to shape components from a molten liquid material, mostly plastic or metal. The molten material solidifies in the mould’s cavity and takes over its shape.
New product development (NPD)
The process of developing new products or services for a business. It includes the entire process from fuzzy front-end to muddy back-end.
NPD roadmap (or product roadmap)
A New Product Roadmap is a timeline on which the different keystones and evaluation points are mapped for a product development project. The can represent the long-term planning for a single product or an entire product range.
Off-Tool Sample (OTS, FOTR or First off-tool)
Initial sample created using production tooling. Used to check design and ‘tune’ tooling prior to making production quantities. Common to have at least 2 generations of OTS (OTS1, OTS2, etc.) as first OTS will often not have cosmetic finishes applied to tool.
Original Design Manufacturer (ODM)
A company that designs and develops goods that are being sold by other brands.
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
A company that manufactures products based on the design and specifications provided by an other company.
An approach to design that is based on participation of multiple stakeholders in the design process. Designers, developers, management, users, customers, salespeople, distributors, can all be part of the project, depending on the type of process. The goal is to empower the stakeholder by direct involvement in design and decision making, resulting in a strong user input and an increased level of satisfaction for the stakeholders.
An official document describing an invention, that gives the owner the right to use or sell that invention for a particular period of time.
A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is a board made from a laminate material, on which conductive connections are etched or printed, that electronically link components placed on the PCB.
Percentile (as in ’5th percentile’)
Numerical value that corresponds to the percentage of a population with respect to a specified measure.
Software developed by Adobe, mainly used for digital sketching and the retouching of images.
A small-scale production run, produced to evaluate products before transferring the design to a full-scale production.
The process of managing new product ideas, proposed projects and current projects under development as a portfolio to 1. maximize the value of the portfolio, 2. keep it in balance, and 3. align it with company strategy. By characterizing and reviewing the projects in a company’s portfolio as a whole, a big picture is presented and used to prioritize and select projects.
A scheme that communicates the overall function of a product, by describing the interconnections of all components within that product.
Product specifications (or product requirements)
A list of all the requirements that conform with a product or service.
Project management (PM)
The management process that aims to reach a specific goal within a predefined budget and time frame.
An approach a specific design project. It is a translation of the design brief into specific processes, actions, and deliverables.
Exploratory research, that gathers non-numerical data, mostly used to gain a better in- depth understanding of reasons, opinions, and motivations.
The process of ensuring that product quality is maintained or improved, by testing if the product is within its specifications.
Empirical research that involves computational, statistical, and mathematical tools to derive results. A lot of input is collected in order to find out large trends and answers.
R&D (research and design)
May refer to a department within a company that is in charge of research and development, or to the activity of investigating innovative ideas and technologies and converting these into designs.
Rapid Prototyping (RP)
A collective name for all prototyping methods that can be used to quickly fabricate a physical model from a 3D CAD file. Mostly used to create one-off models or samples of a product.
A generated image that represents a design. Its content may vary from an abstract sketch to a photo-realistic computer generated visual.
A representative part or a single item from a larger whole. Usually used to asses a design in physical form, or asses the tooling and finish details.
An increasing growth of the scope of a project, resulting in projects eventually becoming unmanageable. This mostly happens when a project is not properly defined at the start of the project or managed throughout the project.
A document (online or offline) containing questions and exercises for participants of a group session in order to make them think about (sensitize them) about the subject that they are expected to evaluate or brainstorm on. The goal is to let users delve deeper into their experiences and get more than the first thing that comes to mind.
A first (often 2D) representation of a design based on a Program of Demands or set of specifications. During the sketch design a wider range of possible designs is presented in rough details, which can be further developed in multiple loops
Textiles and goods made from textiles. Also includes other soft materials such as plastics, leather and vinyl.
A collection of visualized frames, steps or moments in a script or user journey. Storyboards are a useful tool to visually explain a sequence of actions of steps.
Using specific shapes, visual cues, features, etc. of a product to express a feeling or function. A story can be told different ways, not just verbally.
Structural packaging design
A 3-dimensional design of a product packaging. The structural packaging design specifies everything about the packaing that is not the graphical design (shape, material, construction, production, transport).
A network of affiliated suppliers of a business that is involved in the manufacturing and distribution of specific goods to the buyer.
An analysis of a company or organization looking at internal and external aspects of the company in its market. It focuses on identifying strengths and weaknesses (internal) as well as opportunities and threats (external), and combines those (e.g. a company’s strength with a market opportunity) to find interesting scenarios of product development.
New product development that is driven by a new technology without a specific demand or request from the markets. The goal is to create a new market based on new technology.
The time it takes for a specific product to be developed and launched on the market. The time to market depends on the stage in which a process is started. Completely new products have a longer time to market than a redesign of an existing product.
The variation of a certain dimension compared to the specified dimension file that may occur due to imperfections within the production process.
The custom components that need to be manufactured to be able to produce certain other components. E.g. a mold for injection molding.
The means by which the user controls an (electronic) apparatus. Typically in the form of buttons and screens but it entails any method of input and feedback on a product.
Unique selling point/proposition (USP) or Unique buying reason (UBR)
A unique attribute of a design. This can be used to differentiate a product or servie from the competition in the market.
User Centered Design (UCD)
An approach and a set of processes that put the user and his/her needs and desires central in the design process. It requires to not only analyse and develop products with the users in mind, but also to validate their designs according to these user needs in real-world test environments.
User experience (UX)
A person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or serviceUser interface. A set of feelings evoked by using a product that can be the input or criteria for a new design.
User journey (user flow and/or user stories)
It communicates the sum of experiences that a customer goes trough with a product and/or service.
A importer or producer that sells a product or component, usually to other producers or resellers.
A mix of graphic and UI design. Visual design combines the act of making appealing 2d or 3d designs while applying this on a more complex problem focused around interaction and behavior.
A visual way of describing complex thoughts and ideas. Using a simple an quick method of sketching facilitates a concrete and visual image that can help in aligning a mutual understanding of a complex or abstract subject.