By Christian Euculano
“The beginning is the most important part of work” ~ Plato.
Concept design affects each individual on a daily basis. At the local Wal-mart, an
individual is able to hit two birds with one stone. The store offers users a little bit of
everything. You need clothes; Wal-mart has it. You need food; Wal-mart has it. You need a
big screen television; Wal-mart has it. There is no coincidence that Wal-mart conveniently
has everything the average person could want. Going to just one store can quickly finish an
errand sheet. Wal-mart represents an excellent concept design that is geared to the
convenience of the customer.
Concept design can be most easily defined by breaking the two words down to their
individual meanings. Concept represents an idea or thought. It usually is a collection of
ideas that represent or solve a problem. Design is the collection of the ideas that help to
serve a purpose. Together, concept design can be best stated as the process of determining
which technologies will be used in production and the product (Managing Quality, an
The concept design phase of a company is very important. It represents the
beginning of steps of a product. The design of a product can be the difference in success and
failure. Successful products all tend to have the same common characteristics such as
durability, user friendliness, and affordability. These characteristics that make up successful
products are all developed in the phase of concept design. “The design should always be at
the 'threshold of possibility' to ensure that an effective system is produced within the
constraints of cost, timescales, and performance” (MANAGING STANDARDS V4.5).
The “threshold of possibility.” First, and foremost, performance is the most
important aspect of a design. Two important aspects help create performance of a product:
technology and user-friendliness. Performance is directly related to technology. A
successful product needs to have the latest technology. In today’s world, technology sells.
People are greedy, they want the biggest, fastest, strongest products available. In order for a
company to compete it must stay ahead of its competitors in technology. For example look at
the computer industry. Every year faster processors are created. Two years ago, top of the
line computer processors operated at about 500 megahertz. Today, processor speeds are
closing in on nearly 2 gigahertz. The faster, bigger computers create more advantages for
their users. This makes staying on top of technology extremely important to compete with
User friendliness is also an important aspect to the performance of design. A simple
product is much more appealing than a complex product that is used to do the exact same
thing. User friendliness is one of the hardest aspects for a company to achieve. Designers
tend to be more intelligent than the common individual and can at times expect to much from
the user. This is when user input becomes very important and effective. User-input allows
the company to get a better understanding of what individuals expect. With this
understanding, a precise design of product can create ultimate convenience for the user. A
good example of this scenario was Apple computers. In the 1980’s computer systems ran on
an operating system called dos. Dos was not a very friendly system. The user had to
memorize numerous commands and then input these commands into the computer. Apple
computers began to hear complaints of how difficult it was to use their computers. Apple
decided to use these complaints to create an excellent concept design. They created a system
that was composed of icons and folders. With this new system also came the invention of the
mouse. Using the mouse the user could simply click on the icons and folders to work on the
computer. No longer did you have enter commands.
Technology, although very important, is also very expensive. Cost constraints are a
major factor in developing a design. Sometimes the best technology available is too
expensive for a company or perhaps the end user. Keeping costs down is very important
because a product has to be affordable for the consumer. Therefore a company must balance
its selection of technology and cost. Too little technology and the design might be boring or
unpractical for a user. Too much technology and the design might be inefficient or
cumbersome for a user. It becomes very important for a company to set its maximum costs
and then try to deliver the best available design within those cost constraints.
The last aspect that helps a design to the “threshold of possibility” is time. Time
constraints must also be factored in when creating a design. Technology makes timing very
difficult. A design must be able to be implemented in time to hit the market when products
are appealing to the customer. If the product to be designed takes to much time to make, the
craze for a certain product could be over. A good example of this was the Tickle-me Elmo
doll. This doll, brilliantly marketed, became available around Christmas. Every kid in the
country wanted one. The dolls were selling very well. Stores had to restock the shelves
every hour. The problem came when the stores sold out of the dolls. The company that
produced the dolls couldn’t keep up with the rate at which the dolls were selling. It took to
much time to implement the design of the product and get it out to the distributors. About
two months later, after the sell out, the company shipped more dolls back to the distributors.
The stores this time however had no problem keeping the dolls in stock. No one was buying
the dolls. The time it took for the company to produce the dolls and get them in the stores
after Christmas was just too long. The company of the dolls had costly time constraints
associated with their concept design.
Implementing a concept design can be a complex process due to time constraints,
performance factors, and coast constraints. There are a couple steps that help to create a solid
Step 1 determining goals, budget, and timeframes.
Step 2 gather information about a product in relation to consumers and
Step 3 brain storm and gather ideas.
Step 4 design a structure
Step 5 create the design
Step 6 implement the design
Step 7 get feedback from end-users about the design.
These steps help to gain knowledge on the design and then make the best possible design.
It is very important to note, that the phase of concept design does not actually contain
the physical product yet. It is just the blueprints of the product. It is the starting point. In
fact, even though the concept design is not physically represented, it is the most important
phase. It is at the beginning where any corrections or improvements can be made. Once
production of the product begins, it becomes very difficult to change the characteristics of the
product. Therefore, it is important to make sure the design is perfect before production.
“The beginning is the most important part of work.” Concept design, being the
beginning stages of a product, is the most important aspect of product production. It is the
blueprints that outline all the necessary parts of a process. It is very important that this
outline, representing the concept design is within “the threshold of possibility” to ensure that
an effective system is produced within the constraints of cost, timescales, and performance.
http://sparc.airtime.co.uk/users/wysywig/wysywig.htm (MANAGING STANDARDS V4.5)
Lisanti, Tony. Concept 2000 :A new era in design, a new culture for TRU. Discount
Store News. v35 n15. Aug 5, 1996. p. 13 (1 pages).
Rodgers, Paul A. Concept design assessment from specified user needs. Integrated
Manufacturing Systems. v6 n3. 1995. p. 30-36 (7 pages).