Design States: A Complete, Comprehensive, and Fully-Inclusive Design Framework (Abridged)

A Design Framework

Planning a product development schedule is tough. This is the first in a series of articles meant to help define a system that we’ve used many times to help our clients figure out what they need to figure out. Of course, a design process should be tailored to the individual needs of the project, so keep in mind: your mileage may vary.


Here at Nerve Action, we tend break projects into 3 phases (which conveniently and completely coincidentally rhyme): Collecting & Concepting, Design & Refine, Detail & Exhale.

Phase 1: Collecting + Concepting – Problem identification and idea development

To begin, the designer and client work together to identify the goals and requirements of the project. This should include the research (such as focus groups and demographic studies) required to inform those needs.

Having defined and studied the problem, the team then casts a wide net to seek solutions. Methods often include group ideation, individual brainstorming, sketching, and physical modeling.

Phase 2: Design & Refine – Concept selection and development

By applying the requirements formulated in Phase 1, the concepts are winnowed down to the best ideas. These winning concepts are used to synthesize the final design direction. It is in this phase that drawings, CAD and prototypes become realistic, as the concepts are projected into a tangible solution.

Phase 3: Detail & Exhale – Engineering and release for manufacture

Here we finalize the manufacturing and assembly details. Often the transition between this phase and the previous one is fuzzy, as the designers and engineers work back and forth to produce the best solution. Even after the product transitions to manufacture, it is generally useful for the design team to stay involved. When issues come up, designers can act as advocates for the critical goals developed in Phase 1.

Rarely do successful products spring fully-formed from the head of the designers; a well-defined methodology is integral to the solution. A framework like this one will help ensure that excellent designs make it into the real world. Each stage is critical, though, and future articles in this series will flesh out each one.