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The Design Process

Good design should be intuitive and raise no questions whatsoever, apart from “Where can I get it?!”


So…how do we get to a comprehensive design solution that a user simply loves?

The 10 principles of good design by Dieter Rams are a good place to start. These product design principles provide fantastic foundations upon which great work can be built – stick to these and you’re on your way to a winner:

Good design…

  • is innovative
  • makes a product useful
  • is aesthetic
  • makes a product understandable
  • is unobtrusive
  • is honest
  • is long-lasting
  • is thorough down to the last detail
  • is environmentally friendly
  • is as little design as possible*

*do not over-engineer a product/website/interface


Don’t just take it from me –  Chief Design Officer at Apple, Sir Jonathan (Jony) Ive KBE is a proponent of Rams’ principles (Forbes).

Sir Jony Ive, who is responsible for hardware, user interface, packaging and architectural projects at Apple, creates hundreds of prototypes for each specific detail in any of his products (Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney). Ive and his design team are relentless – research, test, refine, test, refine, test, refine (you get the idea), and eventually deliver. It’s no coincidence that Apple have been so successful – nothing has been left to chance. Everything has been considered (and reconsidered). Design is uncompromising, new, exciting and keeps the customers coming back for more.

Apple have a deep understanding of their customers; the release of the iPad is a perfect example (Wired). The technology had existed to manufacture the iPad for years, with their competitors trying and failing to integrate a tablet product into society. Apple observed, were patient, and timed the release of the iPad perfectly – when people were “ready”. Not only was the timing excellent, the product placement and proposition was too. Apple “created” a fresh scenario for internet users, a relaxed one that was detached from a desk or keyboard, more suitable for a home environment and importantly highly intuitive.



It’s important to point out at this stage that there isn’t one specific process that all designers follow religiously – you must be adaptable, understand the brief, time constraints and manoeuvre accordingly. However, be conscious of what’s imperative to the task and stand firm when necessary.

There are a few models that portray the design process succinctly, here’s one that is widely regarded as the best model. It groups this iterative process into something succinct and overarching:


DISCOVER – research, research, research, interview, email, question, call, users, experts, clients, scrutinise the brief.

At this stage, the scope of learning is ever expanding as you gather knowledge to inform your designs. This can be an arduous process, but also highly interesting – requiring an openness, willing to constantly learn and uncovering of hidden truths.

DEFINE – collate research, formulate in a coherent manner, define your brief, define actions, plan.

Narrowing previous research down to the point of a short, clear brief.

DEVELOP – sketches, prototypes, wireframes, concepts, test, experiment.

The process then widens once more, enabling development of a design solution.

N.B. Repeat DISCOVER, DEFINE, DEVELOP until a well-rounded solution is reached.

DELIVER – use previous findings to deliver a coherent, intelligent solution.

As technology develops potential solutions are ever-changing, but as is stated in Rams’ Principles a good design solution is thorough and long-lasting.



Now we have an overview of what the process entails, let’s have a closer look at factors effecting the quality of a design solution. The following Venn diagram outlines factors in simple terms and details what solutions are possible:


In business terms, it’s about balance and determining what you need from design. Keep in mind the huge potential design has to enhance your brand/product. Design can elevate you to new levels in the eyes of your customers, creating strong brand loyalty. A good experience keeps consumer retention rates high – the iPhone retention rate is at 92% this year (Benzinga). This comes after having invested $10 billion on R&D the previous year (TIME). Coincidence? I think not!

If you have any questions regarding the design process or this article get in touch with the design team or myself at:

For some real-life product design process insight visit: Project OMBRA



Vitsoe: Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design

Wired: One iPad to Rule Them All

Forbes: Jony Ive on Dieter Rams

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney

Benzinga: Apple iPhone retention rate 2017

Time: Apple’s R&D investment 2016


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