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The Process

As one of the UK’s leading industrial design consultancies, we are regarded for our innovative and systematic approach to product design and development. With decades of experience bringing large and complex product design solutions to market, we have both the knowledge and toolset to transform your idea into a commercially viable reality.

Whether you are a startup, an SME, or an internationally recognised blue-chip company, we are perfectly suited to assist you at any stage of the product design and development process.

Research and Analysis

At the outset of any new project, it is essential to establish a clear and comprehensive set of guidelines for your new product. Questions such as “What problem are we aiming to solve?” and “Who is the target market?” help formulate a clear design vision for the product and helps inform the design process by guiding the product’s functionality and aesthetics around a singular goal. The team at Step2 Design can help guide you through this process by generating a comprehensive design brief and detailed product specification for your product.

Thorough research and analysis of the target market, design trends and existing solutions will be pivotal in establishing the commercial viability of a new product and help mitigate potential risks in development. It is also critical to engage the support of external stakeholders and investors early in the product design process. Using feasibility studies and advanced data visualisation techniques, Step2 Design generates pitch deck presentations that are clear, engaging, and easy to understand – helping secure buy-in for your product idea.

Whether you are an experienced project manager, product designer or simply an entrepreneur with a great idea, let us help you support you through this critical design stage.

Design and Concepting

Streamlined with a detailed product specification and clear design brief, the concept design process often starts out with “scamps” or quick concept sketches and ideations. These are usually done by hand (but can also be digitally drawn), and are shared with the client early and often for instant feedback on the design direction. Sketching is a great way to both quickly generate and refine early design ideas, allowing for a fluid, iterative and communicative design process that engages the client throughout.

We then use design software to generate rough 3D models that seek to explore certain aspects of the design, such as aesthetics, ergonomics, and end-user functionality. These are then presented back to the client in a variety of different media, such as the “more traditional” rendered 2D presentation or 3D PDFs/3D viewing software or even VR compatible 3D models.

The design and concepting stage of the product design process is crucial in formulating the correct design direction of a product and is key to its overall success. Our design engineers at Step2 Design have decades of experience in this, and can tailor the concept design process to meet your needs and maximise your product’s success.

Develop and Prototyping

Once a design direction has been established and there is consensus on an initial concept, the next stage of the product design process is in development and testing. We combine the latest in CAD software and our expert knowledge of manufacturing processes and materials to refine the concept into a more cohesive design solution. This involves multi-stage design reviews with the client and your stakeholders to ensure a close alignment to the original design brief. We then produce a 3D development model with technical drawings and a detailed bill of materials as well as an assembly guide in preparation for first-phase prototyping.

Although we provide in-house additive manufacturing services, we actively engage our suppliers in the testing and sourcing of suitable materials, samples, and the production of full-scale prototypes. Using the latest in cutting edge 3D printing technology, CNC machining and VAC casting, we can produce high quality prototypes with representative materials that feel like a finished product. From small injection moulded head torches to 1.5-ton shipping containers we have created a diverse array of prototype products for a wide range of clients and industries.

DFM and Manufacturing

The Step2 Design process incorporates critical and often overlooked stages beyond initial ideation and product development. One such step is Design for Manufacture (DFM) – a process that ensures a product is well optimised for manufacturing processes and meets all relevant quality standards criteria. Conducting DFM analysis early in the design process provides an invaluable insight into production constraints, capabilities, and affordability of required materials and processes.

With expert guidance, our clients can leverage DFM findings to refine their designs, enhancing both manufacturing and logistical efficiency. Rigorous testing procedures further validate design performance across metrics such as structural integrity, durability under stress, and resilience in diverse thermal conditions. By thoroughly evaluating prototypes in-house, we can refine the design iteratively, based on real-world, actionable test data.

Our extensive supplier network and proven track record with both small and large-scale production facilities positions us expertly to assist in streamlining the entire manufacturing process. At Step2 Design, our end-to-end technical design and development capabilities nurture ideas from conception to market-ready final products; all whilst balancing quality, function, and value.

Step2 Design were able to quickly turn ideas discussed into detailed concept models and images. Concepts were then efficiently developed into manufacturing drawings supplied with full BOM’s and component specifications to support. Step2 Design have proven to be an effective resource across a number of projects and I look forward to working with them again.
Adam Delderfield / Group Manufacturing Engineer

Softbox Systems Limited

Product and Industrial Design FAQ

Product design encapsulates the end-to-end process of creating a new product, from concept through to technical drawings and manufacturing. At Step2 Design, we consider ourselves experts on the entire process, having a rigorous background in design and manufacturing. Our product designers have a deep understanding of this journey, and we pride ourselves in our ability to develop innovate and market-leading products for our clients. Our methods and ways of working allow us to form strong, collaborative relationships with our clients, to truly understand the needs of the project and achieve the best value possible. We strive to achieve excellence in everything we do, from incorporating our own technical knowledge into the process, to providing expert advice on manufacturing technology and techniques.

Product design shouldn’t just be about how something looks. At Step2 Design, we believe in creating long-lasting and functional products that are built to stand the test of time. Thinking outside the box forms a critical part of this process, and having a detailed understanding of market trends and cultural aesthetics allows our designers to create products that perfectly suit their target market.
Traditionally, product designers maintain a focus on the front-end. This involves creating conceptual designs, fleshing out ideas and creating visually appealing products that appeal to the consumer. Industrial designers conventionally focus on the more technical aspects, producing technical design drawings and detailed CAD models. This requires a greater focus on manufacturing technologies and product engineering – or, how something actually works.

At Step2 Design, we pride ourselves as being a fusion of both product and industrial designers. As experts in our field, we excel in the end-to-end process and are able to offer a full design to manufacturing service.
At Step2 Design, we’re on a mission to become one of the leading product design companies. We bring a wealth of expertise and offer a professional service that simply can’t be accessed through freelancers. Whether this being our trusted network of suppliers and manufacturers, or the range of services we offer like 3D product rendering and animation, we provide our clients with an unparalleled design service that is unlike anything in the industry! This is one of the many reasons why our clients trust us to lead their product development journey, and navigate them through what can often be a confusing and challenging process.

Providing our clients with a team of industry experts and engineers with a wide ranging skillset, we enjoy both the front-end conceptual design work and resolving complicated technical design challenges. This enables us to offer a greater range of service than your typical freelancer. However, that’s not to say we dislike freelancers… on the contrary! Step2 Design was created by freelancers who had an exceptional demand for their services – we just realised the potential to create greater value through the merging of both people and processes!
We understand cost is a major factor in the product development process, and, something that can create limitations down the line. Whilst there is no short answer to this, we will always try to create something that is feasible for your budget and satisfies the nature of your brief. Therefore, when creating a project plan around a particular budget, we will prioritise transparency with regular costing estimates and detailed cost breakdowns. This means we can cater to a range of product development budgets and remain open to a wide range of project opportunities.

Typically, costs are higher for the more complex product designs that we create. Therefore, building something with lots of mechanisms and components will require greater a budget as it requires higher levels of product testing and prototyping. Fortunately, we have invested in our own in-house 3D printing systems to help us carry out critical product and component testing, allowing us to test these complex design elements without eating into a significant portion of your design budget. However, if you’re hoping to incorporate a number of electrical components into your designs (which require certifications if you’re in the EU), it is necessary to account for more rigorous prototyping - of which our design experts would be happy to walk you through the process.

A number of our clients also ask for support in the final stages of a product design process, and prefer for us to organise the manufacturing of the product. Working with a design agency for this reason may seem costly, but may in fact end up saving you money. Our trusted network of manufacturers and prototype houses allows us to get the best price possible on manufacturing and tooling costs, whilst our experience working with a range of material types helps us select the best materials for your budget. Therefore, if you’re looking to understand how much a project could cost (and what your potential savings are), the best way to find out would be to reach out to one of team and have us create an accurate costing plan for you.
We believe success is designed from the outset, where a continual focus across 3 key pillars is maintained: exceptional build quality, functionality, and consumer appeal. As design engineers with over 50 years of experience, we know quality is achieved through meticulous attention to detail. This ethos plays a role in everything we do, from the materials we suggest, to the mechanisms we create.

Creating truly innovative products is key to standing out, where novelty and originality play an important role the success of your product. We strive to think outside the box, and will work closely with you to build conversation-worthy products.

We also believe in producing products that will stand the test of time, where continued functionality is vital. Nothing makes us happier than building products where reusability and functionality are part of the product’s DNA. Designing for sustainability is increasingly a key part of what we do, and our design team enjoy building products that are fit for a circular economy. Considering the full lifecycle of a product is critical to us, and designing for end-of-life is an important part of our design process here at Step2 Design. We take everything into account from the materials we use to the repairability of the product’s components.

We know the product development journey is exciting, which is why we love taking our clients on the journey. Through our use of ultra-realistic 3D rendering and animation, our clients can now experience the product from the very first stages of its development. This allows us to create an interactive experience for clients that helps them to iterate the product more precisely.

Throughout all of this, we balance our product development process with the client’s budget, helping them to create and price a product that is commercially outstanding (and viable). Our industry networks enable us to secure the lowest possible manufacturing costs whilst ensuring quality is maintained. All in all, we believe we have cracked the process and would love to chat with anyone who is considering a similar journey.
A design brief should be a clear set of instructions that communicates what you want a designer or manufacturer to produce. It should clearly articulate the objectives of the project and any intended goals that you may have. A background to the project may be given before focusing on the specific elements that you want to be considered. It should provide all the information necessary to understand the project, its needs, and intended outputs. Design briefs should supplement the product specification and give any important details necessary for the project’s success.

Creating a strong design brief can be a challenging task. We understand that many of our clients will be completely new to the industry and have limited experience in knowing what one should include. At Step2 Design, one of our experts can help guide you through this process and help you to produce a robust and comprehensive project scope.
Lowering the cost of your product can be an important objective to consider, particular when forecasting future cash flows and trying to improve profitability. However, this process needs to be done with due care and consideration as it's important to make cost reductions without compromising on product quality. Luckily, at Step2 Design, our design engineers are experts in identifying ways you can save costs and optimise your product. Whilst we always design our products to maximise cost efficiency, we think there are a few areas you should consider:

Optimise your production methods: When designing a product, its important to identify and select the best production methods according to your specification. It is necessary to consider how factors like markets and forecasted production volume will impact your costs. For example, we see a number of clients using injection moulding for low-volume production runs, whereas VAC casting often offers a more efficient and cost-effective option. Our product design experts can help you understand which option is best for you.

Construction: Designing your product to enable a variety of construction methods can lead to significant cost savings. The more complex the product, the longer it will take to assemble! One way to lower the costs of manufacturing can be to design the product’s components to be modular. For example, you may want to select components that are compatible with a range of other products so that you can buy in greater quantity and achieve a lower unit-cost. Similarly, designing the components to be more modular can lower the number of parts used in production – a great way to achieve lower material costs and reduce assembly time.

Product Assembly: Choosing your production process, whether JIT (just-in-time) or assembly line can have a big impact on underlying costs. Identify methods that work best for your product by considering factors like the product’s target market, forecasted volume and technical complexity. You may also want to consider the location you’re producing in and the corresponding shipping rates. Although it may be cheaper to produce in Asia, once you have considered other factors like transport, customs, storage and time you may find its better to produce closer to home!

Volumes: It should go without saying that producing in higher quantities leads to a lower cost per unit. However, you may want to analyse the complete supply chain and consider if the drawbacks (higher storage costs) are enough to offset the savings (shipping, assembly, materials).  Suppliers may offer a range of incentives to produce in greater quantities, you should try to form strong relationships with them to understand the benefits that are available to you.

Outsourcing: Outsourcing your assemblies can offer cost savings, particularly when dealing with complex or specialist product assemblies. Whilst producing in-house can be easier to manage, specialist outsourcing companies often work at a much higher volumes and assemble your products in a shorter time – leading to overall savings for your business. As one of the leading product development agencies, we have a wealth of knowledge in how you can achieve the best production output at the lowest cost. So, if this is something you want to consider, or understand in more detail, speaking to one of our design team may help you understand how you can optimise your production.

    Trading Address

    Step2 Design Limited HERE
    470 Bath Road
    Arnos Vale
    Bristol BS4 3AP