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Copyright 2006
Cornell University.
All rights reserved.


Design and Product Development

Multiple prototypes will be developed before selection of the final designs

Design is only one part of product development.

You have an idea for a product that you think others will buy. When you transform this idea into a product, you have designed the product. So, for an apparel product, design means that you have chosen the materials, the styling characteristics, and the means of putting it together.

It often takes more than one try to make the product exactly like the idea you had in your mind. These trials are called prototypes. After each trial, you test the prototype and maybe even ask others to try it. All these steps make up the design process. (The design process is covered in more detail later in this module.)

Product development is much more than the design of a product. Product development is a process of

  • continuous idea generation
  • designing multiple prototypes to represent multiple ideas
  • developing a product concept that is valuable to the customer and helps to identify competitors
  • commercializing the product by preparing and costing it for volume production and sales to many customers.

The product development process also encompasses the business part of design.

It makes design a commercial enterprise, setting the design process and product design evaluation within a business context. It asks questions such as:
  • Is the design compatible with the other products in my business?
  • What products in the market does it compete with?
  • How many people might consider buying it (or, how large is its target market)?
  • Should the product design be adjusted for volume production? If so, how?
  • How can the product be improved after introduction to add value or to sell cheaper?
  • How long will people buy the product? What is its potential life span?

Brush photo
"We have a really fascinating design niche...We don't have one subclass...we sell both home and clothing...It is a very unique niche for the product assortment and within that assortment, we sell both our own private label and [purchased brands]. "

Diane Brush describes the product assortment niche for Garnet Hill, a catalog company that also sells on the Internet.



The product development strategy at every stage should reflect the company's business plan and core mission. For example,

  • If the plan positions the business as the low cost producer of screen printed T-shirts, then the product development process should focus on low cost design and production.
  • If the business plan is to be the technology leader in outerwear, then technical fibers, fabrics, and clothing structures should be the main product development consideration.
  • If customer service is the business plan's competitive edge, then the product should inspire loyalty between customer and designer.

1. How does design differ from product development?
2. How might design and product development be related to products whose main selling point is

  • innovation?
  • high fashion?
  • low cost?





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