Maximizing innovation in new product development requires a commitment to, focus on, and investment in conceptual design. Technological advances and more efficient 3D design systems have streamlined product development, reducing design cycles, controlling costs, and improving quality. However, while 3D CAD technologies have revolutionized product design and manufacturing workflows, their primary focus is on production—on taking a design through all of the detailed steps required to manufacture a product. Conceptual design—creating the innovative concepts that will pay dividends down the road—is a decidedly different undertaking, with its own needs, challenges, and objectives.
While the ultimate goal of conventional product development is to make a product, the endpoint of conceptual design is to discover innovation, transforming new ideas into workable concepts for future development and production. In addition to having separate objectives, product design and conceptual design require different workflows and approaches to be effective. For example, conceptual design focuses on concepts instead of details, and requires free-flowing collaboration and communication with extended stakeholders (e.g., customers, partners, etc.) early during conceptualization, rather than precise communication and documentation with downstream departments after a design is already established. Conceptual designers explore the “what if” rather than the “what is”, and investigate how to design an innovative concept rather than how to make a product. These distinctly different workflows, challenges, and goals require a design solution that’s tailored specifically to conceptual design.