The 3 Key Elements of Product Design

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Developing a product from start to finish is a huge undertaking for any company. There are so many things to think about when it comes to creating a product. 

Questions like “Is there a need for this in my market?”, and, “Will people actually buy my product?” are all questions that seem to haunt every business owner in every industry.

But, once you do your research and find that there is a need for your product idea, you can begin to think about actually designing your product for your customers.

I have been creating graphics products for awhile now, and designed stationery products for my first business, a stationery design studio. I have also designed paper goods for brands and individuals over the last 9 years. What I have learned over the course of my design career is that there are 3 things I feel are key components to great product design.

The 3 key elements of product design are:

  1. The Functional Use of the Product
  2. The Outward Appearance Design
  3. The Quality Delivered to Your Customers

When you go shopping for something in a store or online you already have in mind what you need, and what the product needs to do for you. Granted, there are people who like to window shop and find things they were not necessarily looking for but have to have it (I do that all the time in Target - yep I have a light up coffee sign to prove it), but when a customer is looking for a solution, they know what they need already. It is up to you to fill that need and provide a functional, beautifully designed, quality solution if you want them to be your customer.

You also have to keep delivering great solutions over and over again if you want them to stay your customer.

Let’s begin discussing these key components of outstanding product design so you can start planning something incredible to create for your future customers.


1.) The Functional Use of the Product

Before you can start thinking about how your product should look, you need to think about how it works and what it does for your buyer. The definition of the word Functional, is “designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive.” (Source - Google's definition results box)

Think about how useful your product would be to your customer and put yourself in their shoes. Does it solve a pain point for them? What feature can you incorporate into the design of the product that will really “wow” them?

A great product is incredibly useful, incorporates great functionality, and usually solves a problem for your buyer.

2.) The Outward Appearance Design

The outward design and look of your product is the surface design. Depending on what the product is, the design can be minimal or detailed; it can apply to just a small area of the surface of the product; or it can cover the entire product with a pattern design or artwork.

  Mockup using my  Orchard Park Graphics

Mockup using my Orchard Park Graphics

To save time in developing a product, many brands decide to hire or license artwork and pattern designs to create the look for their products. Or they have an in-house design team to develop the overall design of the product. Research is done to see who the ideal buyer is for their product, and what design themes are trending in the market. Based on this information you can develop a product the customer will fall in love with because it connects their functional product need with their personal style, who they are, and what the product will reflect about them.

The example image above features artwork from my Orchard Park Graphics Set, and my clients save tons of time in developing products by licensing my illustrations. 

3.) The Quality Delivered to Your Customers

Quality is probably the most important thing to get right in today’s marketplace. Care must be taken in developing a very high quality product. I spend months developing a new product and focus on creating highly valuable artwork and solutions for my clients first.

The quality of the product delivered to your customers is just one part of what I mean when talking about quality. What I look for when I am buying a product is not just the quality of the product itself, but the quality of the company, as well. A company should serve its employees and its customers in a mutually beneficial way. 

Today’s buyer values quality companies that care. Buying from a quality company is important to me, and I try to use companies and services that put their customers and employees happiness first whenever possible.

If you never lose sight of caring for your customers, they will feel it and you will find so much joy in their happiness.  What a really wonderful way to earn their trust and grow your business!