Product Design vs. Product Development

Learn what product design and product development each entail, and how they affect your end product and user experience.

Product design
November 19, 2021

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In the design process and development of a product, design engineers and market researchers work together in different phases of the development cycle. Here is what product design entails, and what specialists in product development do.

From the idea for a product to it stocking shelves or being downloaded on users’ smartphones, there is a long development process. It entails many phases, including design.

In this article, we’ll explain all the steps involved in a product development cycle, as well as how product design plays a part in the overall process.

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What is product design?

Product design is one of the many stages of development that involves building, testing, and creating an information architecture for goods.

Wireframes, prototypes, journey maps, layouts and high-fidelity mockups that they create, are meant to help the production, marketing, and business teams in other stages of the development cycle by combining usability and customer experience objectives with business goals.

There are three main types of product design:

  • System design
  • Process design
  • Interface design

In web design, product designers are also sometimes referred to as UX designers, which is not identical, but many of their responsibilities are similar. In the development of physical products, industrial engineers often do the part of product designers.

Product design is a crucial part of the development cycle because it can aid it in foreseeing and minimizing flaws in the product and bottlenecks in the production process. Among other things, it can help with:

  • Ease of use: you can create an amazing product, but if people are struggling to make the best out of its basic properties and use, it might eventually fail.
  • Marketability: Effective and modern designs of products make them a bigger market success, especially if innovation is involved.
  • Design and branding: Essential in product design, as in anything else. The product can be intuitive, efficient and useful, but without implementing the brand’s design elements and symbols, it won’t do well from a marketing perspective. If the brand awareness suffers, so does the success of the product, and product designers need to consider this too.
  • Production costs: The materials used in product manufacturing, their costs, characteristics and durability, transportation and supply, all have a massive impact on the final profits of a product.
  • Efficiency: Finally, product design is important because it can determine how efficient a product is. If you are to market something for a particular use, but it doesn’t do its job well, it might need to be iterated or fully scraped from the market. Production design is the phase where big flaws are usually uncovered, making it very important for the final product’s success.

What is product development?

Product development is an all-around process of ideating, creating and marketing a successful product. Market research, conceptualizing and design, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and customer service and experience are all part of product development.

Its main goal is to find pain points, assess all costs and goals of a product and have problem-solving in its main objectives, from idea to final design and manufacturing of the product.

These product development processes will continue till the development cycle is completed. That is to say, product development encompasses far more than product design or any other stage of the process.

Simply put, product development is the process of generating new products from the ground up. From concept to market placement and marketing, it's a lengthy procedure.

The stages of product development are:

  • Competitor analysis: Assessing the pros and cons of other companies in the industry.
  • Target audience research: Finding the values, habits and tastes of the ideal buyers.
  • Idea generation: Brainstorming the look, usage and pricing of the product.
  • Market screening: Testing and optimizing the performance of the test product on the real market.
  • Product design: Prototyping, wireframing and testing the look and structure of the product.
  • Product concept testing and iteration: Production and testing its usability, correcting any detected flaws.
  • Marketing: Constant promotion on the market.
  • Commercialization: Supply, transportation and sales.

It is important to understand that product development is not a single phase, which means that you can’t assume that someone working in either of the development phases is a “product developer”. Market and business analysts, engineers, marketers, manufacturers and other professionals are part of the development team. Developers, on the other hand, are professionals responsible for writing the code of digital products.

How do the two collide?

As we noted before, while product development is a long-running process that encompasses everything from brainstorming to marketing and selling a final product, product design is one step of the whole cycle.

Product design is an essential step of the development process, as it can help organize the production, test and iterate the product, as well as create amazing and innovative products. The two steps are inherently intertwined, and product development can only be successful if it includes a great portion of designing.


Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.

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