What is the new product development process? From idea to product.

What is the new product development process? From idea to product.

Discover what it takes for successful startup companies to bring their idea to the market. Starting up a business is easy, creating a strong product strategy with a unique brand positioning strategy is a bit more complicated...

What are the 5 essential steps in the new product development process?

The whole process is marked by clearly defined stages, each with its own characteristics, techniques and result. Each product design project follows these phases. You begin with the ‘project briefing’, a rough briefing of the specific problem, context, idea or opportunity you’re going to work on. It sets the challenges for your team and gives them enough information to start working. Next you get to the ‘research’ phase, where you try to gather as much valuable information as needed. These insights are then processed into the ‘design brief’,  a list of specifications and requirements, the guidelines needed for further development. The end of this phase marks the beginning of the ‘ideation’ phase, where you use creativity techniques to imagine lots of rough ideas. A selected set of ideas are detailed in the ‘product concept proposal phase’. At this moment, rough ideas get transformed and fine-tuned into finished products and/or services. In the last phase you try to make these product ideas tangible by using several prototyping techniques.

0) Project briefing: How to start a new project?

A project begins with an attitude of ‘opportunity finding’. It all comes down to identifying opportunities in the world around you. You can do this by interacting with your environment, reading magazines or newspapers, talking to people, spotting trends, analysing problems, … It’s basically a mindset you have to develop to observe problems and opportunities everywhere around you! Once you’ve identified this opportunity, try to verify it and write it down. Describe it clearly so everyone understands it immediately. Try to be as concrete as possible, sketch out the context, the challenges and the opportunity. This results in an ‘initial project briefing’: a description of the target user, a list of requirements & specifications, etc...

1) How to gather information about your project?

Once you’ve stated an opportunity, it’s time to do research where you need to investigate further to gather insights and expertise. Topics of interest are:

  • who are the stakeholders involved?
  • how do they relate to the challenges?
  • what  does the market/competition surrounding you look like?
  • which competing products exist?

The most important clue here is to put the user up front: we call this approach ‘human-centered design’. (Learn more about it here.) Deep understanding of the user-needs is essential to create something to meet those needs in the end.

Gathering information can be done in multiple ways. Ranging from a passive approach to an active one. By doing desk research, you gather information that is readily at hand. This includes articles, books, papers, video-fragments, websites, etc… A more active way of collecting information first hand is called field-research and conducts of taking interviews with experts and users, observing users from a distance (like a fly on the wall) or participate in their activities.

2) How to create a design brief?

When research is done, we translate these insights into a design brief. Look at it as a sort of ‘agreement’ between everyone involved on what the final result will look like and where we are heading with the project.

  • What’s the goal?
  • What will we deliver in the end?
  • What characteristics will the product/service have?

These product/service characteristics can be categorised as:

  • Human: ergonomics, usability, ...
  • Economic: cost, business model, ...
  • Technical: materials, manufacturing, …

You need to be very specific and complete with this list! Try to quantify as much as possible.

3) How to generate new product ideas?

The next step is to generate ideas. We do this through brainstorming and ideation techniques.

  • What-if?: Ask questions in the form of ‘What if …?’ Answer them with small ideas.
  • Storyboard: Envision a story in sequences. Write them down or make small drawings.
  • Brainwriting: Pass ideas in group and contribute by adding new elements to the original.
  • 5 why’s: Ask ‘why?’ 5 times about a problem to get to the root problem and value.

These rough ideas are sketched down and evaluated to select the ones that meet the prescribed design brief requirements the best. Only a few ideas are then selected for further development. You can do this by dot-voting, every participant gets limited dots to vote on ideas, the ones with the most dots pass the voting.

4) How to present your product concept proposal to investors or stakeholders?

Only a few ideas get detailed further. Now is the time to gather round and try to finetune and detail your idea.

Elevator pitch

Fill in this sentence structure: "For (target customer), who has (user need), (product name) is a (market category) that (key benefit), unlike (competitor), the product (unique differentiator)".

Hero Sketch

Make a large visual representation (or scheme) of your product. Try to include as little words as possible. Try to limit the number of images. The product should be instantly understandable.


  Eastpak design: hero sketch (copyright Edmire)

Eastpak design: hero sketch (copyright Edmire)


5) What are the most effective prototyping techniques?

The last step is to make a tangible form of your product concept to gather feedback from the stakeholders. By building you also learn more about your concept and you give it a physical form to experience it first-hand. Prototyping can be made low-tech with materials readily at hand (e.g. paper, woord, …) or it can be done more advanced through 3D-printing, CNC-cutting, etc…

  (image source: https://dysonthedesigner.weebly.com/design-process.html)

(image source: https://dysonthedesigner.weebly.com/design-process.html)

  (source: https://gizmodo.com/5648745/this-is-the-original-prototype-of-the-super-soaker)

(source: https://gizmodo.com/5648745/this-is-the-original-prototype-of-the-super-soaker)


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