In this guide, we’ll explain what a design concept is, the purpose of creating one prior to beginning the development lifecycle, and how to create a strong design concept to optimize the user experience and create maximum value for your customers.
A design concept consists of sketches, mood boards, images, and short descriptions that define the general aesthetic quality of a product.
The purpose of a design concept is to help designers and developers visualize what the product should look like and, in doing so, drive additional value for customers. Moreover, it gives the design team confidence that their concept is worth investing resources into building.
A good design concept visually demonstrates the product’s core objective and often serves as a design guide. To achieve an outstanding product design concept, designers must understand the problem, target user, stakeholder expectation, and aesthetic of view.
A design concept is an early-stage idea that provides designers with in-depth and meaningful direction. Spending a good amount of time on the design concept reduces the risk of setbacks and enables everyone on the team to clearly understand the idea.
Failure to invest time upfront on creating a design concept can also impact the final product outcome. The desired outcome for any product team is providing a world-class experience that bolsters the organization’s brand, value, and revenue. A design concept establishes the foundation of the product design with proper design guidelines in statement form.
Moreover, the design concept establishes the emotions, experience, style, sustainability, features, and functional, technical, risk, and cultural boundaries, which makes it easier to pitch ideas to stakeholders and UI/UX designers.
When you start building a product from scratch, it is important to have a clear purpose and goal. You must also identify any potential risks because, without clarity, design efforts can be dangerous and expensive.
A solid design concept not only speeds up the design process, but also helps deliver a visually stunning experience that reflects the brands and value of the product. A design concept is especially valuable when the design team is working on an idea to solve a problem because it enables the team to bridge the gap between idea and possible experience
Additionally, a design concept facilitates clear communication of expectations to the UI/UX team without diving deep into the details. The design concept is the foundation of the design process before kicking off actual design work.
Let’s consider an example. Suppose you’re building a design concept for a mobile/web application. You should take the following steps to establish a foundation, guidelines, and detailed design process:
The first step in creating a design concept is to organize your thoughts around the creative process. At this stage, it’s crucial to consider the app’s purpose, goals, business objective, and brand resonance.
Analyze the information collected from user research, discovery, and competitive analysis and clear any doubts with your business stakeholders. This data serves as the basic building blocks of your design concept before moving to the next stage.
Writing the design concept in text format saves time and channels your thoughts toward the goals associated with a customer problem. This activity can be time-boxed.
Have each concept team member phrase their thoughts in a statement or two. Then, break it down into sequences of phrases that precisely define the product design concept.
At the end of the session, all unique phrases can be merged into multiple single sentences. You might develop more than one concept as the first level of validation with your stakeholders and customers to get their input. Multiple concepts and related sketches allow you to visualize various ways to create unique experiences.
Low-fi sketches should accompany each design concept statement. These sketches should be done on paper using pen, marker, and pencils around the goals, persona, and problems.
The trick is not to invest too much time in creating a detailed design at this step. It should be a high-level, low-fidelity sketch and it doesn’t have to align with how the app looks.
These sketches should act as a spark for creativity and inspiration.
The final step is to finalize a concept for the app and move it to UX/UI designers.
At this stage, the designers have enough information to start with the actual work of prototyping and rapid-testing. For example, mood board, persona, emotions, aesthetics, colors, typography, and user problems are a few important anecdotes and artifacts that keep the team on the same page.
To create a design concept statement, follow the steps outlined below
At this stage, the product design concept identifies what the product should do and how users might perceive the functionality and features that add value to their lives.
Furthermore, the design concept helps designers think outside the box by thoroughly evaluating the emotions, community, culture, risk, nature, and sustainability aspects around the problem areas before enabling the design activities.
In these subsequent steps, the researchers and designers reemphasize who the product is for. The design concept activity allows them to look at all the important areas and risks associated with ideating world-class product experiences and ways to curate to serve different personas and archetypes.
Additionally, design concepts provide an opportunity for design ideation on paper, which helps you evaluate the purpose, goals, and business objectives and write a concept that is pure, unique, and not derivative of competitors’ applications.
This step involves organizing the creative process and identifying unique ways to invoke user emotions through design parameters.
More to the point, this step is about giving context and ideas after understanding your personas. Parameters considered at this stage include the look, typography, color schemes, fonts, text, and visual choices that resonate with the brand and product.
The final step is to communicate the aforementioned details clearly and concisely to stakeholders.
Articulating your design concept on paper is a great way to gain stakeholder buy-in. It’s always advisable to write the design concept statement in the third person to reflect the persona’s wants and needs.
Once the design concept is done, the design team begins executing the detailed design process and the development team builds all validated and tested solutions to bring up the MVP or subsequent beta releases.
There are no hard and fast rules or steps to follow once design concepts are done. It depends on the size and vision of the company.
Many SMBs and startups prefer kicking off the design process and development immediately. In contrast, big enterprises often prefer running more discovery, research, and experiments before finalizing the applications’ features and functionalities.
The important point is that once the design concepts are done, taking an app to market is always faster than traditional development. Ideally, you should carry out the tasks described below once the design concept is ready:
The product team, internal stakeholders, leadership, and investors often evaluate the final design concepts. The collected inputs may be used if needed to revise the existing concept.
The trick is to establish a workshop with all relevant stakeholders while creating the design concept so that during the review, no major changes are suggested in the concept statement and design.
The prototyping can be high-fidelity and might involve continuous user interviews and A/B testing. The product team’s main focus is around finding problem-solution fit and continuously validating with users.
Designers, along with product managers, work around validation strategy using prototypes. Rapid iterative testing and evaluation (RITE) and other usability testing methods are important ways of running testing.
This step is designed to evaluate the design experience multiple times in an iterative manner. It is a very detailed step, unlike the design concept, which is high-level.
The outcome of these tests is to develop only features and experiences that have been fully usability tested.
Once the usability test is done, the next step is the final development of the app.
If we analyze the entire process, development comes at the end to ensure that our application is well-tested and designed to solve the customer’s problem. Additionally, it de-risks the product team’s effort, capital, and time.
A design concept is a brief blueprint of design goals and processes for the product team. It inspires the team to understand why the idea is worth designing, experimenting with, developing, and taking to market.
A well-written design concept further accelerates the process of unerstanding the customer and the problem from the beginning and provides a firm base for UI/UX, developers, and the overall product team to be on the same page.
A design concept also provides an opportunity to look around emotional, creative, color, aesthetics, and brand aspects to express the idea in terms of simple sketches accompanied by a few words as design concepts.
At the end of the day, a design concept is one of the most important practices for building an application from scratch.
Featured image source: IconScout
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