I’m sometimes asked what concepting is and how it fits into the process of developing a product. I’ve even had people, mostly new inventors, tell me that there is no need for concepting as they already have it all figured out. As a designer for over a decade, I have seen the projects where concepting was skipped, and they never turn out as well as the ones who put time into concepting.
Concepting is the process of taking any idea, expanding on it and creating new and different versions and variations of it, then reviewing those concepts to narrow them down. The expanding and contracting of ideas lets us create freely, sometimes with our heads in the clouds, and then become grounded again in the selection process. This is the part where innovation can truly shine, and bring ideas that would never have been created, to life. While creativity and innovation are a part of the entire process, concepting is where there is the least amount of limits for creating.
The tools of concepting are many and varied, but the most common is sketching, quick 3D modeling, or using foam to create “sketch” models of ideas. Depending on the project, we’ve even gone into full model building to get a concept into a form that could be best used and understood. It’s all about the best way to communicate an idea. For the most part, we’re able to stay to the sketching and 3D side, which is the most cost effective, but can bring in many different materials and skills to create concepts that communicate best.
With most projects, concepting is absolutely imperative, and leads to designs that are well thought out. Some projects can definitely do with less concepting, but even just a quick amount of concepting can create better solutions than the original idea. Original ideas are great, but until concepting has been applied, it should never be assumed to be the best solution yet. Very occasionally I’ve run into a product that the original idea was the best. However, I’ve worked on hundreds of products, and that means less than 1% of original ideas came out as the best way to move forward. You can also learn more about concepting in our two other articles: 5 Ways to Use Concepting (Ideation) Effectively with Your Designer & Concept vs Design