Paul Hill by Paul Hill

A quick guide to the product design cycle

  • Design Process
  • General

The product design cycle is a complex process, especially when targeting an unfamiliar market or audience segment.

You might have no idea what a specific demographic wants or how to address a complicated problem.

But the product design cycle, when executed properly, can prevent teams from becoming overwhelmed — and lead to better, more relevant products.

How does it work? Let’s take a closer look…

What is the product design cycle and what are its main uses?

The product design cycle is a structured process that answers three core questions:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Who has this problem and how does it affect them?
  • How can we solve that problem and how will that solution benefit users?

The process may appear daunting to beginners, but it helps make everything easier and increases your likelihood of success.

Stages of the product design cycle

There are five main stages:


The Empathy stage focuses on understanding your target customers. The better you know the people who’ll invest in your product, the better you can cater to their needs. 

That’s where research comes in. Sure, writing interview templates and analysing survey responses may not be the most exciting part of the product design cycle — but it is essential. 

Otherwise, you’re building a product based on assumptions.


Now, the design team has to define the main problem they need to solve and start identifying routes to success. 

The Define stage involves working out how the product addresses the buyer’s pain point with user personas and jobs-to-be-done. 


With the problem defined, product designers transition to the Ideation stage. 

They’ll generate a wealth of ideas that could solve the focus problem. Ideation is a freeing, experimental process in which almost any idea is on the table. 

It’s an opportunity to get creative and outline some viable ideas that could evolve into a marketable product. 


Prototyping allows product designers to put ideas into action. 

Designers can see how well their concepts work in a functional form rather than as notes on a page. They can decide early on if an idea needs to be reworked or scrapped. It can also trigger fresh ideas that take a product in bold new directions.


Finally, designers present testers with a version of the product to gather critical feedback. 

Users can identify issues and make suggestions that might not have occurred to the product design team otherwise. They can tweak and improve the product before it hits the market — avoiding potential expenses and negative responses down the line.

How can you get the product design cycle right?

So, we’ve covered the cycle, why it matters, and what it involves. 

Not sure where to start? Want a little expert help to lighten the load?

Never fear — Thunk is here.

We specialise in: 

  • Product and service design
  • Organisational discovery
  • User research
  • And much more!