What Is the Conceptual Design Process?

by Ruth Eshbaugh - Updated September 26, 2017

If you want to hire a designer for any design project, whether it is for a graphic, interior, fashion or architectural design, ideas at some point need to be realized in a final design and product. How an idea passes through the design process from concept to design to implementation happens in context of a conversation between the designer and the customer. Communication is essential. Just like a conversation follows no set rule, the design process varies from project to project, designer to designer and customer to customer. Somehow the project gets completed, and that is the conceptual design process.

Fact Gathering

The designer must have a good idea of what the customer wants in order to begin designing. This first step can be a phone call, a series of emails or a face-to-face interview. Some designers ask customers to fill out a questionnaire. The designer may ask the customer if he has any reference material or examples of products like the one he desires. The designer may also want to do research on this own. The more information a designer can gather, the more easily he will be able to satisfy the customer with a pleasing design.


Once the designer gathers the facts and looks over examples of similar products, he needs to allow his creative side to kick in. This phase of the design process is characterized by note taking, sketching and organizing the work. The designer will have the customer’s goal in mind as he strategizes on the best way to approach the project. More research may be involved as he tries to determine the best outcome for the process. A fashion designer will look at fabric and consider color trends. A graphic designer may decide on paper choice and may look at Pantone color swatches.

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A misconception of the design process by customers not familiar with it is that designers start at design. Customers need to be educated on the first two steps. If the first two steps are done well, the design process is streamlined and the results are more accurate. Next, the designer will put on paper or input into a computer the best ideas he has assembled. The customer should expect to receive at this point several fleshed out but incomplete designs for his input and approval. The customer needs to realize the designs have yet to be refined. The design phase of the process may be repeated several times.


Once the designer receives input from the customer, the refining process takes place. One design is decided upon, and the designer brings it up to industry standards so that the design can be printed, manufactured or implemented depending on the type of design being developed. The customer will give final approval in writing before the design is implemented.


The finished design is sent to the appropriate vendor: graphic designs to a printer, product designs to a manufacturer, fashion designs to a seamstress. An interior designer will hire workers like painters and carpenters. They will purchase carpet, furniture and art as decided upon, overseeing the project.

About the Author

Ruth Eshbaugh is a freelance graphic designer, writer, artist and photographer who has been writing for eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and other websites since 2008. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Eshbaugh is a published haiku author.

Photo Credits

  • design drawing image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com
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