Engineering Product Development Phases: Conceptual Design vs. Detailed Design

Engineering Geek
3 min readDec 9, 2020


Any successful project has careful planning behind it. The first smartphone, the advent of electricity, and the automobile everything we use today were once nothing more than an initial concept. Similarly, the engineering team follows a product development process entailing both conceptual design and detailed design to address the industry’s needs.

Engineering Product Development

Let us understand the difference between the two and their role in the product design process:

What is Conceptual Design?

Conceptual design is the first phase of the product design process, with drawings, illustrations, or solid models to produce the main output. This stage describes the proposed product with integrated ideas and concepts. It determines what it should do, perform & look like to make users understand its idea.

Visualizing the product is an essential aspect of this phase. It includes the design of interactions, processes, experiences & strategies. The design is grounded in more abstract thinking until a detailed plan is ready to be created.

What is Detailed Design?

Detailed design is a phase that takes on and develops the approved conceptual design. It is a stage where the design is refined and plans, specifications & estimates are created. The detailed design includes 2D and 3D models, cost build-up estimates, procurement plans, P &ID’s and more. It is the crucial phase in which project’s costs are defined and set.
Engineering companies are continually looking to improve their detailed design phase to shorten the product development lifecycle considering the increased product complexity.

Importance of Conceptual and Detailed Design Phase

Both the design phase has different roles that play a vital role in the product development process. Designers and other development team experts brainstorm product ideas based on intense research in the conceptual design phase. After discussing ideas, the engineering services firm or in-house team creates sketches and a series of reliable models to illustrate the product’s vision. Conceptual design is an iterative approach that often uncovers flaws and shortcomings in the product design idea. However, suppose a product idea is finalized in the conceptual design phase. In that case, a product comes to life with the detailed design phase. The product specifications, estimated cost & drawings get reviewed with a careful lookout in this stage.

Most professionals recommend opting for a company with expertise in both conceptual design and detailed design. It enables you to develop product design and development with innovative ideas. Suppose you consider assigning the two phases in different silos. In that case, it will result in disjointed communication during the product development process.

The detailed design phase converts concept ideas, design specifications and technical requirements into final designs. The designs are further refined, and proper documentation for manufacturing is done to ensure the order’s timely delivery. However, it is impossible to envision some of the items without the conceptual design phase. The failures in the conceptual design stage need to be considered in the detailed design stage. If you’re looking for detail design engineering services, consider hiring a single resource as it is critical for the two phases to work together.