From An Exciting Concept To A Real And Viable Product.


What’s involved in taking a product from an idea to fulfilling a real need in the market? What makes a product viable and profitable?


The product design and development process is an expedition of twists and turns, learning and refinement. We know and expect this and in fact, we thrive on the journey into the unknown to yield the results we want.


Turning an idea into a real, tangible, commercially viable product requires a defined, staged process to weed-out problems early on and at the same time, to discover what else is possible. Throughout the product design process, we maintain a clear end goal – to design and create a product to market that will help you grow your business.


Our industrial design and product development process has evolved through the extensive collective experience and knowledge in design that sits under one roof at Whistle.


We’ve outlined the design process from concept to commercial reality below.

Before You Call Us.

Complete A Project Outline, Business Plan And Design Brief.


Before you get involved with an industrial design company to kick off the product design process, there are a few things to get done at your end. This includes your business plan, design brief, NDA’s and more.


Business Planning.


To help you get started with your business plan, these are some of the questions we ask our prospective clients about their project and objectives:


  • What do you want to do with your idea?
  • Do you want to manufacture and sell yourself; eg Kickstarter, your own E-Commerce store, drop-shipping, Amazon FBA etc?
  • Or manufacture and wholesale?
  • Do you want to sell or license the idea?
  • Have you identified an opportunity?
  • Does it exist yet (patents)?
  • How have you measured the market?
  • Can you create a business (if one doesn’t yet exist) from your idea?
  • How much and what will it cost?
  • How long will it take to earn your ROI?


By asking the right questions up front, you uncover costly pitfalls down the track and set the scene for a successful product design process.

We’ve outlined steps below which will prepare you for the product design phase. These steps will help you develop your product concept, understand patents, budgets and there is an NDA to use if you wish.


Have you identified a unique opportunity? Have you found a niche? How well do you know your market? Who would be your competitors? Have you surveyed currently available product and documented it? Listed out all the features, specs, pricing, issues, opportunities for improvement? Do you know what product or safety standards apply to your product?


Being well researched achieves a few things. It allows you to really learn and understand your market and your competition. It also allows you to plan your numbers and your development. Consider preparing the following:


Market Analysis.

Who will buy your product?


Competitor Product Survey.

What else exists in your space?


SWOT Analysis.

What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your product/business?


Product/safety standards.

If applicable, what standards does your product need to meet?


Environmental requirements.

Where will your product be used? What temperature and weather extremes will it be exposed to. How might water, dust, vibration affect its performance?


Patents and Designs.

Are there any existing intellectual property protections in place? (More info later).

Patents & Designs

The two types of patents granted in Australia are the Standard Patent and the Innovation Patent.


Standard patents.


Standard patents require an inventive step, meaning the invention is not an obvious thing to do for someone with knowledge and experience in the technological field of the invention. Your invention must differ in some way from existing technology. This difference must be something more than the simple application of published information or standard background knowledge.  It lasts for up to 20 years from the filing date of your application.


Innovation patents.


Innovation patents require an innovative step rather than an inventive step. An innovative step exists when the invention is different from what is known before and the difference makes a substantial contribution to the working of the invention. The innovation patent protects an incremental advance on existing technology rather than being a ground-breaking invention.


An innovation patent is usually granted within a month of filing the complete application. This is because there is no examination before it is granted. An innovation patent lasts up to eight years and is designed to protect inventions that do not meet the inventive threshold required for standard patents.


For further information on patents, see




A Design (otherwise known as a Design Registration) is what makes a product look the way it does. It includes:


  • Shape,
  • Configuration,
  • Pattern, and
  • Ornamentation.


When applied to a product, it gives it a unique appearance. A Design right is a type of intellectual property (IP) to protect designs. It is registered under the Designs Act 2003.


Design registration aims to protect designs that have an industrial or commercial use. A registered Design gives you, the owner, exclusive rights to commercially use, licence or sell it. Registration protects your design for five years from the date the application was filed and can be renewed for a further five years.


For further information on design registrations, see

Business Plan

Why are you doing what you are doing? Product development is not cheap. How are you going to build a business from it? What funds will you invest, or, where will you seek funds from? Who will buy your product? How many will you sell? Some of these questions we have covered. Your business plan is where you start to bring this all together. We are not business advisors. We can’t guide you explicitly here. But we’ve been involved with a lot of new businesses, and of course, we set up our own!


You need to get down onto paper your formula for success. It needn’t be over the top. there are plenty of guides online to creating simple 1-page Business Plans. You can go as in depth as you like. But the point is, to write down your goals. Write down the numbers. Use conservative, honest estimates if you don’t know the actual figures. Answer the questions of:


1. What is my Business?

What is your Vision, mission and solution (your product)?


2. What is my Market?

What problem are you solving, for who, where are they, who are you competing against, what’s your advantage?


3. What is my Sales Plan?

Where and how will you sell, what might be your pricing strategy, what will be ALL of your costs?


4. How will I measure these things?

What are your KPI’s?


5. What is your timing?

What is a realistic plan to get to market?


Put all this together into a simple plan. Don’t be daunted by it. It’s one of the most important steps. Because the you need to work out HOW to make it happen.


Further down we talk more about your investment in the development and what costs to expect. We refer to it as an investment, because if done right, that’s what it is. The money you invest, will bring you a return on investment (ROI). So it’s important to plan out these costs in your Business Plan, and be realistic about them. If you are developing a new product, that requires thought, design, prototyping, testing, specification, and production, it all requires time and materials. Be realistic about the costs of having professional designers, engineers, project managers and suppliers work with you over many months to bring your idea to life. If your budget is low, you may have to do most of the work yourself if you can.


Some of the costs you’ll need to factor include: design fees, standards, prototype builds and shipping costs, testing and certifications, tooling, factory visits (local or international), material costs (for production), sample builds, first production runs, shipping (boxes, pallets or container) and duties, storage or warehousing if needed.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

If you are seeking assistance with a new idea, having a Non-Disclosure Agreement in place can help to ensure your confidential information is appropriately handled. We have provided our standard Non-Disclosure Agreement below. It’s concise and straightforward, without being constrictive. It allows you to share your ideas, plans, or any other information you need with us, to allow us to evaluate if we can help you on your project. Any information you share is stored on our systems with password protected access, until such point as you ask as to return or delete it.


We suggest you complete this Non-Disclosure Agreement in advance, and send through with your initial enquiry. To complete it, fill out your details under the “Owner” section, add a general description of the information you will be sharing under  “Description of Confidential Information ” and fill and sign the “Owner” section at the end. We’ll then co-sign and return a complete copy to you.  For information of how we handle your personal information, you can view our Privacy Policy here


Why do we ask for a “Description of Confidential Information”?


There are two reasons we ask for a description of the confidential information. The first, we need to know what the agreement refers to. For example, if you have an idea for a new type of hand tool, similar to a screwdriver, you should write “Usability improvement to screwdriver design.” Writing “Hand tool” is simply too generic as we may have worked on a number of hand tool projects of different varieties (we have!). The second reason, is to ensure as best we can that there is no “Conflict of Interest.” If we are already developing a new type of screwdriver for one client, it may be in conflict at that time to also develop for you. Especially if you both happened to be competitors in the same space. So this allows us to advise you if we think there may be any potential conflicts, before you exchange information.

Download Non-Disclosure Agreement

After you’ve completed this background work to define your objectives, you’ll naturally arrive at a point where you ask: “How can Whistle help me with this product design?”


That’s where we come in. To get those discussions underway, we need your Product Design Brief or Product Specification. The more preparation you have done, the more productive our discussions will be.


The Product Design Brief will help you capture and detail the purpose of your product in a methodical manner. At this stage it doesn’t need to be overly detailed, but it should capture all the important pieces of information you need us to know.


Include things like background information, a statement of the problem, the goals for the project, and what the expected timing might be. You should also include any reference images, sketches or photographs of mock-ups.

Download Design Brief Template


The Product Development Process.


Commercialisation is about getting your product to market, the pathway to turn an idea into a tangible product. It’s the process of planning, funding, development, production, distribution, marketing and sales – all critical steps to the successful introduction of a new product. We’ve honed our product development process to best support the commercialisation process.


Whereas most product designers will focus on getting products to market “fast,” we focus on getting products to market “right”. Our stages are built to de-risk the process, with multiple test, evaluation and documentation procedures in place to catch problems and address them early in the process when they are simpler (and cheaper) to resolve.

The Design Loop.


In our experience, no two projects are the same. However, each follows the same process. Plan. Design. Release. It’s that middle design stage where the variations occur. We know that some projects work the first time and we know that some go through several rounds of changes or improvements before being fit for release. Therefore, our process is based on the fundamental idea of a “Design-Build-Test-Evaluate” loop.

On average, we know that most projects will typically have three to five loop stages. Traditionally these might include an ideation stage, an initial concept stage, and a refined concept stage, before getting into engineering and prototyping. But what happens if we need to further refine? Or re-engineer? Or prototype more?


We’ve developed a best practice process to support the natural ebbs and flows of the design process, and to keep costs in-check while creating the best product for the end goal.


We call this the Design Loop.


A visual representation of this process is shown below. This constant feedback loop is inspired by the Agile process used in software development. It allows for early development to proceed quickly with the aim to build more prototypes and test sooner, which means we identity issues or areas for improvement earlier. Importantly, it also involves stakeholders earlier on to make it a much more collaborative process.


Through the Design Loop, we are able to de-risk the development process and keep a close eye on timing and budget. The end goal of our process is to successfully achieve your project goals, to move from an idea right through to production handover, and to ensure you are the owner of an outstanding final product.

Product Development Process


Discovery & Planning.


This is the setup phase of the project. It’s super important to develop a complete understanding of the project, its requirements and plan for the development. Typical steps in the stage include:


1a Begin the Product Design Specification (PDS).

This is a shared technical specification listing out every requirement, be it technical, functional, environmental or otherwise, that provides direction and records decisions made.


1b Research.

Research and document information relating to market, competitors, materials, process, manufacturing methods or any other area relevant to solving the problems.


1c Investigation into Standards and Product Safety requirements.

For more information on Standards, visit Standards Australia. Further information on Product Safety (Australia), visit Product Safety Australia.


1d Build Development Plan. 

Once we have a better idea of the requirements, research and Standards to conform to, we flesh out a more complete plan and timing.


Design Loop.


This is where the magic happens. It’s the iterative part of the process where the product comes to life. The major steps include:


2a Design.

Always beginning with a design step, this is essentially where we plan for the build. Be it proof-of-concept, aesthetic, functional or detail design. This is where we develop the solutions to the problem


2b Build.

Following each design step, we build the solution, to be able to see whether its solves the problem. Continuous prototyping is paramount to developing great products. We use a number of technologies, from hand made forms and in-house 3D-printing for quick turnaround testing, to FDM, SLA, SLS, CNC for accurate production material properties, Direct-Metal 3D printing, and low-volume casting/moulding methods.


2c Test.

As we are developing something that people interact with, being able to handle tactile prototypes provides invaluable feedback early on. Following pre-defined criteria established during the planning stages, we test the builds to identify issues relating to ergonomics, function, aesthetic and other required areas.


2d Evaluate.

Did the build pass? Where did it fail? How can we improve it? For all the virtual simulations and checks we can do in CAD, having the builds to evaluate provides the best feedback to determine whether we have developed the best product we can. On evaluation, if we pass, we exit the S02 Design Loop and move to the S03 Release stage, and if we fail, we document and plan the required changes, and re-loop to improve the design.


Release Documentation.


Once the design and build is signed-off, we prepare data for production release. This can include assets such as:


3a Final Specification.

Product Design Specification up to date with all latest information.


3b Bill of Materials (BOM).

Build list with all assembly/part/drawing versions and release history and dates of all files/types packaged for suppliers


3c Manufacturing Drawings.

2D drawing set to accompany final 3D, covering critical dimensioning and tolerances, materials and finishes by location, and any other information required to fabricate the part. These drawing need to be able to convey EVERYTHING the supplier needs to know to fabricate the part correctly, without us being there to explain it.


3d Colour, material and finish (CMF) specification.

A separate CMF document with Pantone or RAL colour references, materials and finishes, referencing industry standard Mold-Tech or Yick Sang finishes where applicable.


3e Final render set.

Orthographic and 3D renders of final product for use in your strategy material.


3f Packaging specification (individual, bulk carton or otherwise).

How is the product sent from factory to you or your distribution channel?


3g Other production documentation.




The final stage in readying for full production requires working with the chosen manufacturer/s to ensure the parts/products are built to the highest standards. Here we assist with:


4a Supplier visits.

Local or overseas (at Time + Costs).


4b Supplier liaison.

Supplier management, including technical support and multi-supplier co-operation.


4c Tool design reviews.

Review of production tool designs for items such as flow/gate/pin position to ensure best finished part quality.


4d Quality control documentation or test specifications.

Preparation of test procedures for quality control at production level, including specifications, go/no-go tests, rigs and assembly line tools and jigs.


4e Off-tool Sample Reviews (OTS).

Review and reporting of off-tool sample issues or approvals (Eg. T0 (Mold verification), T1, T2 etc.).


4f Gold sample specification and storage.

Inspection, documentation, approval and preparation of Gold Sample sets.

How Many Loops?

The number of design loops varies project to project, and is generally lower on simpler projects with a more obvious solution, and can be higher on more complex projects or those with a large number of unknowns.


A rough overview of loops may look something like the following.

Loop 1 – Proof-of-Concept.

First design and build for prototype purposes to validate the concept and test initial solutions.


Loop 2 – Initial Detail Design.

First detail build, more accurately representing final design direction, including aesthetic design.


Loop 3 – Revised Detail Design.

Second detail build, correcting issues from the first build, as well as making improvements and adjustments.


Loop N – Subsequent Design Loops.

Each subsequent loop progressively improving and refining the design to pass defined test criteria and receive client sign off.


Loop X – Final Detail Design.

All builds work, tests passed, Design-Freeze for Release.

Your Investment.

The question everyone asks, “What will it cost?”


Unfortunately this not a straightforward answer as every project is different. Number of parts, mechanisms, electronics etc can provide a good indication as to complexity, in that a single piece product will (generally) be much more straightforward to develop than a 200+ piece of equipment. This goes on to affect the number of design loops required and builds needed. Below we give some very rough, ballpark type numbers to help you with your planning.

Once we’ve discussed your project with you, we’ll be able to give you a more accurate estimate.


Throughout the development program, we’ll generally complete work on a Time and Materials (T&M) basis. For the purpose of Client budgeting, we provide Stage Fee estimations and are committed to working within these estimations. Unless Stage Fees are explicitly stated as Fixed Price, the final Stage Fees are calculated on a T&M basis. These are supported by work reports and breakdown of material costs.

Small Projects

AUD 15 – 50k

Estimated timeframe 6 – 9 months


Smaller projects, consisting of fewer parts, generally using known or existing mechanisms or technologies.

Medium Projects

AUD 50 – 200k

Estimated timeframe 9-18 months


Medium projects, consisting of larger assemblies, with some unknowns, simple electronics, more testing standards to conform to.

Large Projects

AUD 200k +

Estimated timeframe 12-24 months


Larger projects, consisting of high volumes of parts and assemblies, unknown solutions to complex problems, in-depth electronics builds, and significant testing with stringent pass criteria.

A Few Notes On Fees.


Fee estimates listed in our Proposals are based on an agreed scope of work. These estimates will be subject to change according to the evolving requirements of the project.



All fees are quoted in AUD and exclude GST. Fees can also be quoted in RMB, USD or EU for international clients.


A Deposit, equal to the S01 Stage fee, is required to prior to commencing work.


Progress Payments

Progress payment Invoices will be issued at completion of stage milestones as laid out in the Development Plan.


Business plan developed.

Budgets defined.

Research collated.

Design brief complete.

Non-Disclosure Agreement complete.

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