Concept and design, these words each have their own place. When talking to a designer, it helps to be able to speak the same language. These are two terms that have caused confusion between clients and designers are. There could be a lengthy argument for when each word should be used, or even that they are interchangeable. However, clearly defining a word’s meaning can help make sure the right conversation is had.
To put it simply; a concept is an early refinement of an idea. To us it has the additional meaning of being something that can be understood easily. Concepts can come alive in many different forms. 3D models, sketches, renders, verbal or written descriptions, a scribble, a single sentence, models, or animations. The range of options we have at our disposal to convey concepts are vast. Concepts do not have to exist in reality. They can push the envelope of reality and go places we can’t yet.
Designs are concepts that have developed blueprints, drawings, and/or specifications. This means someone knows exactly how to create the idea in real life. This doesn’t mean that a design is final. Most designs go through revisions and changes, but no decent design remains vague. A good design has every detail accounted for and exists in a measurable and definable way. Designs are rooted in the here and now, they follow current technologies and our understanding of physics. There are always “blue-sky projects” the leading edge of design that follows our craziest concepts and pushes us forward. Those are concepts though, not something you can make or use today. However, the majority of design sits comfortably in the achievable realm.
At the Peterman Design Firm we follow this: a concept is any idea not ready for production and a design is one that is. We, along with many designers, work through the entire process, concept to production. In order to go to production, you need a design. To create a design, you need a concept. Getting a concept starts with an idea. We facilitate concepts, designs, and every step in between.