Product Design


Whether you have thought about it or not, design is a part of everyday life. Product Design is there from the moment you wake. Your senses are bombarded by the sounds, colours, smells and textures of products. The design process has been applied to things we use every day to make our lives easier, from the built environment we live and work in, to smaller products such as smart phones. Most products have been designed in order to provide solutions to specific problems identified by individual designers, clients or corporate organisations. Some are totally new ideas, but most are the result of improvements made to existing products.

You will study a wide selection of theory topics such as materials, components and applications for products. You will develop a strong understanding of the design process and manufacturing systems. Taking A-Level Product Design will prepare you in developing your creative and innovative design skills that will be enhanced by your determination to solve problems and achieve a satisfaction for the portfolio of work you will have worked so hard to create.

3D Design could take you into a number of innovative and exciting career paths. To start with there is product or automotive design. But what about computer generated cartoons? Or maybe CAD/CAM appeals to you more? This course could take you into a variety of dynamic careers such as architecture, teaching, manufacturing, advertising or engineering so the possibilities are endless if you have a passion for design. Within the 3D Design industry, there are enormously fulfilling career paths. You have an idea and with the use of tools such as blue foam or 3D CAD programs – it comes to life. Imagine how satisfying it must be for British designer Johnathan Ive who designed the iPhone to hold the finished product in his hand. Can it get any better than that?

Course Outline

Students will be studying a two year course from September 2017 due to new modern and enhanced specifications. The new qualification places greater emphasis on understanding and applying iterative design processes. The students can learn about contemporary technologies, materials and processes, as well as established practices. Students will also use their creativity and imagination to design and make prototypes that solve real and relevant problems, considering their own and others’ needs, wants and values.

Year 12 - Theory Units Term 1 to 6

Unit Title Topics covered
Materials, components and application Polymers, metals, alloys, timbers, paper and boards, composites, smart and modern materials, printing.
Hand and commercial processing Joining processes, corrosion, decay, degradation, finishes and finishing processes, properties and material testing.
Design, environment and ergonomics Environmental and sustainability issues, ergonomics, anthropometrics, inclusive design, consumer safety.
Design and manufacture Materials, components, industrial materials testing.
Design and market influences Design process, marketing, design methods, design activity within organisations, development, testing and evaluation, patents, communication/presentation of design ideas, environmental and sustainability concerns, safety, human needs/factors, developments in technology, product lifecycle, historical influences, work of past and present designers.
Processes and manufacture Selecting a process, modern manufacturing systems, ICT in manufacturing, ICT applications in Product Design and manufacture.

In Year 12, students will have a total of nine Product Design lessons over the fortnight. The breakdown of these lessons are as follows:

  1. 3 lessons on theory topics (units listed above)
  2. 1 lesson on exam technique, practice and testing knowledge and understanding of theory topics
  3. 5 lessons on mini practical projects with a key focus on developing skills on how to produce outstanding quality in NEA (non-examined assessment) in preparation for the major project for the A2 course. This is to ensure students can confidently and independently evidence their practical work on an e portfolio and be able to follow the design process.  

Year 13 - Theory Term 1 to 5

In A2, students will gain a deeper understanding of materials, components and manufacturing as well as the ability to identify where these are applied to specific products. They will also understand current industrial practices and wider issues that affect design such as the environment, quality and consumer safety requirements, and be able to discuss these with reference to specific products and industries. Students will also cover the skill of critically analysing products to identify how the functional, manufacturing, aesthetic and social issues affect the choice of a material and process.

They will focus on specific product case studies during theory lessons and develop their use of A2 technical key terminology to use in both their controlled assessment and exam responses. It is very important they are able to write about a wide range of products to aid providing accurate examples. The A2 exam consists of answering 3 questions worth 28 marks. These are essay style responses so exam technique is essential to ensure high quality of written work and detailed justifications behind each statement.

In year 13, students will have a total of nine Product Design lessons over the fortnight. The breakdown of these lessons are as follows:

  1. 3 lessons on theory topics and exam technique, practice and testing knowledge and understanding of theory topics.
  2. 6 lessons on their controlled assessment major project. This is a design and manufacture of a product set by their client where they need to solve a problem the client has. All of their work is presented on one electronic portfolio.   


AS – New specification from September 2017.

Students will take an internal exam assessment at the end of the academic year to test their knowledge and understanding on technical principles and to assess their academic progress on the course. This is due to students sitting a two year A-Level course and all external assessment takes place in Year 13.

A2 – Legacy specification – final assessment in June 2018.

The A2 course is assessed with one electronic portfolio based on a major project of the student’s choice and one written exam taken at the end of the academic year. Both assessments are worth 50% each. The written exam is Unit 3 – Design and Manufacture and lasts for 2 hours.


GCSE Grade 5 or above in Art or a Design Technology subject such as Product Design and GCSE Grade 5 or above in English, Maths and Science. Students should also have a keen interest in a variety of products, development of new technologies/materials and enjoy sketching in their own time.


In previous years, A Level Product Design students have had the opportunity to attend the following trips:

  • RAF International Air Tattoo show in Fairford – understanding aircraft design, experience of watching an air display, talk to the aircraft crew and understanding their daily responsibilities in their line of work.
  • IKEA store visit with behind the scenes access in Bristol, the importance of environmental issues such as sustainability that IKEA is passionate about and understanding the workings of the successful international company on a daily basis.
  • GE Aviation in Cheltenham – completing various design challenges, flight simulation, career talks from engineers and apprentices, a tour of the company etc