What is a product design specification (PDS)?

Duncan Geddes

by Duncan Geddes

A product design specification (PDS) is a document that contains all the requirements, constraints and specifications that a new product must adhere to. It should be a clear list with detailed information outlining every aspect of the design brief and fulfil SMART criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and testable). 

The document will be referred to throughout the design process to ensure that any changes comply with the original specification and remain in scope for that specific project.

Why is a product design specification important?

Writing a strong product design specification increases the chances of producing an effective product by providing clarity to all stakeholders at every stage. 

The PDS is a single document that details what the product needs to do, look like and deliver for the end user. Having this document will guarantee that design teams have clear expectations for the finished product and ensure that all parties are working with the same understanding of exactly what the product will be – saving time and money. 

How is PDS used?

Using a PDS effectively will provide transparency and direction throughout the development process.  

By completing the specification, abstract elements of the initial design can be turned into a tangible list of requirements that must be met to ensure the product is successful. This includes detailing each problem and its proposed solutions. 

While this may sound like a lengthy process, clearly defining these parameters ensures that any adjustments, improvements or solutions are feasible within the project’s limitations. 

PDS Checklist

While many of these aspects will be universally included in product design specifications, each different project will demand its own, specific considerations. Preparing this information before writing will help you to create an effective and understandable product design specification document. 

Each product design specification should cover the following points: 

  • An overview explaining the products’ place in the market and intentions behind its creation 
  • Performance considerations 
  • Target audience 
  • Financial and time restrictions
  • Questions/considerations

Functional requirements 

  • Product life span 
  • Quantity 
  • Maintenance 
  • Packaging 
  • Shipping 
  • Size and weight restrictions 
  • Manufacturing process 
  • Aesthetics
  • Ergonomics
  • Reliability
  • Safety and standards 
  • Testing 
  • Disposal/recycling 

Check your PDS

Once it has been drafted, ask the following questions to make sure your PDS has been written correctly: 

  • Does each section provide clear instructions? 
  • Are examples and data used to ensure that points are made as facts rather than opinions? 
  • Are all requirements clearly specified to prevent misunderstandings? 

You should then share the document with your team to identify additional queries and talk through concerns. This feedback will be valuable for improving the final document. 

Mistakes to avoid

It is vital that the product design specification is clear, focussed and based on fact rather than assumption. 

Remember, this is a starting point for development and does not have to provide an answer to every question you have identified. Instead, these questions should be documented for consideration during the design and prototyping phases of production. 

While detail is vital, be careful not to over-specify as this could limit product creativity. For example, offer dimensions as a range rather than a precise number to give the team as much freedom as possible to develop their concepts. Your vision of the final product should be left to one side in favour of providing clear parameters in which your teams can work. This will allow the separation of factual and design-led decisions. 

Similarly, the specification should never be vague as this will also undermine the clarity of direction. For example, rather than saying that the product should be of a ‘typical’ size, provide minimum and maximum dimensions. 

PDS Template

This template will provide an indicator of the key elements that should be found on a typical PDS. However, each product will have its own unique considerations, and these should also be included. 



Product design specifications are an important tool for ensuring a product’s success. By considering and compiling the key requirements of the final product, teams will be able to implement their actions more effectively, knowing that everybody is moving in the same direction, making development a quicker, smoother process.  

For more information about the next steps, read the article “Nine product design tools to help develop your first prototype.” 

Get in touch with the team to learn how Technical Foam Services can help to support the product development process in your business. 

Example Product Design Specification


 —Describe the product briefly here—  

Basic Operation  

—Describe the basic operation briefly here—  


— Explain the products’ place in the market, target audience and intentions behind its creation. Include financial and time restrictions over the production— 

Functional Requirements 


Key Consideration  Requirements  Issues/Challenges 
Materials and process  Outline the materials and manufacturing process required   
Dimensions  Provide guidance on the product’s dimensions 

Height: [Min-Max] 

Width: [Min-Max] 

Length: [Min-Max] 

Depth: [Min-Max] 

Weight: [Min-Max] 

Quantity  Initial production of [x] units, with [x] more in the next 12 months   
Lifespan/Reliability  The product is expected to function correctly for [x] years   
Maintenance  Note aspects that will require maintenance and how often it will be needed. 

Note safety standards for replacement parts if applicable 




Key Consideration  Requirements  Issues/Challenges 
Aesthetics  Identify any visual requirements such as style or colour   
Ergonomics  Identify any required aspects of the product relating to control or use e.g. button size or position   



Key Consideration  Requirements  Issues/Challenges 
Safety considerations  Note aspects of the product that could potentially cause safety concerns   
Safety standards  List the safety standards that need to be adhered to   
Testing  Identify the testing process for safety and quality control that will need to be followed   



Key Consideration  Requirements  Issues/Challenges 
Packaging  Describe the type of packaging required and how/if this impacts product design.   
Shipping  Note the regions the product will need to be shipped to and refer to “Dimensions” if required.   



Key Consideration  Requirements  Issues/Challenges 
Recycling  Establish how recyclable the materials used should be (both percentage and ease for end user)   
Disposal  Note any guidance on how to dispose of the product   



—Ensure the above remains factual by listing any questions of considerations for the design team here—  


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