Development of a design audit tool

The ability to design excellent products is a fundamental source of commercial success. In many small companies however, effective product design practices are not adopted. The result can be products which may be technically adept, but which are difficult to use or are uninspiring to their intended customers. Perhaps worse is the creation of beautiful objects which fail to make sufficient profits due to poor design for manufacture or insufficient technical performance. There have been many empirical and anecdotal studies which capture good design issues, but these are often inaccessible to industrialists. Furthermore, literature addressing this area covers a wide range of functional domains. Evidence from four exploratory cases supported the need to improve awareness and practice in product design.

As a part of the 'Good Design Practice' programme, this research set out to capture 'good design' practices in a form which would be accessible to industrialists and have the potential to improve the performance of design in industry. A design audit tool encompassing product and process perspectives was created based on insights from literature and cases. This tool was iteratively developed in action research mode through a series of industrial interventions.


The audit tool is available as a workbook, containing two audit tools:
Product audit - this takes the form of a product 'healthcheck', assessing product usability, performance, producibility, desirability, profitability and differentiation.

Process audit - this assesses the maturity of 25 key design activities covering both 'design execution' and 'design management'.

The audits can be completed by a single individual from the company, but are best performed as a group activity in a workshop setting. Ideally, the group should contain representatives from across the company, typically including Marketing, Engineering, Production and Customer support. The audits are intended to stimulate discussion about the performance of the company's new product design and development system, and to reach consensus on current and desired status. Opportunities for improvement are identified along with appropriate actions. A number of possible tools and techniques may also be suggested.


See more information about the workbook Assessing and improving product design capability.



  • Moultrie J, Clarkson P J, Probert D R, (2005), Development of a design audit tool for SMEs, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Accepted for publication
  • Moultrie J, Probert D R, Clarkson P J, A review of maturity based tools to assess product development capability, undergoing revision following review
  • Moultrie J, Clarkson P J, Probert D R, (2006), Development of a product audit, Journal of Engineering Manufacture, Proceedings of the I.Mech.E Part B, In Press
  • Moultrie J, Clarkson P J, Probert D R, (2006), A tool to evaluate design performance in SMEs, Submitted to International Journal of Productivity and Performance Measurement, Special edition on Performance in Design and Manufacture, Vol 55. Nos. 3 & 4
  • Moultrie J, (2004), Developing a design audit tool: a product and process perspective, PhD Thesis submitted September 2004
  • Moultrie J, Probert D, Clarkson P J, (2004), Development of a design audit to encourage the adoption of 'good design' practices in SMEs: a product and process perspective, EIASM 11th NPD Conference, Dublin
  • Fraser P, Moultrie J, Gregory M, (2002), The use of maturity models / grids as a tool in assessing product development capability: a review, IEEE International Engineering Management Conference, Cambridge UK, 18-20 August
  • Moultrie J, Fraser P, (2002), Benefiting from good design: assessing and improving product design capability, Industrial workbook (draft), Institute for Manufacturing & Engineering Design Centre, University Of Cambridge, ISBN: 1-902546-14-8
  • Moultrie J, Fraser P, Holdway R and Clarkson P J (2001), Better By Design: Development of a framework to guide design improvement in SMEs, International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED), 21-23 August 2001, Glasgow
  • Fraser P, Moultrie J, Holdway R, (2001), Exploratory studies of a proposed design maturity model, 8th International Product Development Management Conference, University of Twente, Holland, 11-12 June 2001
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