System Level Design

Once you have fully developed your idea, and you understand the end user requirements you can then proceed to system level design which will lead to detail design. System level design like the other stages of product development, it is an iterative process, after you have built your first prototype you can decide later to change some features of the product to make it better. System level design is a high-level first design of your product, it should answer the question “What should the product do in order to solve the problem?”

It is important here to rank the functions of the product in broad terms rather using detail descriptions. For example if you building a scooter or an electric bicycle for city use, it is probably better to define the purpose as “a transport for city travel that is cheap, small and can fit inside an office, and can be carried” rather than saying “ an electric scooter with automatic drive that uses solar power, and is foldable into a bag and can be carried with one hand”. By describing the function of your product in detail, you already limiting yourself to one concept which may not necessarily be the best.

Once you have broadly defined your solution or the purpose of your product, you can proceed to list functions that the product must fulfill to achieve the solution and rank them in order of importance. You also need to convert the user requirements into product specifications.

To illustrate system level design we will use an example of user requirements generated for an electric scooter.









User requirements: Scooter

    • Convenient mode of transportation
    • It’s not expensive to maintain
    • Transport must be portable
    • Transport must have a tracking device installed in it
    • Must reduce delays caused by traffic
    • Must be stylish and fashionable
    • Must be safe to use on the road and on walkways
    • Must be able to power itself for energy

System level design

  1. The top-level function of our product is: Convenient mode of transportation
    1. 1.1. Sublevel 1: Relatively inexpensive to maintain
      1. 1.1.1. Sublevel 2: Cheap replacement parts
      2. 1.1.2.Sublevel 2: Does not need to send for service
      3. 1.1.3.Sublevel 2: Use durable materials
    2. 1.2.Sublevel 1: Vehicle must be portable
      1. 1.2.1.Sublevel 2: Overall size must be adjustable
      2. 1.2.2.Sublevel 2: It must have a way to be carried by one person
      3. 1.2.3.Sublevel 3: It must have carry handles
      4. 1.2.4.Sublevel 3: It must be ergonomically possible to carry
      5. 1.2.5.Sublevel 2: It must be lightweight
      6. 1.2.6.Sublevel 2: Must be able to store it in an office
    3. 1.3.Sub level1: Reduce overcome delays caused by traffic
      1. 1.3.1. Sublevel 2: Can be driven between cars
      2. 1.3.2.Sublevel 2: Can be driven off-road and walkways
      3. 1.3.3.Sublevel 2: Must have a navigating tool to show possible roads
    4. 1.4. Sublevel 1: It must be able to power itself to drive
      1. 1.4.1.Sublevel 2: It must be rechargeable 
      2. 1.4.2.Sublevel 2: It must be environmentally friendly
      3. 1.4.3.Sublevel 2: Source of power must easily be available

Once you have the functional diagram and user requirements you can give it to an engineer to design you the product. If you will be designing the product yourself you can continue to generate concepts and set target specifications of your product. The following sections on product development will show you how to generate different concepts for your product and define product specifications.