A Level Design Technology: Product Design

Head of Department: Miss AM Healy BA (Hons), PGCE (Luton)
Email: ahealy@stedmundscollege.org


Think about the objects that you love. Your mobile phone with its delicious curves was designed on a computer screen. The car you yearn for started life as a reduced size clay model. A building that you admire sprang from the drawing board of an architect. And it is not a new phenomenon. Our fascination with 3D design goes back to flint arrow heads and earthenware pots. As a 3D designer you are at the crossroads of a number of skills. Of course you need creativity, in order to imagine the shape and function of the object. But you’ll also need to know about manufacturing processes, materials and marketing.

3D Design is an enormously satisfying career. You have an idea and – with the use of tools like clay or computers – it comes to life. Imagine how satisfying it must be for the person who designed the iPhone or Razr to hold the finished product in their hand.

Your A Level studies cover three main areas, and you will study two of these over the duration of the course with the non-examined assessment (coursework) unit taking place in the final year. In ‘Technical Principles’ – you will look at materials, production processes and the impact of cost and design helping you to appreciate the relationship between design and technology or form and function. In ‘Designing and Making Principles’ you will develop skills for your coursework project using designs of products to analyse the use of a range of materials and media.

What skills will I learn?

The Design Technology Course will help you develop a number of skills:

  • How to assemble data and assess it
  • How to investigate facts and use deduction
  • How to put over your point of view fluently
  • How to work as a team to achieve results
  • How to take responsibility for your own learning


Year 1: Skill Building /Theoretical Content

Your first year will consist of a range of smaller projects aimed at developing knowledge and understanding of design principles while embedding practical skills such as research, drawing/designing, modelling, use of a range of materials, tools, equipment and workshop machinery in preparation for the final major project in Year 2. The skill-building projects are particularly useful for those students who may not have had the opportunity to study DT at GCSE, and will as a result be better prepared for the coursework element in Year 2. 

Year 2: Final Major Project (50%) NEA

Product Design / Architectural Modelling

Depending on your choice of project, you will research and analyse a range of existing design solutions before designing and making products and prototypes such as lighting, jewellery, furniture and other items that address specific needs, using a wide range of materials. Architectural models, for examples, focus on the ‘built environment’, with potential projects relating to interior design, film/theatre set design, the redevelopment of a public space such as a skate park, town centre, or a building designed for a specific need. The emphasis is on researching specific client needs and suitable sites and spaces before designing and creating a high-quality product and other related promotional material.

You will enjoy and benefit from Design and Technology if you:

– are interested in the way things work and how they are designed;

– would like to use a wider range of techniques including IT (CADCAM) on design projects;

– are interested in practical work as well as theory;

– would like to develop your critical thinking and to see the relationships between designer, manufacturer and user;

– are willing to carry out independent investigative research, including using the internet, and are confident about writing essays.

A course in Design and Technology offers a unique opportunity for you to identify and solve real problems by designing and making products or systems in a wide range of contexts relating to your personal interests.


This creative and thought-provoking qualification gives students the practical skills, theoretical knowledge and confidence to succeed in a number of careers, especially those in the creative industries.

Students will investigate historical, social, cultural, environmental and economic influences on design and technology, whilst enjoying opportunities to put their learning in to practice by producing prototypes of their choice.

Students will gain a real understanding of what it means to be a designer, alongside the knowledge and skills sought by higher education and employers.

PAPER 1 – TECHNICAL PRINCIPLES, Written examination(2 hours 30 minutes) – 30% of qualification.

Students are expected to be able to name specific materials for a wide range of applications.

They must also be able to provide detailed and justified explanations of why specific materials and combinations of materials are suitable for given applications, with reference to:

  • physical and mechanical properties (working characteristics)
  • product function
  • aesthetics
  • cost
  • manufacture and disposal.

Understand the appropriate use of materials including polymers, composites, woods and metals based on their physical and working characteristics such as:

  • malleability
  • toughness
  • hardness
  • resistance to corrosion and degradation
  • thermal conductivity
  • electrical conductivity.
  • calculation of quantities of materials sizes and costs.

PAPER 2 – DESIGNING AND MAKING PRINCIPLES, Written examination (1 hour 30 minutes) – 20% of qualification

Students should be aware of, and able to explain, different approaches to user centered design. That in approaching a design challenge there is not a single process, but that good design always addresses many issues, including:

  • designing to meet needs, wants or values
  • investigations to inform the use of primary and secondary data:
  • market research
  • interviews
  • human factors
  • focus groups
Non-examination assessment

Substantial design and make project – 50% of qualification

Practical application of technical principles, designing and making principles. Written or digital design portfolio and photographic evidence of final prototype.

The NEA (Non Examined Assessment) unit is a substantial design and make project where knowledge of the subject content is applied to a client based project. It will seek to develop existing and new skills by the use of a range of materials and manufacturing processes. The design work involves detailed primary and secondary research leading to a product specification which then allows the student to propose a range of ideas that culminate in a chosen design. Detailed development then follows which includes the use of 3D CAD software and planning the sequence of manufacture leading the making of a high quality outcome. A thorough evaluation of the complete product is then made including the views of the client and others. Throughout the unit a range of presentational techniques are employed to produce the accompanying design folder.