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Product Design

Time Allocation
2 hours per week.

Examination board: AQA

Why you should consider studying product design
Product design is an optional subject from year 9. It is a highly diverse, creative and practical course that is also very academically rigorous. It includes elements of resistant materials (metal, wood and plastic), graphic design (paper, card, modelling), and electronic and mechanical systems (electronic components and systems & control). It allows pupils to develop their creative design skills and gives them the technical abilities to design and make their own products. It also equips you with a range of skills that are valued by employers such as:

  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Project management skills

What you will learn by studying product design
Design and technology is far more than just practical making. This is a multidisciplinary course in which pupils study a varied range of interesting topics, from the history of design, to the ethics of modern manufacturing. It is a rigorous, inspiring course which introduces pupils to the basic principles of designing successful products, developing their problem-solving skills and boosting their creativity. It involves experimentation, innovation and flair, and provides a great insight into the technological world around us.

Students study a range of topics including:

  • Design methods and strategies
  • Investigation and research methods
  • Developing design and making skills
  • Materials and their working properties
  • Manufacturing processes and techniques
  • Graphical presentation techniques
  • Computer aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM)
  • Testing and evaluating
  • New and emerging technologies
  • Social, moral, ethical and environmental issues

This content is delivered through a range of theory lessons interleaved through practical projects including: a bird feeder, clacker, mechanical toy, speaker, clock and pewter casting.

For the controlled assessments students will specialise in a material area of their choice, usually a combination of wood and metal. They learn to investigate an issue, research and establish problems to overcome, and design, model and make a prototype solution. Throughout this process they continually evaluate their work, using feedback from a client to modify their design.


Year 9

Year 10

Year 11


Garden study / Bird Feeder

Pupils begin with an 8-week project to develop a solid understanding of specialist principles like anthropometrics and inclusive design. This is followed by a mini design-and-make challenge to build their own bird feeder.


Pupils deepen their understanding of polymers and learn about the environmental and ethical issues associated with the use of plastics. They also practise their CAD/CAM skills and go on to design and manufacture their own chocolate pouring mould.

NEA Section B – Producing a design brief and specification


NEA Section C – Generating design ideas


Theory lessons in preparation for the November mock exam


Pupils practise a range of technical making skills with a focus on planning and quality control. They also study environmental issues and material properties related to timbers.


Pewter Casting

Pupils study the theory of metals extraction and the working properties of metals. They also learn about redistribution processes including casting. The project culminates in an art deco style jewellery piece.

NEA Section D – Developing design ideas


Theory lessons in preparation for the November mock exam


NEA Section E – Realising design ideas



Sketching Techniques and CAD

A 6-week project aimed at deepening pupils’ understanding and skills in how to present sketches, physical models and CAD models.


Pupils go through an iterative design process to investigate an issue, then design, model and manufacture a working speaker. This builds pupils’ independence and creativity as they are less restricted in their material choices.

NEA Section E – Realising design ideas continued


NEA Section F – Analysing and evaluating


Theory lessons in preparation for the February mock exam.

Mechanical toy

A project with a focus on developing pupils’ problem-solving skills and understanding of mechanisms.


Continuation of speaker project





Revision lessons and preparation for the exam


Clock project

A project to develop pupils understanding of design movements, and graphical presentation, computer modelling and making skills.


Preparation for year 10 mock exam

Revision lessons and preparation for the exam

Year 11 NEA begins

NEA Section A – Identifying and investigating a design opportunity.

Theory lessons associated with research and investigation techniques.

Study leave

How assessment is organised

Formative assessment
As in key stage 3, pupils are assessed regularly through a combination of low-stakes testing, self and peer assessment and teacher marking.

During the controlled assessment phase in year 11, students are required to work independently on their digital portfolios each week, and submit work periodically. Although student work will be marked, examination rules state that diagnostic feedback is not allowed. To support pupils, they are required to make notes in an independent support booklet. Homework is set weekly and consists of independent study tasks relating to the theme of their non-exam assessment.

Where homework tasks relate to exam preparation, work will be marked according to the school protocol. In addition, pupils will often be given exam style questions with marks schemes so they can self-assess their work.

Summative assessment
Years 9 and 10 – At the end of every project there is an end-of-scheme test with a focus on the particular skills that have been learnt in that project. After each test pupils are given a working-at grade based on the national curriculum level descriptors.

Year 11 – For their GCSE qualification the course is split into two components:

  • A non-exam assessment (NEA) over 35 hours (50%). The NEA allows students to have an open and creative approach to respond to a design need. Students are assessed on their ability to investigate and research a problem, design and model solutions, manufacture a working prototype, and evaluate their progress throughout.
  • A 2-hour written paper (50%). The exam is an overall assessment of the pupils’ theoretical understanding over the 3 years on core, technical and specialist principles.

What opportunities will a GCSE in product design lead to?
This GCSE naturally leads to A-Level product design, which is a widely accepted entrance qualification for a number of courses in higher education. There is a wide range of career opportunities in areas such as engineering, product design, graphic design, industrial manufacturing, architecture, interior design and education.

What skills profile should a GCSE product design student have?
Pupils need to demonstrate flair and imagination, taking risks in coming up with design ideas. They also have to be well-disciplined and determined so that they have the resilience to overcome design issues and setbacks. This GCSE will encourage pupils to explore, develop, experience and express their ideas. 

"If you think you have sufficient desire, motivation and ability you should give it a try. And if you trust in your ability to regularly come up with strong ideas and are willing to make mistakes and learn from them, you will find success.”

Famous designers include: James Dyson, Max Braun, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Philippe Stark, Coco Chanel.

Images for KS4

For more information, contact Mr Rogers - Curriculum Area Leader of Design and Technology.