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Common words and  acronyms designers and product developers use to communicate ideas and organize tasks.
Jump to a specific category to learn more:


Design & Engineering          Materials & Processes          Manufacturing          Graphic Design          Soft Goods          Research & Strategy

design & engineering



"Colors, Materials and Finishes". Sometimes referred to as CMFG, with "Graphics". Set of specifications using international references (Pantone, Mold-Tech, etc.) to describe specific attributes to the appearance of a part or design.


"Proportions, Surfaces, Details". Organizational system that helps deconstruct design decisions and define what makes the design unique. Proportions define the overall feel and gesture of the design. Surfaces define the quality and precision of planes, curves and their transitions. Details deal with buttons, LEDs, assembly techniques, etc.


A Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is a store's or catalog's product and service identification code, often portrayed as a machine-readable bar code that helps the item to be tracked for inventory.

Intellectual Property - IP

A work or invention that is the result of creativity or new innovation to which one has rights and can apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc. IP helps to protect your ideas while building value in the company. 

PRD - product requirements document

The PRD is a specification document that is used by all parties to make sure the product is consistent from the first product produced to the millionth. 

MVP - Minimum Viable Product

Every product should have a basic MVP. This is the bare minimum features that the product must have to effectively do its job. Everything beyond the MVP is a nice to have feature, but not required.

BOM cost vs Retail costs

BOM means Bill of Materials. This is the list of components that make up the final product. It may include injected parts, screws, springs, circuits, ports, batteries and more. This is the basis for the cost of the product. This doesn't include things like assembly, part production, machine time, etc. 


Photorealistic renderings are created to help visualize design and engineering concepts in a two dimensional form - prior to creating a physical prototype. They are also used to define color, material and finish (CMF) for clients and manufacturers. 


Products are first created (modeled) on the computer using computer aided design software (CAD). They are modeled using surfaces or solids (parametric). All CAD files must be solid prior to making prototypes or sending to manufacturing. 

Engineering package

An engineering package defines the basic components and dimensions of the mechanical parts of a product. This is used to help define constraints, so the design team can work efficiently towards a realistic product design. 


A complete package of solid CAD data along with specification files, and product requirements docs must be submitted to the manufacturer to ensure a successful product development. 



user experience

User experience design is the process of evaluating and enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usabilityaccessibility, and pleasure in the interaction between a user and their product. These products encompass physical products, digital products and services. 


The process of designing products or systems that are intended to maximize human productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. This includes the smallest consumer products and the largest commercial scale systems. 


A measurement or description of the physical dimensions and properties of the body. Great consideration is given to these aspects of design whether designing a handheld device or an entire environment. 

Fillet and Chamfer 

Rather than creating a product with sharp 90 degree corners, fillets round these corners for easier manufacturing and aesthetic reasons. Fillets help create highlights on the product during presentations and photoshoots. Chamfers produce the same effects, but use a sharp 45 degree angle on corners instead of a rounded fillet. 

Part line vs part break

Part lines are used to define materials, forms and other aesthetic considerations. Part breaks are defined by tooling constraints and component assembly best practices. 

Dead Front

Dead front is a technique where status lights, LCDs or OLEDs are hidden behind a dark translucent part. The lights are only visible when activated. This is often used on consumer electronic products. 

water resistant is not waterproof

The water resistance of a product is categorized by an IP rating from level 1 through 9.

IP1 - being the base level rating where a product can resist a drop of water without adversely affecting its performance.

IP4 - is were a product can accept splashing of water from any angle without harmful effects. 

IP9 - is the most extreme test of water resistance. The product is sprayed with high pressure and high temperature water jets and multiple angles. 

Drop, vibration, crush, UV, heat, cold testing

Validation testing is done on all products themselves and products in their packaging. This is critical as the product journey will take it from extreme temperatures to levels of humidity and a variety of physical conditions from shipment to fulfillment. 

Design for Disassembly

DFD is a considerate way to design and engineer products. With a more empathetic view of world ecology we try to create products that use sustainable materials and are easily disassembled for recycling and reuse. 


Many products require certification prior be being sold in the market. These vary by device type and the country it is being sold in. While the expenses are negligible in the bigger picture, consideration must be taken to addition time and revisions to meet said certifications. 





Validation testing is a series of steps a product must go through on its journey to mass production. 

EVT - Engineering Validation Test: This test validates the basic functionality of the product. This helps to identify high risk problems early in the development process. 

DVT - Design Validation Test: If all functional requirements are achieved, then we can focus on the cosmetic appearance. Here we refine part lines, fillets, etc.  

PVT - Production Validation Test: With functional and cosmetic requirements fulfilled we focus on large scale manufacturability. This includes final tool modifications, refining part fit, mold texturing and other minor details for mass production.

Control Docs

Control documents are used by the manufacturer and assembly teams to properly monitor the processes. In-line control docs are narrowly focussed docs positioned at every station throughout the process. End-of-line docs are used by managers and QC personnel to inspect and approve or deny the assembled product. 

First Article

The first part off the production line is called the first article and is used to measure against the required specifications.

New Product Introduction (NPI)

The process of managing the introduction and flow of a new product throughout the manufacturing process. Good NPI will reduce risk, overhead, failure while increasing the opportunity for a successful product launch. 

Non-recurring Engineering (NRE)

Refers to the one-time cost to the manufacturer requests to researchdevelopdesign and test a new product in preparation for mass production. NRE is different from production costs, which must be paid throughout the production of a product. Sometimes referred to as Non-Recurring Expense. 



A mold in manufacturing terms refers to the hollow container that gives shape to molten materials. The materials that make up the mold are call tools (tooling collectively) and are typically made of metal. 


During the injection molding process, tools are used to give shape to the part. Tools are typically cut out of high grade steel using a CNC process and will be used to create 200k parts or more. 

Hard tools

Hard tools are used for long production runs where 250k or more parts are injection molded before the tool breaks down an needs to be replaced. 

Soft tools

Soft tools are used for validation testing and short run production (typically 100-2000 pieces). These are made from aluminum or low grade steel. Tools can be made from other soft or temporary materials for prototype production runs. 

collapsible molds

Advanced tooling allows for complex part production including negative draft angles and products with no part lines. 

Single-cavity vs multi-cavity molds

Single cavity molds are often used in the beginning of a product development process for low production runs and to test samples. 

Multi-cavity molds optimize the mass manufacturing process by allowing several parts to be injection molded at the same time. 


materials & processes



The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. 


Fused deposition modeling is an additive technology used for prototyping. The benefit of FDM is that it can use ABS, PC and many other materials that are common in production products. This allows for strength and durability of prototype parts. The downside is that the resolution tends to be lower and the print time longer than many other additive prototyping processes.


Stereolithography is an additive technology that uses UV laser to cure and solidify thin layers of a photo-reactive resin to create parts for prototyping. Resolution tends to be higher than FDM prints.


A CNC is a machine that translates CAD data to create physical objects. Typically a CNC controls a router, mill, water jet or laser cutter. One of the many benefits is the use of actual billet materials rather than typical additive process materials.


Rubbers are often defined by their elasticity. Durometer is one of several measures of the hardness of these materials. 

Metallic PLATING

Plating is the process of adding a metallic coating to the surface of a part.  The color can vary by degrees to create the appearance of different metal finishes. 


To coat (a metal, especially aluminum) with a protective oxide layer by an electrolytic process in which the metal forms the anode. Anodizing can be made in most colors with the exception of white. 

Powder Coating

Powder coating is the process of electrostatically applying a pigment to a part and baking it at a high temperature to cure it. It results in a brilliant coating that is much harder than conventional painting. 


Sandblasting is used to roughen or clean (a surface) with a jet of sand driven by compressed air or steam.

Bead blast uses the same process, but typically involves small, round glass beads to texturize an object. 


Electrical Discharge Machining is a process whereby material is cut or removed using electrical discharges (sparks) in a dielectric fluid. 

Metal Deposition

Metal Deposition is an additive manufacturing technology using a laser to melt metallic powder. A feed nozzle to propulses the powder into the laser beam. It is very similar to Fused Deposition Modeling as the nozzle can move to deposit the fused metal.



Extrusion is used to create products like pipe, wire, gutters and other things that are linear and consistent in nature. The tool that creates the final shape is very cost effective and simple device. 


Co-molding uses a single injection molding machine to produce a plastic part with a skin and core structure. The skin material is firstly injected into the mold, followed by the core material. This allows for unique part properties.


Two-shot overmolding is done by using two separate injection molding machines. The first part is molded then transferred to a second machine for an overmolding. This allows the creation of products with more advantageous materials properties than those obtained from a single material. 


Hydroforming uses high pressure hydraulic fluid to cost-effectively shape metals around a mold. This process can yield more complex and structurally sound parts than other processes. Its often used in bicycle and high-end automotive parts manufacturing.


A hardened steel mold is used with a hydraulic press to deform steel into a desired shape. Multiple, consecutive stampings are often used to achieve a deep draw shape that cannot be done with a single stamp - for example a large stainless steel sink. 


Diecuts use a simple steel tools used to cut dynamic shapes and holes into flat objects. Diecuts are used in paper packaging production, sheet metal fabrication and other mass production processes. 

Die casting

Die casting in a metal casting process that is characterized by forcing molten metal under high pressure into mold cavity. This includes lost wax and investment casting methods. 

pad printing

Pad printing is used to print logos, text and graphics on surfaces that have curvature or are uneven surfaces. 


Knurling is a machining process where a router cuts intricate cross hatch patterns into steel. It is aesthetic and functional in its application. 

Sonic welding plastics

High-frequency ultrasonic, acoustic vibrations are locally applied to plastic parts to weld them together without hardware or adhesives. 


Printed circuit board is the substrate for supporting surface mount circuits, wiring and more. They can be single or multi-layered and custom designed to fit specific geometries. 

Flex Circuit

Different than hard circuit boards, these circuits are mounted on a flexible substrate and are designed to allow electronics to conform to various shapes. Examples may include flex circuits that run through mechanical hinges, moving parts, or connect more than one PCB. 


soft goods


Soft goods

Soft goods are fabric constructed products that include, but aren't limited to bags, backpacks, wallets, apparel, tents, sleeping bags and more. 

CUT & sew

This is a general term used to classify the process of soft goods construction. These include, but aren't limited to bags, backpacks, wallets, apparel, tents, sleeping bags and more.


Technical packages are documents that highlight the construction, materials and aesthetics of soft goods products. Tech packs may define anything from bar tacs, molle, stitches, 3D mesh, woven or unwoven fabrics and more. 


Typically nylon straps used in production of soft goods. Its available in a large variety of sizes, colors and materials including polyester and canvas. 


An acronym for MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, molle is a webbing stitched in short rows for the purpose of attaching equipment. Its often used on tactical equipment for military and outdoors.


Bartack is an overlapping series of stitches that are used to reinforce the structural qualities of a garment of piece of soft goods. 

3D mesh

3D fabric is a general term for spacer knitted fabrics where two mesh fabrics sandwich another fabric of varying density or dimension. Because of their attractiveness and breathability, these engineered fabrics are often used in tennis shoes and backpack or shoulder strap areas that come in contact with the skin. 

Ballistic Nylon

A woven nylon material heavily used in the manufacturing of backpacks, luggage and outdoor gear. 


Ripstop fabrics are woven, often made of nylon, and incorporate a reinforcing crosshatch of threads at regular intervals. Because of it's durable, lightweight and water resistant qualities, ripstop is commonly used in the construction of kites, sails for boats and wind breakers. 


Dimensional Polyant X-PAX VX21HS

A lightweight, high strength, 100% waterproof fabric which is ideal for Rucksacks, Packs, Bags and a variety of other ultra-lightweight applications. The combination of low stretch, waterproof construction technology and 210 denier face fabric provides an ideal balance of weight and durability.


Ultra-durable hypalon

An ultraviolet light stable, fuel & chemical resistant, abrasion and hight temperature resistant, engineered fabric used in extreme conditions. Common uses; rolltop bags, inflatable watercraft applications, and more.



Cordura® is a registered trademark for a highly durable woven fabric used in the manufacturing of backpacks, luggage, outdoor gear and boots where durability is of the utmost importance. It resists scratching and tearing more than many other fabrics. 


Microsuede & Ultrasuede

Are engineered of woven microfibers and have similar qualities to natural suede. Usually more costly than other synthetics, microsuede is often reserved as a premium detail in areas like sunglass or electronic device pockets, handbags, camera bags and more. 


A system of measuring the weight of a fabrics. The lower the number the finer the fiber, the higher the number the heavier the fiber. 


Leathers come in grained or smooth and suede. Leathers that retain the texture of the animal are called grained. Smooth leathers are more processed and can create a very soft, appealing feel for jackets, handbag and wallet interiors, luxury car interiors, etc. 

Vegtan leather

Vegtan is more environmentally friendly that normal leather processing. Rather than caustic chemicals, it uses vegetable based dyes to treat the leather. 


graphic design



POS is the area where a customer completes a transaction, such as a checkout counter. It is also known as a point of purchase (POP). Nonfiction designs visual displays, terminals and wayfinding around customer facing entities.

Pantone colors

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is the industry standard for maintaining color consistency throughout the manufacturing and printing processes. 


Print production is constructed of four main colors - cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).  Additional layers can be used for added effect. These additional layers may include spot colors, varnishes, laminates, and metallic foils. 



Drawn from old world printing techniques, letterpress uses a design on a raised plate, called a die, to create an impression into paper. The impression may or may not contain a printers ink. Common uses are business cards, wedding invitations, and announcements.

Emboss vs Deboss

Like to letterpress, embossing and debossing uses a die to make a physical immpression on a material. Embossing raises the design off the surface of the material. Debossing lowers the design into the surface of the material. These features are typically less than 2mm in altitude. 


Dielines are cut and fold marks used in the design of packaging and other similarly printed pieces. The printer follows these shape boundaries to assemble the final packaging. xt


research & strategy



User personas give context to the fuzzy front end of design. They help researchers generally define a user and thus their demographics. This process will take into account age, gender, career, lifestyle and what kind of product characteristics they may relate to. 

Use case scenarios

Use cases delve deeper into personas by analyzing specific scenarios a user might go through when interacting with a product. Some of the use cases may be common throughout society whereas some may be less common and be termed edge case scenarios. 


SWOT analysis is a useful project planning tool for identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a given product or scenario. 




A roadmap is an overview of the entire product development cycle. It is usually broken into phases with varying levels of granularity. Nonfiction uses gantt charts with dependencies to plot client roadmaps. 


Closely aligned design, engineering, and development teams can reduce time to market while mitigating risk and eliminating handoff delays between separate disciplines.