The process of developing a product can be described as working it from an abstract idea to a tangible product. One person may dream up the initial dream, speak to someone about an idea, and ever more people get involved in making it a tangible reality.
A product design process is mostly managed as a project, and progress is measured along a timeline of stage gates or milestones.
Here, we propose ‘the obtained reduction in abstraction’ level as a measure for the progress in a design project. The more the abstraction level has fallen, the more progress has been made.
One reference point for an abstraction scale is the zero degrees of abstraction: the product has solidified, frozen, materialized.
At another point of the scale we need something like 100
‘the boiling point of water at sea level’. We propose 100 ͦ of abstraction to coincide with the first appearance (in words or in sketch) of the idea to someone that did not have the idea himself.
Above 100 ͦ A (the A from Abstraction) the idea may exist in a more or less clear form in the mind of a person, but is has not been condensed into a communicable form, such as speech, writing, a sketch or a prototype.
All development activities take place in the liquid phase (0 -100 ͦA): designers will work out the functionality in words, and the shape in outlines and drawings, from architecture to writing the code.
At 0 ͦ A the blueprints become solid material, the program is reproducible in quantities.
The abstraction scale above 100 ͦ A (the vapor phase) is not limited and open to high levels of abstraction: from ‘theory’ via ‘notion’ or ‘perception’ to ‘vision’, ‘dream’ to the world transcendence and mysticism.
In a development process, the product will ‘get real’ and come down from a 100 ͦ A to its embodiment at 0 ͦ A. The abstraction level of the thinking of the individuals that perform the design can have any abstraction level