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Design Roadmapping: Integrating Design Research Into Strategic Planning For New Product Development


While product and technology roadmaps have been well formalized in terms of their structures, methodologies, and frameworks, design roadmaps have not been explicitly explored nor studied from either an academic or industry practice standpoint. With increasing uncertainty, rapid change, and complexity in market environments, companies are finding that they can no longer differentiate their products and services by relying on traditional roadmapping processes that focus solely on technologies and product features. Rather, strategies that revolve around the holistic experience provided by a product or service are more likely to be successful in today’s market. This dissertation introduces a formalized design roadmapping framework to guide product planning in today’s more user-centered marketplace.

Initial exploratory research assessed the current application of roadmapping in industry through observations and semi-structured interviews of product managers, technology managers, and designers from Silicon Valley and East Coast companies. This descriptive study revealed key challenges and opportunities associated with current roadmapping processes, providing a solid foundation on which to create a more effective process.

I introduce and characterize a detailed framework for design roadmapping that focuses on desired outcomes for the user and not just product features nor technologies. It provides a mechanism to explicitly integrate customer/user research into the roadmapping process and use this research to consider appropriate projected technology choices. Similar to traditional product and technology roadmaps, the design roadmapping process presented herein aggregates design experience elements along a timeline by associating key user needs with products, services, or systems.

The design roadmap framework was tested through active research in a large multinational corporation and a small startup, and was applied to new product development curricula at UC Berkeley. In all settings, participants found the new framework beneficial at multiple stages of the new product development process. The activities associated with design roadmapping process were also considered particularly helpful for prioritizing products for commercialization and promoting a shared vision among team members and active communication across organizations.

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