Conceptual designs are outline solutions to a design problem. A high level overview of the design (in the form of a block diagram of interacting sub-systems) should be present at this stage. As an example; rough sizes and structural relationships of mechanical blocks, input/output, impedance and voltage level interfaces between electrical sub-systems need to be established.

The main idea behind the Conceptual Design is to maximize the probability of a feasible final product. Hence, a conceptual design should be worked in sufficient detail to allow estimates of cost, weight, overall dimensions and power consumption. During this first phase of the design process, decisions should be made about major design features of sub-systems and major algorithms. The designer should also present the rationale for making these decisions, supported by relevant experiments. The feasibility of design decisions or their alternatives should be validated through planned sub-system tests.

Conceptual Design Report differs from the Proposal Report significantly due to the fact that it contains technical and implementation details at a sub-system level, algorithm descriptions and test plans for subsystems as well as results of conducted tests. It is strictly meant for a technically oriented reader. A properly generated Conceptual Design Report means a team is well progressed into generating a feasible product and a considerable number of uncertainties are resolved.


  • Broad solutions to the defined problem are developed often in the form of “design options”. This phase places the greatest demand on the designer in terms of creative thinking, since innovations can originate here. Design is not only about the final product but also about the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the manufacturing process. When the designers choose a part shape, a circuit or an algorithm, they must also think about how these will be manufactured or implemented. “Is there an easier way to achieve the same purpose with a different material, shape, circuit or algorithm?” should be a frequently recurring question in the designer’s mind.
  • An arbitrary decision, especially early in the design process, means a wasted opportunity for improving quality and reducing cost. Using an ad-hoc or popular method without questioning is in fact nothing but making an arbitrary decision. During the conceptual design phase, one must question the “accepted” or conventional ways of doing things and look for possible alternatives.
  • Remember that the positive results of preliminary tests convince the customer that the design has a high probability of success upon integration and acts as an experimental “Proof of Concept” on a sub-systems or module level.

Format and Overall Content
Please refer to the evaluation rubrics page for notes on ”Technical Report Writing”.

Estimated length

The estimated length will be 20-25 pages.

Main Body Content
The main body should concisely present the overall structure and all sub-systems of the design, the rationale behind it as well as experimental verifications at subsystem level.

The contents of the main body will differ for each project, but a general outline might include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
    • Problem statement
    • Background information
    • Organization of the report
  • Solution
    • Overall description of the system with a block diagram including sub-system interaction and interfaces
    • System level flowchart of main decision logic
    • Description of individual sub-systems
    • Restatement of system level requirements and their decomposition to sub-system level requirements
    • Solution for each subsystem and relevant algorithms
    • System/subsystem level risk assessment, and alternative solutions (Plan-B)
    • Error sources, their impact and ways to mitigate
    • Test procedures, experiments and test results evaluated to date and comparative analyses of alternative solution approaches
    • Technical drawing of the expected design, expected weight, dimensions, total power consumption etc. of the final product
  • Plans
    • Detailed breakdown of planned work as well as other responsibilities among the project team members
    • “Gantt chart” to present project timeline and all necessary steps to take design from sub-system level implementation to fully integrated completion, indicating milestones
    • Foreseeable difficulties and contingency plan to overcome these difficulties
    • Test plans and measure of success to verify sub-system level requirements
    • Cost analysis
    • Deliverables
  • Conclusion

Evaluation Criteria
Please refer to the Conceptual Design Reports Evaluation Rubric you can find on the evaluation rubrics page.