In the past, the product design process tended to be a lot more conservative - because the process itself was a lot more time-consuming and costly.
However, over time, technology has aided development and helped accelerate product design process by giving designers new tools to help speed up the design process - from sketch to prototype. This in turn has given designers a lot more freedom to try things out - even "out there" ideas can be prototyped because the cost of doing so has been greatly reduced.
Not only that, but the whole process has been greatly democratised as it's been made easier for laymen to create their own product prototypes. Someone with a 3D printer can create physical prototypes from designs they've made via software. This has caused an explosion in product design in recent years.
By reducing the process time - as well as costs - the designer's imagination can truly be let loose on the process. Many "what if?" scenarios can be played out for the first time. Even randomisation (thanks to software) can be a part of the design process to see if new concepts can be realised through the serendipity of introducing a little bit of chaos into the mix.
Moreover, when you have your perfect prototype in your hands, you can take your files to a manufacturer who can create the real product for you with your chosen materials. The transition from prototype to actual product can be a lot smoother now, thanks to technological advances.
Finally, thanks to the likes of 3D printers and creating custom foam
products, a new genre of artwork has been created.