This paper describes the concept development process of three vehicle design team projects carried out in successive years in our fourth year undergraduate studio course, in collaboration with industry. The problem areas for all three projects were unfamiliar to student teams, and our collaboration required close involvement of the firms, for their technical expertise and design feedback. Our framework and strategies for this process involved: user research conducted in the field; group discussions for analyzing the operations carried out by the users and mapping their relation to the functions of the related hardware; scenario building for describing the context within an activity based time-related process and searching for solutions at the same time; the generation of numerous ideas through the matching of alternative scenarios with the project dimensions; convergence of these ideas into alternative design proposals; and decision-making on the final project concepts. User research extended throughout the concept development process, supported with an intense 3D exploration and with class assignments that encouraged goal-oriented teamwork. Although we followed a similar design process in all three projects, the strategies used in the various stages were modified depending on the requirements of each project, and regarding the differences in the vehicle types involved, the users and the tasks. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.