Product design

Hi all-

I am not trained in industrial/product design at all. I have an idea for an object.

Would the first step need to be patenting the product?

I ask this b/c…lets say I take my idea to various places that may be able to produce my product; is a patent the sure way to protect my idea? is protecting my idea when shopping around necessary? If patenting it is not necessary what is?

Suggestions?

Thanks-

First step: read this-http://www.teamsdesign.com/blog/EntrepreneurGuide.pdf