Prayer beads are fun to design and create, but before you can start thinking about the design of your prayer beads you must first decide what you wish to use them for. Will you chant traditional mantras with your beads? Dedicate them to a specific deity, or pair/group of deities? Use them to meditate on a specific topic - such as the Wheel of the Year, the elements, or the moon phases?
What you wish to use your beads for will help you determine how many beads you want to use, what material and color(s) the beads should be, if you want to include charms, and other such details.
For example, say I wish to make prayer beads dedicated to a specific Deity. I now have a basic goal, and it's time to start working out the details. I can consider which gems, woods, and other materials are sacred to, or associated with this Deity. I should also consider which materials are disliked by the Deity - for example, bone is often considered to be ritually impure for many Egyptian Deities. I can also take into consideration any colors or numbers that may be associated with the Deity.
Many Deities can be associated with symbols. Artemis has several sacred animals, including the deer, bear, and wolf. She is also associated with her bow and arrows, the cypress tree, and the moon. Hathor's symbols include the mirror and the sistrum. An ankh would also be a good symbol for many Egyptian Deities. You may want to include charms or images of the Deity in your beads.
Now is also the time to begin considering if you wish to use a set of prayers with your beads, if you'd like to have longer prayers on larger beads and a shorter prayer on the smaller beads, or the same prayer on each bead. Alternatively, you may wish to meditate on a different title or attribute of a Deity for each bead. You can also just hold beads while you pray from your heart or meditate on the Deity in general.
After thinking about all these things a bit, you may start to have ideas on what you want your beads to look like. Next, it's time to gather your materials, lay out your design, and put it all together! That's another post though, coming soon.