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WINDOWS FOR ALL A people-centred design project with window manufacturer Nordan

Introduction Windows for all

A project initiated and coordinated by the Innovation for All Programme at the Norwegian Design Council — focusing on people-centred design as a tool for innovation. The project was one of many Design Pilot projects in 2009 that received funding from the Design driven Innovation Program at the Norwegian Design Council. The project partners:


Inclusive Design is about creating products that are safe and userfriendly for people of all ages and abilities. However it is also about meaningful, attractive design that customers will desire and want to have in their homes. This project created new design ideas that aimed to achieve two main goals: firstly, to meet the usability and safety requirements set out by new Norwegian legislation and secondly, to go beyond this to create new business opportunities for Norwegian window manufacturer NorDan. This booklet gives an overview of the project, outlining the various steps the design team went through. By taking a close look at people’s everyday experiences of windows, the team got a better understanding of their needs and aspirations in relation to windows. The result was design improvements for existing NorDan products as well as entirely new ideas. The project was a collaboration between NorDan, the Norwegian Design Council, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art and

Norwegian design consultancy Kadabra. Funding came from the Design Pilot Programme at the Norwegian Design Council, whose mission is to help business innovate in the early stages of the design process using a peoplecentred approach. The project lasted eight months with the design research phase led by Catherine Greene from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and the design development phase led by Jorgan Solstad and Jan Walter Parr from Kadabra. The project was presented to NorDan in September 2010. Johannes Rasmussen, Owner and Marketing Director of NorDan, said, “It makes an impression to see a person operate our windows with an elbow, you learn that they are not so easy for everyone to open… these important insights will be used to input into the further development of our next generations of products.”




Describing the focus of the research, key issues, ambitions and framework

Inclusive Design is about working with people who have extreme needs, typically due to their age or ability, though not exclusively because of this. These ‘lead users’ make more demands on a design and are more likely to demonstrate the inadequacies of a product as well as provide unique insights into their use. The way people compensate in response to inadequacies of a product can be a great source of inspiration to the designer. If a window can be designed to be used more easily and safely by a lead user, it is likely to be easier and safer for everyone else.



The design team used a variety of research methods including face-to-face home interviews and ‘lab’ workshops to engage with a range of users each with a set of diverse circumstances. These included a wheelchair user, a visually impaired person, a person with arthritis and a student living in a tiny flat with very little window space. The research was organised into four stages:

Define Discover Interpret Deliver


It was vital to ensure that both NorDan and the design team had a common understanding from the start. There are many processes that can help to ensure this. In this case the design team began with a presentation of ‘First Thoughts’, a collection of images that featured the window in many different contexts of use, for example security, accessibility and privacy. These were used to open up discussion and help define key issues and ambitions for the project.


A framework for the research was then developed in response. This outlined the goals and strategy for the project ensuring the agreement of everyone involved. The framework proposed a range of research methods. Basic user needs such as opening, closing and accessing the window would be tested in a lab workshop. The more aspirational ‘blue sky’ desires of people were then uncovered through one-to one interviews in the home environment.




Working with people to uncover needs and aspirations

Preparation A range of people were invited to participate in the research. Their consent was sought to allow the recording and use of quotes, images and video. Recording the research in these ways was important as it enabled the design team to relook at footage during the process of insight gathering and interpretation. The ‘raw’ research was also valuable in helping to communicate the project at its conclusion.

“You have to really work this opening out. If there was a fire and you had to get out, you would be panicking”


Lead user, age 64

Home interviews Five home interviews took place. These were arranged at the participant’s convenience and typically lasted for an hour. The interview focused on the person’s everyday experience of using their windows and covered themes such as seasonal change and lifestyle. The designer used a list of questions to guide the session, but kept the interviews informal and conversational to ensure that people felt relaxed and remained engaged in the process. Design provocations* were also used to trigger wider discussion and more imaginative uses of windows, helping to provoke more speculative ideas and uncover alternative possibilities. 2 *Design provocations are sketch ideas or models that users can respond to or test. 6

1 Lead user in wheelchair testing reach and openability. 2 Designers Catherine Greene and Jørgen Solstad preparing for user research. 7


Working with people to uncover needs and aspirations

Lab Workshop It is important to understand how people initially respond to a product and work out how to use it. In order to do this a laboratory-style workshop was set up and a selection of twelve lead users as well as designers were invited to attend. A temporary wall was built and two of NorDan’s most popular windows were installed into it allowing functionality, accessibility and intuitive use to be tested firsthand. The format also allowed people to discuss issues as a group.

“The point is to see the window from the perspective of the user.” Jørgen Solstad, Kadabra



Organising Workshops Workshops require a lot of preparation. A schedule of activities has to be planned and these need to be engaging and interesting as people are giving up time to participate. In a workshop the designer takes on the role of facilitator and many people might be needed to support larger workshops. It takes roughly one facilitator per three/four participants to run a successful session. There also needs to be one extra person available to record the proceedings using photography and film.


Photo Diary On our daily journey through the city, we see windows used in a variety of interesting ways. Throughout the project, these were observed and recorded in a photo-diary providing many valuable insights and inspiration.



Expert interviews Interviews were also held with a selection of experts such as architects and housing developers. Other interviews were held with professionals such as a Fire Inspector and the Police to further widen the project perspective and understand their requirements from windows. 8



Organise and interpret research findings and turn into design directions

Organise Research Findings The research insights were collated and organised using a variety of methods. Four different themes emerged, each addressing a key question: Open&Close How can we make the opening and closing of the window more inclusive? Look&Feel How can the brand be reinforced through the look and feel of the product? Added Value Other than looking out and opening up, what makes the window valuable to the user? Experience Windows are considered, bought, installed, used and discarded, but how does the NorDan experience engage with the user?

“The great thing about researching in this way is that you get insights into a lot of different subjects you never expected — it is a holistic approach.” Catherine Greene, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design




Organise and interpret research findings and turn into design directions

“These important insights will be used to input into our next generation of products.”

Johannes Rasmussen, Owner and Marketing Director NorDan

Ideation Two days were spent generating ideas and concepts in response to the insights gathered from the research with people. Insights were grouped into themes.

Design Development The most promising concepts were then developed further and taken forward to be prototyped and tested. A second laboratorystyle workshop was set up to help evaluate these concepts. Two ‘extreme’ users, a wheelchair user and people with limited dexterity and hand strength were invited to use the prototypes and give their feedback. This was very important in helping to improve and validate the concepts. A young lead user testing alternative handles

A selection of design sketches investigating how the handles of the window can be designed to communicate to the user which way the window will open.

“You get the feeling that opening comes a long way down the list of priorities” Lead user during lab event (lady aged 65)




Presentation and delivery of final concepts

Presentation The Inclusive Design process can produce a wide range of ideas based on the experiences of real users. However, these ideas need to be presented in the context of these experiences and it is important to communicate the research in an easily digestible format to complement the final ideas. The research with people that is collected is a valuable asset in itself and must not be forgotten as it can be used by the company as reference material and inspiration for future projects. When presenting the Windows For All project, the team produced a selection of documents to communicate the project research. These were designed to complement each other and used by NorDan after the project concluded.

Communication Document A document was created that contained the key findings from the research and outlined the final concepts. These were presented under the four themes Open&Close, Look&Feel, Added Value and Experience. The document contained audio and video from the research. It could be read and understood by someone with no prior knowledge of the project.


Short Film A short film was produced to help communicate the research process and give NorDan direct access to the perspective of their customers. Brochure A ‘brochure’ was created to give an overview of the final design ideas. The format of the brochure aimed to help NorDan imagine how the concepts might exist in their own product catalogue. Next Steps NorDan were positive about the the process and design ideas. Not only has it resulted in ideas for improving opening mechanisms and handles but it has also resulted in ideas for complementary products, services and brand new product. They are now in the process of developing some of these ideas for testing and production. Most importantly, this Inclusive Design process has helped NorDan to reassess their approach to the design of windows and open up a dialogue with their end users. It resulted in creative thinking and consumer-centred innovation, and in a very competitive marketplace where legislation is increasing, NorDan will be in a strong position going forward.

“We were impressed that even with such a small project we got so many fresh ideas. You should have at least one industrial designer on your staff … because they think differently. The project resulted in us building a new research centre, 300-400 m2… we hope that will help us speed up product development.” Johannes Rasmussen, Owner and Marketing Director NorDan

With Norway about to launch new legislation for windows (‘Byggteknisk forskrift’), window manufacturer NorDan decided to see this as an opportunity and use Inclusive Design to help them innovate. The ‘Windows for All’ project was the result.

Windows for All  

A people-centred design project with window manufacturer Nordan, Kadabra produktdesign and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design.

Windows for All  

A people-centred design project with window manufacturer Nordan, Kadabra produktdesign and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design.