“For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert” Introduction Everyone has their own design process, but which one is the best? Throughout history industry experts have tried to nail down what they believe to be the best, easiest and most productive way of going about the design process. Over the last decade or so the introduction of user centered design has dominated the way graduates have been taught, and now work within industry, along with this has been the slow introduction of co-creation where development is collaboratively executed by developers and stakeholders together. But the design industry is changing with evermore pressure from the worlds governments, consumers and environmentalist to create a range of products, services and practices that are more environmentally friendly than ever before, not to mention universal design. Over the next few pages I will attempt to describe in details the main paradigms of each process, my main methodology will be that of and interview which has been recorded and turned into a pedagogic documentary, coupled with my own knowledge of the design
process, and literature from both the internet and published documents. This will allow me to create a more holistic and comprehensive final report detailing different viewpoints and methods from around several sectors within the design industry. I will attempt to conclude this paper with my own views on the future of the design industry looking into how we should go about the process of design, how we should be teaching our graduate students, and touch upon important subjects such as environmental factors, user centered design amongst others. Understanding the changes that have occurred over the last few decades, with respect to academic institutions is important, this allows one to understand how graduates are taught. If you take a look at the academic institutions around the country you will see they are referred to as Art and Design schools, this in itself can strike confusion into many people, because art and design are two separate entities but are perceived to be taught in the same way. Art and design are two very different subjects. Take art for example. The artist; be this a
painter or a sculpture is ultimately the producer and the final judge on it’s fitness for purpose state for the consumer. Artists are not bound by rules and regulations and can create to their hearts content. A designer on the other hand is bound by the marketplace and products they produce have to be ‘fit for purpose’. Whilst the designer is the producer, it is the public who are the consumers. Several years ago the design industry introduced academic courses and teachings that reflected the very nature of the consumer; aesthetics, cognitive behavior, design practice and visual literacy, amongst others. This brought about the birth of what we now call user “centered design”, with the primary focus throughout the design process being that the user is paramount throughout. It seems odd that Art and Design are still bound together after so many years. Admittedly they have some form of relationship with one another, but that is where it ends. Design is a completely different discipline within its own right, and its only sensible that the gap between art and design is broadened. This has already been seen with the introduction of design academies, such as the
one in Eindhoven, aptly named the Eindhoven Design Academy. If you take a closer look into the history of the design industry you will see that it was highly influenced by art in the past, this is because of the strong relationship that they used to have with one another, and artist was also a designer. With the introduction of design as discipline, one that would be taught came the introduction of research into the wants and needs of a user. Design compared to the lengthy history of art is still only a baby infant taking its first few steps. If you were to teach your child everything you knew then that child would in fact grow up to become just like you. This is in essence just like the design industry. At the beginning the only people that could teach design were the artists themselves. As the industry has grown and research has been done, like that of a child becoming inquisitive about the world the design industry has taken steps away from the art world. Today designers should be taught by designers, and artists by artists, neither of the two should cross on an academic basis. User Centered Design In the past products and services have been developed from a strict technology centered perspective, the engineers were the ‘designers’ creating the technology, and thus creating the interfaces and interactions for said technology, over time the consumer has become more and more in-tune with the products they buy, Moggridge explains in his book, that over the past few years that consumers have transitioned from not caring how the product works but more about having the latest technology; the enthusiast, but to a consumer who wants the products to simply work first time, no longer do they want to struggle with manuals and have to learn new operating procedures, they want simplicity style and looks. The basic fundamental ideals behind user centered design is in the title, the user is put first, the emphasis is on making the product usable and understandable, which in turn create a more fluid and stress free experience.
The basic principle of this kind of design process is explained by Donald Norman (Norman 2002, p.188) as simply using both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head, understanding your consumers, understanding how they think and what they want, knowing what they know and what they do not know will create for a better product or service in the long run. Simply put user centered design involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint and designing for error. (Anon 2008) Alison Black a psychologist who specializes in developing user focused products and services writes on the Design Councils website that “The central premise of user-centred design is that the best-designed products and services result from understanding the needs of the people who will use them. User-centred designers engage actively with end- users to gather insights that drive design from the earliest stages of product and service development, right through the design process.” (Black 2008) User-centered design has wide reaching potential, and can be practiced within nearly every aspect of the design industry, from fashion design to software design, from product design to website design. In the past products and services have been developed from a technology centered perspective which never really took the user needs into consideration. Products were simply created and put out to market, with the introduction of user centered design came a focus on product evaluation, this was made easier by the introduction of the internet, which in turn allowed for consumer to report on the issues that they may have had with the product / service, directly to the producer, once this information was made readily available, the designers would be able to issue software updates which would fix said problems, this would also allow for more refinement in product refreshes. Co-Creation Co-creation allows both the developers and
stake holders to take a collaborative approach to designing the final product / service, the birth of co-creation was born within the realms of software engineering and the open-source movement, open source software allows the hard code to be readily available to the consumer as well as 3rd party software developers empowering them to make their own changes and improvements. Whilst co-creation is not a new practice it is until now that the concept of co-creation in regards to products and services has been taken seriously, Ajit Kambil states that “the internet has radically altered the proposition that listening to your customers can help you improve your products and services. Customers are now able to be so intimately involved in the development and usage of what you have to sell that they can become co-creators of value” (Kambil & A Friesen 1999) Co-creation further enhances the relationship between the consumer and the producer, and could be seen as a further extension of the key points associated with user centred design. Making the consumer an integral part of the design process allows a constant evaluation phase for the product, this in my opinion would have a serious advantage in the length of a products life-cycle. Creating a bond between the consumer and the brand also creates a special relationship, in a world where the next best deal is only a webpage away. It is detailed in the co-creation connection, written by CK Prahalad & V. Ramaswamy that enabling the consumer in such a stakeholder role enables the following additions to the companies arsenal, Information access, where the company would gain access to (Prahalad 2008, p.7) “unprecedented amounts of information, consumers have knowledge to make much more informed decisions”. They also bring the ability for networking, experimentation, and activism (unsolicited feedback). This enables companies to create products much more tailor-made than ever before Prahalad goes on to explain that there are four building blocks for the successful implementation of a co-creation relationship, these include dialogue at every stage,
followed by access , risk reduction and finally transparency with the consumer and other stakeholders. Sustainable design Sustainability is nothing new, and has been the focus of public interest since the early 1970’s, but its only recently that more people have been taking notice, consumers have been demanding products that are good for the environment, and they have been doing this by voting with their feet, added pressure from governments around the world, and increased pressure from environmental agencies around the world, have created a market for sustainable and recyclable products, large conglomerate companies have been taking note, notably the car industry, facing an uncertain future with the diminishing supplies of fossil fuels, they have been forced to find new and alternative methods to powering the vehicles. Mik Pieniazek states in (Scott. A 2009) For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert, that ‘sustainability is not seen as an exotic special thing, it has to be fundamental in all of that... sustainability is not seen as an attractive add-on but is a fundamental attitude, strategy and mindset throughout everything you do’ But to look at sustainable design as simply recyclable materials, and saving the environment would be detrimental to the process of innovation. Its important to look into the buying patterns of consumers, never more has the life of a product been so small, mobile phone are seen to be mere consumables, only to be replaced after 6 months for a newer model whilst PC’s last no longer than two years, internet services are also victims of this throw away mentality, you will have seen in the last few years the birth and slow demise in popularity of sites such as bebo, faceparty, myspace amongst other its this throw away mentality that is detrimental to the design of environmentally friendly products. It would be sensible to look at the terminology used when referring to sustainable design. The term sustainability to the generalized public
conjures up thoughts of the environment, recycling and saving the planet. If they were to take the perspective of the designer then the term sustainability could be seen as the meaning of efficiency within the design of a product, the materials used and the production process. All this ‘efficiency’ in the long run in fact helps with the environmental impact of the product, so in terms of efficiency this has been around since the beginning of time. Products have always been designed to be efficient, from the cave man with his spear to the current day with the battery life on your mobile phone. The only difference today, is that the public have now attached understandable terminology to a subject matter that is fully in the limelight. Fundamentals of the design process Trying to nail down a comprehensive design process is nigh impossible, and as the title of this report states, there is always going to be an argument for and against each process, although many process’s use pretty much the same basic foundations. The following is taken from the documentary that shares the same title as this report, each contributer was asked to describe the process they go through from the initial inception through to the final product. Roy Chilvers a lecturer at Salford University, has a background in a number of different sectors though recently specialises in digital design, Mik Pieniazek is a product designer and has 20 years academic experience, he is also a lecturer within the School of Art and Design at Salford University, Lawrence Kitson is a graduate of Lancaster University and now works at the Sony Ericsson’s Interaction Department based in Lund, Sweden. Roy Chilvers Roy states that he tries to teach 4 basic fundamentals to the design process. The first of these is investigation then comes analysis and synthesis. He goes on to state that initially likes to get students to take a
step backwards from designing, as there is a temptation to work in a very formulaic way, by digesting the information and jumping into the designing stage. Investigation gives the opportunity to find different angles and explore different outcomes based on the information gathered through research. Once the process of investigation is completed comes the process of analysis, this is where the information is analyzed so as to find the best results for the brief. Roy points out that the stage of evaluation is an integral part to his process, being able to release the product for evaluation irons out any issues that may have been and the consumer is able to feedback to the designers any issues that they have had. Mik Pieniazek Mik explains the process he goes through as a product designer he starts with framing the project, understanding the brief and positioning yourself is imperative to creating a statement of intent, taking this and running it through to conclusive realization. Mik goes on to explain that certain factors have now become fundamental and almost always have to be considered whilst going through the design process, these include ethical, market and social issues along with environmental issues to contend with, he explains that the user is now paramount, in terms of the market perspective and the user perspective. It was clear from Mik’s interview that his design process is very much based on the concrete external factors that surround him at the time of conceptualisation. Lawrence Kitsons Whilst not his own approach to the design process, Lawrence uses some of his own knowledge and that coupled with the structures already set in place within Sony Ericsson. Lawrence explains that his first point of call would be to speak with the stakeholders, which in this case would be one of the cellular network providers like O2 or Vodafone. Here he would speak to the application planners who would put forward a business
Image Right: A visual representaion of a design process on paper.
case to the stakeholders detailing why this would be good and profitable addition for them. Once this has been confirmed, then Lawrence would go onto the conceptual design phase where he would constantly liaise with software and hardware departments making sure things are feasible within the timeframe, after conceptual design is completed Lawrence will enter into a detailed design phase, this would include some technical research into what is best for the user in terms of interaction. This research phase would allow Lawrence to further explore his ideas and would also allow for more innovative results. Lawrence’s design process it’s very much shaped by the sector he is in. Interaction design is a very new discipline, with a lot of competition and is controlled to a great extent the stakeholders who Sony Ericsson sell to, these being Vodafone, O2 and other mobile operators. Multi-disciplinary approach Using a multi-disciplinary approach to research has been pushed more and more in recent years, with the introduction of new doctoral training centers, such as the doctoral training centre at Lancaster University, who will be specialising in “a post-disciplinary approach to innovation through research which crosses computing, design and management.” A multi-disciplinary approach would typically be seen as a group of individuals from different sectors the design industry working together to create a product or service, for example you could have an interaction designer, a graphic designer, a product designer and someone with a history of design management, each utilising each others knowledge and expertise. Using a multi-disciplinary approach to design allows the people involved to create a more holistically based final product or service, drawing upon specialist knowledge from each contributers professional field of practice allows the group to create a wider range of options, as opposed to a group of product designers,
that have a strictly linear viewpoint. Mik Pieniazeks remembers the introduction of courses such as Design Studies, in the late nineteen eighties to early nineties which was the first time, such a teaching style had been introduced, taking specialists from various sectors of the design industry and grouping them together to work on projects allowed the graduates to come away with a much wider perspective on aspects of the design industry, graduates with taught a wide range of skills. Future of the Design Industry Firstly to look at the future of the industry we have to take a step back and see how the design industry has changed over the last few decades, the main and most prominent of these changes was brought about with the introduction of the personal computer, like when the printing press was introduced, the introduction of a digital platform revolutionised the way designers worked, some see this as a positive and others see this as a negative. The introduction of the personal computer allowed designers to try more ideas out in a shorter space of time, allowing designers to explore, investigate and reject quickly, but it is important to remember that technology is simply a tool in the growing arsenal available to designers. Technology is a enabler and a facilitator rather than a thing in itself, many students believe that simply knowing how to use a program will allow them to create the latest greatest product or service, what needs to be taught is when to utilize technology during the design process and when to use it, understanding when and where to use the technological services available to them stand them in far better sted than simply knowing the basics of a software package. It needs to be understood that technology is simply a means of promoting, developing, creating and aiding in the production of a product or service, rather than allowing the technology itself to take over the project. So what kind of graduates should we now be
training? The boundaries between specialist subjects are now becoming more and more blurred, product designers are required to look at interfaces and interactions and visa versa, gone has the conventional linear approach to teaching, and gone has the idea of one person being shoehorned into a specific genre of expertise. The question on whether having graduates with a non-linear approach to the design process can be a difficult one to answer, whilst we have the need for specialized graduates who possess high skill levels in specific aspects of design, for example graphic design, product design, it is also important for them to have transferable skills gained from other sectors of the design industry, as Mik Pieniazek states, (Scott. A 2009) “twenty years ago it would have been unheard of for a product designer to also work on the interface of a product, but now it is common practice, the boundaries of specialism are becoming blurred as graduates are becoming more and more accustomed to working within teams and utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to research and design.” I thinks its important and fundamental to the survival of the designer and the progression to the next chapter in the weird and often egotistical world of the design industry that a new breed of designer be created, we need to train up graduates in multiple fields of design, whilst still maintaining that level of specialty in a chosen subject, this will allow fellow designers to gain a respect and understanding for each others chosen discipline and push linear based thinking into the background. But this needs to then be nurtured within industry, with the basic foundations of user centred design already out there in many different forms, it would not be that difficult to introduce co- creation within the industry. This can already be seen within software development and with he added advantage of the internet it is now easier to communicate with the consumer and create a stakeholder style relationship. With the introduction of so many unwritten
rules with regards to environmental, economic and social issues to name just a few, we have to wonder where is the future of design heading, we currently have a strong focus on user centered design, this is key to any products success in the current market climate, but things are changing the consumer is changing and changing rapidly, more and more people are becoming environmentally aware and their buying and usage habits are changing, will this push user centered design from the top of the priority lis? Should we be looking at the environmental issue in terms of greener products? This I think is the first fundamental mistake designers think about when they envision green environmental products, to much emphasis is put onto the idea of recyclable materials among other cliche environmental words. The pace of consumption in regards to todays products and services is shortening with the release of every product, too many of todays products have short life cycles, they are easily binned and replaced for a fraction of the original cost, production lifecycles are also a lot shorter than they ever have been, with companies bringing out a fresh updated product at least yearly. The problem with todays products is that they have no connection with its owner, there is no emotional bond between the user and the device, therefore there is no remorse when the device is misplaced or broken through bad treatment, products contain no emotional value and therefore can be replaced over and over again, this has a ongoing burdening effect on the environment, ZDnet claim that Americans throw away (Alex Moskalyuk 2005) “2 mln tons of electronic products a year - including 50 mln computers and 130 mln cell phones” simply eradicating the ‘throw away’ mentality of the consumer by creating products that are a desirable living commodity is surely the way of the future. As previously mentioned co-creation is a credible response to the problem of the ‘throw away’ mentality, with the introduction of
working consumer groups, the consumer will in turn become a credible stakeholder within a given project, and will have a valid input into the design of products and services, much like that of the open source software platform. A simple way of putting this would be to say, “who knows more about what the consumer wants than the consumer?” I think its important to always have something to refer back to when going about the design process, to have a set of objectives and criteria that you can refer back too as a key for evaluating the project at any given stage, this allows for the project to stay on track. Above is a criteria tree I have devised that would set the basic foundations for any given design based project although the grading could change depending on the nature of the project. This criteria sets about establishing a basic and fundamental guideline for design based projects, these are as follows: User-centred design consists of 3 separate subject headings; Visibility. This refers to the theory by D. Norman that when the design of a product utilizes the information already readily available to the user from the external surroundings, or information in the world, the designer utilizes this information allowing the user to feel comfortable and relaxed, and perform actions quicker therefore creating a pleasurable experience. Affordances and Constraints. This again refers to D. Norman theory of affordances and constraints, the designer should as with the aforementioned visibility, utilise the information readily available to the user, by affording actions and constraining actions. An example of this would be a push pad on a door, this constrains the user to do one action, push, there is no handle to afford the user to pull.
Mapping. D. Norman explains mappings in the following way (Norman 2002, p.199) “Natural mappings are what has been called “response compatibility” within the fields of human factors and ergonomics. The major requirement of response compatibility is that the spatial relationship between the positioning of controls and the systems of objects that upon which they operate should be as direct as possible.” Next in the criteria comes conceptual models: Understanding conceptual models is fundamental to understanding how to design for the user, without this knowledge, it would frankly be non-productive, and pointless going about the design process. Designer Model. This is what the designer has in mind for the user, how they will operate the system, this should be similar if not the same as the user model, this is a critical stage in understanding how the user will react to the system. User Model The user model is what the user will develop to understand and operate the system (product) once in front of the product. System Image This is critical to the successful operation of the system, it determines how the system and the user communicate, its important to note that if the designers conceptualized image does not corresponding with the user model then the only way the two can communicate is through the system. Following conceptual models, we go into cocreation Consumer influence This will look into how much influence the consumer has had on the development of the product, looking into information gained along with experimentation and evaluations. Looking into if all the relevant information was utilized
to its full potential Producer influence This will look into how much influence the designer has had on the project, looking into if all aspects of the their proposal was taken into consideration. Finally comes external parameters these can however change depending on the current climate, currently I have chosen the following as serious matters that should be addressed under the current climate. Environmental. in the current climate environmental issues are a serious talking point, this can be interpreted as one sees fit, but would benefit from some key research into environmentally available options. Ethical A products ethical issues should also be looked at and constantly monitored, with the advantage of having consumers aboard the project as stakeholders, this may uncover peoples true feelings. Social One of the greatest advantages of coproduction is the unvalued input from the consumer as a stakeholder, this either by product reviews or by a genuine stakeholder group, as described later on the consumer has unrivaled information and networking data. Allowing it to understand the social implications and uptake a lot quicker than a designer hypothesizing in a lab. Above is a schematic diagram I have created, conceptualizing the design process. The diagram starts with the graduate designer who has been educated in his/ her skill set, this could be for example product design, within this area of specialist expertise the graduate would have the options on what else to cover within their course this for example could be interface design or interaction design, the graduate also undergoes training in user centered design, co-production, and information technology.
Completing a course of this nature and varied skill sets would prepare the graduate for industry, more so than current linear based course structures. Once the graduate leaves academia they will become and employee within the design industry, employees should also undergo training on a regular basis along with the own personal investment into their chosen skill. Employee training is a long process and employees should undergo training at regular intervals to become leaders within their field or chosen expertise. The employee in turn works for the company, the company in my opinion should employ a user-centered co-production approach to the design process, this should work on the principle that there are 3 stakeholders in the project, this however could be more depending if this is necessary. For the purpose of this diagram I have chosen to have 3 stakeholders, these are the employee who will now be referred to as the designer, the consumer and the company. The company also keeps its eye on the external market forces which could ultimately end the life of a product or service before it has begun. It is the company’s responsibility to keep abreast of any changes and forecast where the market is heading. This includes but is not limited to brand identity, competition and technology. Co-production in this sense relies on the education background of the designer, the market knowledge of the company, who fully understand the outside forces such as social and ethical implications along with sustainability, the consumer brings with it valuable information, networking capabilities and the option for experimentation on large numbers. Its important to understand that it is fundamental to have at least 3 stakeholders during the design process, each stakeholder entity can consist of more sub-stakeholders,
for example, the designer side could consist of a product designer, interface designer and an interaction designer, whereas the company could consist of someone from marketing, management, and finance, the consumer side can consist of people from several persona’s and demographic backgrounds. This can obviously be changed depending on the wants and the needs of the company, but its imperative in any process, that as many people as sensibly feasible are involved. Once there is a group of stakeholders then the design process can get underway, there are several important and fundamental steps that you must undertake in order to full eliminate any issues that may hinder the products final ‘fit for purpose’ state. Through my research and findings I have completed what I deem to be a sufficient design process that will cover all aspects of the design theories we have covered in this paper. Conceptual Design Conceptual design would involve a mind mapping session with the stakeholder involved in the project this would allow all parties to put forward their ideas, because of the varied nature of the stakeholders, this will allow for a much larger range of ideas. Investigation During the first investigation stage, stakeholders will look into the external forces, consumers investigations amongst other things, this will eliminate some ideas and allow for more focused work on the ideas that make it through Feasibility Feasibility will be looked at within other departments, be this software, hardware, manufacture, technology, finance, time constraints, all this will need to be looked at and gone over.
Detailed Design The detailed design phase is much like the conceptual design phase expect the ideas have now been shortlisted this allows for more focus to be put onto the products, it is still possible at this point for new ideas to come forward, and be investigated. Work now is more in-depth and more refined that perviously Analysis and Synthesis Analysis and synthesis of the information takes place, which leads onto investigation Investigation Investigation would now look into consumer surveys, utilizing the knowledge of the consumer and user groups, using information from designers, and their technological knowhow. This is the last stage of investigation so all information must be sourced at this point. Evaluation The final stage of evaluation takes place, this would include help from the consumers stakeholders, and would be beneficial to undergo some experimentation before final release any issues that arise would then go back to investigation phase. Usability / External Forces Usability factors and external forces will always prop up during the evaluation phase and this should be dealt with as efficiently as possible. Combating these issues now, using the help available through the consumer stakeholder group will diminish many of the issues on launch, making the product / service a far more usable and sale-able prospect. Fit for purpose Finally the product or service is fit for purpose and ready to be launched to the general public. I fully believe following the points I have made will help to create a far more holistic product if followed correctly.
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