Design, product identity and technological innovation
This research evaluates the role of industrial design in the development of technologically innovatory products (t i p's) designed for untrained users. Technologically innovatory products are studied because of their unpredictable patterns of use, visual identity and market potential. Untrained users are studied since it is likely that they are less well equipped to adjust to new design characteristics than trained users and thus present a greater requirement for a self-explanatory product identity. The thesis examines recent technological developments and their potential effects on product design. A working definition of the t i p is developed and particular problems posed for manufacturers, designers and users identified. Contemporary secondary source material is employed, together with primary source material culled from interviews with design practitioners and theorists in Europe and the United States. The concept of product identity is explored with reference to the differences apparent in professional, domestic and leisure contexts. Four research hypotheses are established, the principal of which states "that a series of differentials exists between product design intentions and medium to long term user needs and preferences". A research method for making direct comparisons between design intentions and user responses utilising a two-part questionnaire is described. The pilot and application of the method to a single t i p - a microwave oven - is documented. Responses are divided into four groups: operational, stylistic, manufacturing and technological, which facilitate the direct comparison of user and design responses. The research demonstrates that there are perceptual mismatches between designer and user responses and between members of the design team itself. The thesis concludes with an examination of the results with respect to their detrimental effects on product use, and a discussion of the potential reapplication of the method as both a research and design tool.