Advanced personal telecommunications : systems and industrial design
The thesis focuses on the industrial design role against a backdrop of the technological
and business development of advanced personal telecommunication products - defined
within this thesis as System Orientated Products (SOPs) - and systems. SOPs are
becoming functionally and visually sophisticated but offer less physical feedback to users
in relation to purpose, operation and value. The thesis argues that if designers are
involved early during development they may enhance commercial success, help teams to
explore user issues, and strengthen user empathy with individual devices and task
The literature review explored industrial design, models of product development, and user
issues associated with SOP development (SOPD). Findings suggest that industrial design
is characterised by lateral and experience-based problem solving activities that can
expand understanding of design opportunity and end-user knowledge. Product
development teams, in contrast, support different specialist interests, and therefore, it is
harder to maintain a collective user focus. This is illustrated within linear models of the
design process, defined by the Design Methods Movement in the 1960s, and early
generations of the innovation process described by Rothwell (Dogdson and Rothwell,
1994), where the introduction of expertise is staged according to development activities.
Since the 1970s more integrated and user-centred models (e. g. Quality Function
Deployment or integrated New Product Development) have supported collaboration during
development. The review concluded that it would be positive to organise SOPD around
collaborative, user-centred goals.
A qualitative case analysis of industrial design activity during SOPD added to the literature
review and the development of guidelines that outline a designer's optimal involvement
during SOPD. Five case interviews were conducted with development specialists in the
UK to compare development activity. Participants included engineering manager Larkin,
and industrial design specialists Berry, Desbarats, Hohl, and McBrien. It was concluded
that designers rarely adopt specific SOPD strategies, but support development teams with
wide-ranging experience and problem solving abilities, and help to focus user
A design process model is proposed that positions the Industrial designer as an integrator
of design knowledge within development teams when clarifying design briefs.
Implemented as a web-based design tool and co-ordinated by the designer, it supports an
evolving knowledge base for development teams. Evaluation of the tool involved
implementing a simplified e-mail version with development specialists. An industrial
designer was asked to explore a specified design opportunity, then an engineer and an
ergonomist responded to the emerging data. The exercise was repeated with a similar
sample of specialists to compare data entry patterns. Data analysis suggested that the
tool would offer an open and unrestricted platform for developing a brief, and encourage
broader exploration of user requirements.
The research conclusions highlight the exponential development of SOPs over the last
decade, and the rapid response made by the industry to new and emerging technologies.
This made it difficult to prove objectively the research hypothesis. However, conclusions
suggested that opportunities exist for broadening industrial design contribution within
SOPD in light of the clear shift from a technologically led, to a user- experience- and
context-driven approach, reinforced by collaborative and multidisciplinary practice.