Scholarly article on topic 'An Approach for Personalised Product Development'

An Approach for Personalised Product Development Academic research paper on "Materials engineering"

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Academic journal
Procedia Technology
OECD Field of science
{"affective design" / "novel approach" / "personalised design"}

Abstract of research paper on Materials engineering, author of scientific article — Mladenko Kajtaz, Blake Witherow, Clara Usma, Milan Brandt, Aleksandar Subic

Abstract Currently certain standards for consumer products are expected which are mainly based around functionality, aesthetics, ease-of-use, affordability, safety, etc. Currently, smarter products that meet the user’ functional and psychological needs are in demand. This paper presents an approach that was effective in identifying and quantifying subjective requirements from customers during a design of a personalised cricket faceguard successfully translating the language of the customer into a visual representation of an artefact.

Academic research paper on topic "An Approach for Personalised Product Development"

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Procedia Technology 20 (2015) 191 - 198

The International Design Technology Conference, DesTech2015, 29th of June - 1st of July 2015,

Geelong, Australia

An Approach for Personalised Product Development

Mladenko Kajtaza*, Blake Witherowa, Clara Usmab, Milan Brandta, Aleksandar Subica

aRMIT University, Centre for Additive Manufacturing. bDeakin University, Locked Bag 20000, Geelong 3220, Australia


Currently certain standards for consumer products are expected which are mainly based around functionality, aesthetics, ease-of-use, affordability, safety, etc. Currently, smarter products that meet the user' functional and psychological needs are in demand. This paper presents an approach that was effective in identifying and quantifying subjective requirements from customers during a design of a personalised cricket faceguard successfully translating the language of the customer into a visual representation of an artefact.

© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of School of Engineering, Faculty of Science Engineering & Built Environment, Deakin University Keywords: affective design; novel approach; personalised design

1. Introduction

For most mass produced products, design and production typically consists of several distinct phases, which are executed almost sequentially, with some iterations and overlaps. The practicing engineers [1] and the theorists alike [2], generally agree that a product development begins with an idea, generated by manufacturers, suppliers, or consumers, that seems to define an existing or future customer need. Product developers then experiment and formalise concept proposals, which consequently get translated into detailed designs and prototypes. Ultimately, the prototypes become production models, which can be tested and refined further [3-6]. If there is more than one potential customer, this basic sequence is extended to accommodate a replication of the design with various levels of efficiency and output

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 422 882 993 E-mail address:

2212-0173 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of School of Engineering, Faculty of Science Engineering & Built Environment, Deakin University doi: 10. 1016/j .protcy.2015.07.031

volumes from a few (batch production) to many (mass production), otherwise it becomes a personalised design process.

Meeting consumers' needs with a new product is a crucial issue for product design in today's highly competitive market. Functionality, aesthetics, ease-of-use, affordability, recyclability, and safety are all attributes that are expected to already exist in a product. Functionality is increasingly taken for granted in products, and users are looking for fulfillment at an altogether different level of appreciation [7]. Therefore, in order to improve product's appeal to specific users, a well-designed product is required not only to satisfy functional requirements; but should also satisfy consumers' psychological needs and the affective requirements. Luchs and Swan [8] identified the interdependency between these two aspects as an understudied area. They suggested that although it is often mentioned in the literature that the form or appearance of a product can influence perceptions of functionality, not much empirical research has been done in this area apart from a limited number of publications that investigated the influence of the product appearance as a whole or its characteristics on the perception of quality [9-11], usability [12], and performance [13].

Many systematic methods [2, 14], dealing mainly with the functional aspect, have been developed in engineering design to obtain successful products. These methods are efficient to assess and validate product prototypes with a scientifically based argumentation. However, there is a lack of such a methodology when esteem and aesthetic requirements such as brand image, personal aesthetics and current trends are addressed. Therefore, activities related to the aesthetic aspect are often reduced to a discussion based on opinion and subjectivity [15]. The affective aspects are typically accommodated with methods such as User-Centred Design and Kansei Engineering. Traditionally, User-Centred Design has focused on utilitarian aspects of user needs [16], which is typically insufficient for understanding customer satisfaction [17] and it is necessary to go beyond usability in order to understand customer satisfaction associated with product use [18, 19]. Kansei Engineering, incorporating the emotional appeal, is an ergonomic user-oriented technology for product development [20-22], and its use has become a very popular trend as it has found its application in the design of many physical products, such as color copy systems [23], mobile phones [24], digital cameras [25], knives [26], and machine tools [27]. Although widely applied, it has a product centred approach, and is utilised mainly for product evaluation late in the design process, often after many crucial production decisions [28].

Taking the affective aspects into account and incorporating them in a product design still remains a challenge. This becomes particularly challenging in personalised design of a consumer product such as cricket faceguard, which is dominantly semantic design as its functional aspect is strictly governed and defined by the standards as performance and safety requirements. The challenge stems from the fact that a personalised design can be seen as a form of individualization, the topmost tier in the hierarchy of ergonomics and hedonomic needs as presented by Hancock et al. [29] which implies maximization of pleasures while engaging with the environment and the artefacts. In other words, the user requirements of personalised products potentially assume that issues of utility, safety and comfort have been satisfied and the emphasis shifts on symbolic attributes of design that provide a meaning that goes beyond design's functional outlook.

As the existing methods of identifying the ideal product for consumers are less suited for more subjective attributes [30], which are often influenced by the visual aspect of a product, such as aesthetics and emotional appeal, ergonomics and usability, a more suitable approach needs to be adopted to suit personalised product development process. This paper presents an approach that was adopted for the design of a personalised cricket faceguard [31], which could also be useful for personalization of other consumer artefacts where the affective aspects of design dominate design requirements.

2. Adopted Design Approach

An approach of designing and developing one product for one customer that is present in this paper is schematically represented in Fig 1. In this approach, the functional and the semantic elements in the design process are performed concurrently, whereby the functional design encompasses activities such as certification, tailor-made shaping and sizing as well as materials exploration; whereas the affective/semantic design addresses the aspects of aesthetic impression, semantic interpretation, and symbolic association in design. These two parallel streams converge at the fabrication stage whereby the semantic design stream contributes with the final design concept and the functional design stream with the know-how. Although, three distinctive sections are identified, they are not independent; transfers of concepts across the dotted boundaries in the schematic are inevitable. In this approach, the fabrication is

based on a low-cost tooling, which allows merging of prototyping and the production, leading to a leaner development. However, the methodology also features three distinctive update loops that may impede the development if mismanaged. In order to provide a more detailed description of the proposed approach in the engineering design practice, the key components of the approach are discussed in relationship to the product development of the personalised cricket faceguard described in Kajtaz et al. [31].

hypotheses validation loop — artifact validation loop

^^ concepts validation loop

Fig 1 - Schematic representation of the adopted methodology

3. Functional Design

The functional design activity consists of the typical product development tasks associated with an engineering design adapted to a process that is driven by affective design activities. Transitioning from the product's performance criteria makes the base for a definition of the functional design requirements as it ensures that the product best fulfills its intended function. Meeting the overall shape and size requirements is a two-course activity consisting of capturing overall dimensions to then initiate form optimization for performance. In the first stage of capturing product's measurements, a process that resembles a tailor alternation whereby an existing artefact of an appropriate size was tacked in to the customer likings at different locations in order to formulate a new reference or design planes with the respect to the existing; or to create the new reference in a case of a discontinuous innovation. Rapid prototyping is then used to prototype this new design and confirmed with the customer at the next fitting. Whereas this personalised fitting defines the global sizing parameters and the human-artefact interface, the traditional optimisation defines the

sizing on a component level, typically ensuring balanced compromise between the lightweight design and the performance. As the manufacturing requirements are bound to the processes suitable for a low volume production, a material selection, which is further subordinate to the performance requirements, predefines a corresponding manufacturing process. Overall, the functional design activity still remains the fundamental activity of the design that defines the Fabrication component of the presented approach and it is a backbone for the Concept generation activities in the Affective Design component.

4. Affective Design

The affective design activity consists of a combination of persona-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative concept releases and validated learning, whereby a user persona was created as a collection of hypotheses that were validate through iterative visual suggestions (concepts) and affective and cognitive user feedback.

4.1. User Persona and Hypotheses Validation Loop

The affective user needs are subtle, ambiguous and generally more difficult to obtain due to the difficulties in describing them. Given that personalised design is essentially a user-centred design, the affective requirements needed to be identified by probing user emotions [32, 33], which redefined the role of the designer as a translator of the verbal language of a customer into a visual representation. In order to effectively synthesise the affective requirements, a user persona [34-37], as a design tool, was employed. Persona is a user archetype based on ethnographic data extracted from a user research. An employment of user persona in a personalised product development is particularly advantageous because it captures the affective requirements not only of the customer's personal expressions but also symbolic associations needed to enhance the customer's celebrity brand or public image.

In the work related to the personalised design of a cricket faceguard [31], the existing public image was the most critical constituent of this persona, which was investigated and reconstructed as a series of hypotheses through scanning and monitoring of the media, social media and interviews/questionnaires with the members of the cricket community and the cricket fans. It became obvious that the affective requirements related to the symbolic association or the social impact were dominating those related to the customer's personal aesthetic impressions (like for mass-produced products, where the personal aesthetic impression is entirely absent), which reinforced the appropriateness of using a persona in contrast to a real person (the customer). Although, this is not expected to be the general case but rather an exception for some high profile public individuals, the adoption of persona is still recommended as it provides more flexibility.

One typical disadvantage to personas is that they can risk stereotyping the user, which may seem to be encouraged by the application of hypotheses in this approach. On the contrary, the hypotheses are validated through design concepts and/or the customer feedback loop, thus the persona is constructed of the confirmed, contradicted and tentative hypotheses. A clear distinction between them is an assurance of an accurate representation.

4.2. Concept Validation Loop

Although inseparable from the Hypotheses validation loop, the Concept validation loop is another distinguishable user feedback loop in the affective design activity. This loop is based on a lean build-measure-learn strategy whereby a minimum viable product/solution (MVP) is presented to the customer for their feedback. The MVP is a concept borrowed from the lean startup methodology and represents a version of a new product which allows a collection of the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. Affective and cognitive responses to the MVP are then collected from the customer to further progress the development (new concepts/MVPs and validation of the persona hypotheses). Whereas the cognitive responses tend to be analytical and rational, the affective responses are based on emotions, specific feeling and moods. The following sections present an instance of the concept validation loop during the personalised cricket faceguard design [31].

4.2.1. Example - Personalised Cricket Faceguard (Fig 4)

Initial. The concept development commenced with design variations of an existing faceguard with an incremental introduction of semantics inspired by pop-culture and video games. This was the first time the concept of owing a unique faceguard was presented to the customer as a series of tangible solutions. Due to their uniqueness in style and personality but also due to deep-seated desires of users for individuality, pleasure and aesthetics [38-42], this event immediately elicited positive affection. However, the cognitive feedback suggested an elevated aggression.

1st Iteration. The perceived aggression that was conceptualised in the initial set of design iterations was alleviated through elimination of sharp edges in the following iteration. Unlike the initial iteration, this iteration exploited the used advanced manufacturing technique (additive manufacturing) by presenting unique design features that were not typically implemented due to the limitations of the traditional manufacturing processes. In particular, this concept featured small radii bends, seamless bonding and blending as well as a solid inset that was blended with the interconnecting segments. In order to elicit and maintain positive affective responses, this concept was presented as hardware - a full-sized, polymer 3D printed faceguard attached to a cricket helmet. Although not as intensive as the first time, the affective response was positive. The cognitive response followed the affective response almost immediately, which indicated that the customer had already had an opportunity to incubate the whole personalisation concept and to become aware of their preferences, though still unable to clearly communicate all of them. However, the requirement that a faceguard should not obscure the key facial features such as nose, mouth and eyes was eloquently communicated. At that stage of the concept development process, two major original hypotheses in-built in the user persona needed to be corrected. In particular, rather than an aggressive, more supportive symbolic needed to be pursued; and rather than to be substituted, the key facial features needed to be emphasised with the design. The former hypothesis assumed that a worth of the unique faceguard to the celebrity brand would be equivalent to that of the face.

2nd Iteration. By incorporating these changes and at the same time, with the intention of probing the further customer's emotions and preferences, a new concept iteration commenced with a theme of the backbone/spine. This was represented by shapes similar to that of a tendon attaching to a bone or muscle, which typically narrows as it transitions from muscle to attaching onto the bone. Terminologies such as organic, natural and muscular were introduced to provide a solid basis to progress the concept development. This was reflected in the concept designs by smooth, flowing lines that blended into other segments of the faceguard. Furthermore, additive manufacturing allowed for radical alternations of the profile, thickness/width of the interconnecting segments, which was reflected in the new concepts by incorporating large, thick sections of material to represent a bone. Thin strands of material connect the sections together, representing ligaments and connective tissue. This iteration offered the significant semantic and creative leaps, which were immediately registered with the customer. The futuristic and surprising design of the concepts elicited positive emotions from the perspective of the customer's personal aesthetic impression, however, from the social impact or the symbolic association, the concepts were deemed precarious. Therefore, to generate more acceptable design, it had not to deviate extensively from the current cricket faceguard design. This was a typical example of the mismatch between designers' and users' product semantics that was argued by Krippendorff [43].

Final. A less deviant concept was proposed by incorporating thinner diameter segments to replicate the wire of conventional faceguards and replacing the centre opening with a design that more closely resembled the bone structure in a spine, thus remaining within the backbone/spine theme. The noticeable absence of sharp edges or lines was intentional in order to retain the intended organic and natural feel. Finally, the solid inset was reincorporated to partially exploit the used advanced manufacturing technique. Both the affective and cognitive customer's responses were positive. This concept offered many different parts of previous designs, thus the concept acceptance could be credited to the design meeting the customer's needs as well as the customer's accustomisation to the novel design features. Nevertheless, the primary objective to satisfy the customer with the affective and pleasurable design was achieved by applying a series of tacit skills (sketching, CAD modelling) with the ability to translate unique semantic language into a homogenised object that references numerous symbolic associations.

5. Fabrication

The development of one product for one customer essentially becomes a subset of the development for mass production if it is stopped at the refinement of production models. This consequently implies that the fabrication of

personalised artefacts is equivalent to the traditional prototype fabrication. The extremely low production volumes associated with the personalised product development disqualify traditionally manufacturing processes, which are typically associated with mass production. These processes have very high upfront (setup) costs that become justifiable only in high volume production scenarios. In contrast, advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing provide the benefits of rapid turnround (a lower time-to-market), direct production based on a CAD model and a high level of flexibility. Furthermore, they enable innovation in form and structure, thus realising unique designs in order to elicit instrumental and aesthetic responses from the customer.

The Artefact validation loop is the iterative loop characteristic for this segment of the presented design approach. It is a provisional loop to allow an experimental validation of some functional design requirements and necessary performance adjustments. During the personalised cricket faceguard design [31], this loop was utilised to eliminate the perceived excessive flexibility.

The final two actions are related to presentation of the artefact (colour, surface finish, etc.) that can be exploited to evoke further affective reaction in a user.

Fig 2 - Personalised Cricket Faceguard Concepts, adopted from Kajtaz et al. [31]


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