Tools for more user friendly design: do they really improve the quality of the design?

Posted by Barbara on Tuesday June 7th 2011 at 13:14


There are many tools to improve the quality of design, jet designers often seem to fail to meet to the users’ needs, designing things people don’t completely understand, or know how to use. The aim of the research described in this paper was to understand the relationship between the design process and design tools that were used on the one hand, and the quality of the product on the other hand.  In this research the design processes of students of the Master Product Design education of the Media And Design-faculty (KHLim, Belgium) are studied. This study is limited to the design of tangible products. Seventy-five design cases of student designers are studied.  In this study, first, all the techniques applied the students’ design processes were listed. Second, for each case the techniques that were used were mapped. Finally the relationship between the use of those techniques and the quality of the designed product was assessed. The grades given for the product (not the process) were used as indicator for the quality of the design.  22 cases are grade by a jury (who had no knowledge of the design process) or by users. This might be perceived as a weakness (53 cases graded  by the supervisors, the grades of the product could be  partly influenced by the process).  Since  there was no significant difference in grades between the cases grade  by a jury or user  and the cases graded by the supervisors only, this bias is ignorable. The following categories had a positive effect on the evaluation of the product: doing a state of the art research of non-relating products;  problem solving through literature study or by consulting specialists; conducting an ergonomic and functional study (study of ergonomic guidelines, performance study etc.); designing  by drawing and by making tangible models;   user analysis and user involvement ; gathering per group feedback;  having critical attitude towards the found information and feedback. The effect of the use of design tools could not be analyses since it was only reported in two cases. Why design tools are hardly used should be studied as well as the effect of design tools on the quality of products. Furthermore research should be conducted about the strength of the correlation of each individual method  as well as the correlation between the methods themselves, for these analysis more cases are needed. Using student cases instead of cases of professionals might be considered a weakness of this study because the cases do not include professional designs. However, since professional evaluations of the quality of the designs were already available and because it is difficult to obtain the design processes of professionals, these cases provided an unique opportunity to study the relationship between the methods in design process and the quality of the final product.  In addition, such student cases are representative of the way young professionals work because, young designers apply the design techniques and methods they learned during their education.


Barbara N.E. KOK;  Media Arts and Design Academy, KHLim, Genk, association Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE

Prof. dr. Peter VINK; Dept. of Industrial Design, Delft university of technology, NL

Dr. Karin SLEGERS; Centre for User Experience Research, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven/IBBT, Leuven, BE.

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Kevin Henry

Posted by ilse on Monday October 11th 2010 at 10:22

On October 26th,  we are happy to welcome Kevin Henry at MAD-faculty. In the morning he will meet the Master Students Product Designat Campus C-mine. The purpose is to exchange ideas about Sustainable Design. 

In the afternoon he will have a workshop ‘visualisation’ with the bachelor students in fine arts and graphical design at Campus Elfde Linie.

In the evening Kevin Henry will present his book on Design Visualisation in Hasselt and give a lecture on the act of reading images to help design.

More information

Kevin Henry is an industrial designer, educator, curator, and writer interested in the intersection between art, technology and culture. He has lectured widely on a variety of topics ranging from sustainability, d.i.y. culture, 21st century curriculum, and the changing relationship of the photographic image in the era of social networking. He has curated five exhibitions: the most recent two on contemporary Chinese design and the social, political, cultural, and economic ramifications of do-it-yourself culture. His book on design visualization for UK publisher Laurence King is due in 2011. He is an associate professor of product design at Columbia College Chicago.


Posted by ilse on Tuesday June 22nd 2010 at 13:12

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