Title: Client-centred design evolution via functional prototyping

Authors: Deon J. De Beer, R. Ian Campbell, Michele Truscott, Ludrick J. Barnard, Gerrie J. Booysen

Addresses: Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Andries Potgieter Blvd., Vanderbijlpark, P/Bag X021, Vanderbijlpark, 1900, South Africa. ' Department of Design and Technology, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK. ' School of Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mathematics, Central University of Technology, Free State, P/Bag X20539, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa. ' Product Development Technology Station, Central University of Technology, Free State, P/Bag X20539, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa. ' Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing, Central University of Technology, Free State, P/Bag X20539, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa

Abstract: The product design process involves communication of potential design solutions to customers. Fully functional prototypes are most suitable for this because they are readily accepted and allow simultaneous evaluation of all design criteria. However, they are often seen as expensive, time-consuming and not fully representative of the final product material. Therefore, they are usually reserved for customer validation of the final design rather than to keep them involved in every product evolution iteration. This research proposes that rapid prototypes should be used to facilitate a method referred to as Customer Interaction through Functional Prototypes (CIFP). An action research methodology was employed to test the efficacy of applying this method to a real-world product design brief. Customers were able to fully evaluate the aesthetic, ergonomic and functional parameters of the product during every design iteration. This resulted in accelerated product development, sensitivity to the client|s needs, a new dimension of |natural| communication and a successful product design.

Keywords: product design; communication; rapid prototypes; customer involvement; design evolution; functional prototyping; action research; aesthetics; ergonomics; functionality; product development; client needs; design process.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPD.2009.023747

International Journal of Product Development, 2009 Vol.8 No.1, pp.22 - 41

Published online: 09 Mar 2009 *

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