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Aesthetic Flexibility: In Industrial Design Practice
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Machine Design. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Competition among companies that produce complex or large product portfolios has created a need to use modularity strategies not only to flexibly manage technical complexity in a cost-effective manner but also to produce visually appealing products. This research aims to understand how the visual appearance of products is affected by modular product development strategies and creates coherent product brands. Thus, this study examines the intersection of design aesthetics, product portfolio management, product brand management, and design management. Specifically, this study aims to understand how such strategies constrain and generate possibilities when the industrial design process concerns itself with visual appearance. 

The main research approach has been qualitative multi-case methodology (Miles et al, 2014; Eisenhardt, 1989) and design theory building (Chakrabarti and Blessing, 2016) that collects data through interviews, experimentation, and theoretical studies based on findings in the literature. Sixteen face-to-face interviews were conducted with design vice presidents, senior designers, and senior design engineers at five Swedish manufacturers from the automotive, MedTech, consumer goods, commercial vehicles, and materials handling industries. 

This approach has resulted in the description of three theoretical models and a design method, product gist, for investigating prototypicality in a product category. Aesthetic flexibility reflects the requirement that under certain circumstances an industrial designer has to plan for future (as yet unknown) changes in a design. 

Each of the three theoretical models has a different focus: one model describes three ways manufacturing companies organise a strategic in-house design function; one model describes how design decisions are made on a general level through an intuitive and knowledge-based judgment process; and one model describes the strategies a manager needs to consider when developing an existing product portfolio and how the strategies influence industrial design practice. 

Understanding visual flexibility serves as a starting point for further investigations of how development strategies affect visual product design. This understanding provides industrial designers insight into how they can develop product systems that share design components across product lines to promote brand identity. The findings of this work illustrate and explain a complex and multi-facetted design phenomenon that many designers manage more or less intuitively today; therefore, this study advances the understanding of the field for academics, teachers, and professional designers. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2021. , p. 112
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 2131
Keywords [en]
industrial design, product development, product modularity, product branding, and dual decision-making.
National Category
Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-173826DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-173826ISBN: 9789179296810 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-173826DiVA, id: diva2:1535449
Public defence
2021-03-29, ACAS, A-Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Linköpings universitetAvailable from: 2021-03-09 Created: 2021-03-09 Last updated: 2021-03-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Product gist: An approach to identifying form characteristics of the current product sign
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Product gist: An approach to identifying form characteristics of the current product sign
2013 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In today's competitive market it is essential for companies to have a clear brand identity towards it consumers and users in order to be successful. Consumers have often a variety of products to choose from and the challenge for a company's products is to be discovered and remembered. An important factor is recognition of a product and how it is conceived through our perception which is mainly an identification process based on familiarity, resemblance or similarity. Furthermore, the visual part of the brain organizes the surrounding into patterns which are used as a guide for us, and to capture the surrounding is called getting its gist. The process of finding resemblance in a design space is often done by the designer as an implicit part in the design process. If this implicit knowledge could be more objectively visualised it might be a helpful tool to create a visual baseline of how consumers would experience the product segment. To show similarities and differences of design features quantitatively can facilitate the communication in a design development project. This paper explores how the concept of a product gist may be used to create a conceptual product sign and also how it could be used to analyse what the design space looks like in a given product segment. By quantitatively overlaying transparent pictures in a product segment visual pattern emerges that can be used as a communication tool in a design process when discussing brand recognition. In this paper a power drill is used as a simple application to illustrate the usage of the proposed product gist.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg University, 2013
Keywords
Industrial design, product aesthetics, product gist, method, current product sign, brand identity
National Category
Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-173823 (URN)9789197954150 (ISBN)
Conference
Conference: Crafting the Future 2013, the 10th European Academy of design ConferenceAt: Gothenburg, Sweden
Available from: 2021-03-09 Created: 2021-03-09 Last updated: 2021-03-09Bibliographically approved
2. Aesthetic Flexibility in the Management of Visual Product Branding
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Aesthetic Flexibility in the Management of Visual Product Branding
2015 (English)In: Procedia Manufacturing, ISSN 2351-9789, Vol. 3, p. 2191-2198Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper will investigate the strategic design decision-making of an in-house designer in a company with a large product portfolio, with respect to how designers plan for future visual alterations of the product. In-house designers have to think strategically about the creation of recognition and differentiation through design because they influence the company’s overall strategies. Therefore, while balancing aesthetic and semiotic qualities of the product, designers have to consider current as well as future needs for recognition and product differentiation. The ability to do so is affected by cost and brand positioning strategy. An exploratory study was setup to investigate what design strategies could be found in an industrial design team employed by a company. The study exposed how in-house designers could strategically incorporate aesthetic flexibility in product parts in order to create opportunities for faster facelifts or redesigns. The importance of managing carry-over details in larger product portfolios was also discovered. To carry over parts from different products is an important way for a company to save money, development time and at the same time increase brand recognition through repetition. Carry-over can be an aid to enhance visual recognition, but it can also be a hindrance when the designer needs to create differencing design values. Most products have a lifespan before they need to be updated or redesigned, which depends on the competition in a product segment. This makes it extra important for designers to have an understanding of when to incorporate carry-over details and when not to. A model was created to describe how carry-over details, design cues and aesthetic flexibility could be managed in a product portfolio. The model is based on Rune Monö’s works and brand management literature, with an emphasis on the brand positioning framework of Point of Difference, Point of Parity and brand extension by Keller et al.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keywords
Strategic Design Decisions, Brand extension, Visual recognition, Product management, In-house designers, Carry-over
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-129547 (URN)10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.360 (DOI)000383740302042 ()
Conference
6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015) and the Affiliated Conferences, AHFE 2015, 26–30 July 2015Las Vegas, United States
Available from: 2016-06-21 Created: 2016-06-21 Last updated: 2021-03-09Bibliographically approved

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Andersson, Torbjörn

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