Product Design Specifications and Design Creativity, are they compatible?

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Wilgeroth, Paul
Section: Pedagogy
Page(s): 263-268


Dyslexia is a widely acknowledged learning disability (UK Government, 1993) and it widely also known that Art & Design higher education in the UK attracts a large proportion of these students (BDC, 2001). Figures from the Dyslexia unit at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC) show that almost 40% of all first year students diagnosed with dyslexia in 2008-9 were in Art & Design and a significant number of these were Product Design students. Dyslexia is a disability commonly referred to as “word blindness” which affects the individual’s literative ability with both reading and writing (Bannatyne, AD, 1971). Conversely however, dyslexic people typically show a profile of above average spatial and conceptual abilities. (Open University, 2010) The Product Design Specification (PDS) (Wright, I, 1998) is at the very core of the product design activity and is developed directly from the Design Brief (BS7000-1. 2008). The PDS is a detailed and comprehensive written document covering every characteristic of the proposed design and is normally grouped into 32 different sub categories. The PDS therefore has a direct impact on design creativity because as Pugh explains “all conceptual design activity is carried out within the envelope of the PDS” (Pugh, S. 1997). “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink” (Coleridge, ST. 1798) This famous lament could be said to be analogous with the visually aware product designer armed with a comprehensive text-based PDS. Surrounded by “water” (design information) but unable “drink” (use) any of it because its text based format is inaccessible to them. The first part of this paper explores the potential paradox affecting a significant percentage of undergraduate product designers apparently having their creativity potentially constrained by the written format of the very documents that are intended to facilitate and direct their creativity within the product design process. The second part of the paper presents a case study of a group of final year undergraduate product designers using design briefs and product design specifications as an integral part of the design process for their final year design projects.


1) Bannatyne, A.D. (1971): Language, Reading and Learning Disabilities, Springfield, IL, Thomas.

2) BDC, (2001): HE Art & Design. British Dyslexia Conference.

3) BS7001-1, (2008): Design management systems. Guide to managing innovation. British Standards Institute, London

4) Coleridge, ST. (1798) The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere. Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems

5) Morgan, WP. (1896): A Case of Congenital Word-Blindness. British Medical Journal.

6) Open University (2010) Understanding Dyslexia. Learning unit DSE212_1.

7) Pugh, S. (1997): Total Design. Integrated Methods for Successful Product Engineering. Addison Wesley Ltd, UK.

8) Wright, I. (1998): Design Methods in Engineering and Product Design. McGraw Hill, UK.

9) UK Gov (1993): UK Government Education Act.

Keywords: Product Design, Education, Creativity, Dyslexia, Product Design Specifications

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