INDUSTRIAL DESIGN EXECUTION & ACADEMIC REFLECTION IN A THREE-WEEK-PACKAGE
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Tollestrup, Christian
Institution: Aalborg University, Denmark
Section: Cultural 1
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.35199/epde2019.60
One of the structural challenges of educating industrial designers in a university setting is the bridging the gap between the rigor of science in academia and the execution oriented practice. In general exemplary dives and conceptual proposals are completely acceptable within a project in the university. The evaluation of proposals for new products is always revolving around the relative relation between criteria for solution, proposal and the approach to problem solving and definition of wicked problems. Compared to the practice of design that graduates will face outside the university, this is a relatively slow and partially artificial process due to the ability to scope and delimit the assignment and problem.
For a practicing designer in a design-studio or R&D department, the focus will be on the ability to execute design proposals within a short time period and creating real products that customers will buy. And with manufacturability, available technology and low cost may have higher priority than problem definition and user-oriented research.
So how can the reality of product development and execution emphasis be introduced in an academic setting with low risk and while maintaining the academic requirement for knowledge creation and reflection?
In the spring of 2018 a revision of a three-week five ECTS course module presented an opportunity for experimenting with a new setup that could introduce this reality-factor and execution emphasis on delivering a final, real product.
To accommodate the academic framework, the academic assignment was a short paper with reflections on methods and approached comparing the ‘new’ process to design and entrepreneurship methods, theories and practices. The first part of the module was consequently about the theoretical positioning of these approaches.
Then a simple but hard challenge was given: At the end of week three a “Designers Market” was to be arranged at campus. Each student (or pair of students) should design and manufacture 20 units of a product to be promoted and sold at the market.
The experiment turned out to yield more benefits and effect than anticipated. The observed challenges faced by students during the approximately 10 working days were a small-scale version of all the real challenges of designing, manufacturing and marketing a product. They has to negotiate the unknown and open relations between opportunity identification, testing ideas, testing price point for concepts, budgeting, risk management, developing concepts while planning production, adjusting concept to fit limitations of manufacturing skills, manufacturing to deadline, developing marketing material, rehearsing sales arguments, building a booth and finally selling the products.
The double layer of theoretical reflection on practice-oriented execution seems to be useful model for introducing the full version of product development with very low risk and still adhering to knowledge creation of academia.