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Identifying User-as-Designer Behaviors When Designing By Using Toolkits
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Institute of Design.
2013 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Consumer products are becoming more and more open for consumers to design, make or adapt them to their own preferences and needs. An emerging area of product toolkits turns users into designers. In this paper we use the term user-as-designer, shortly user-designer, which refers to a consumer who uses a toolkit to design a product for himself. Designing by using toolkits challenges the role of the professional designer in ways that yet have to be fully explored and understood as well as the role of the passive consumer that gains new freedom and responsibility.

The aim of this paper is to explore consumers designing an everyday product focusing on the behavior users have in relation to the tool they use. The participants expressed their preferences directly into the creation of an object through the use of a digital toolkit. A group of ten students participated, their designs were produced by 3D printing and they reflected upon their process and design. Three core findings are presented that concern the behavior of users when designing through a toolkit. First, we identified four user-designer characters that describe the exploration of the solution space. Secondly, we revealed the behavior of participants through visualizing the process of customization. The third finding concerns the predictability of outcomes for the designer of the toolkit. The discussion focuses on two levels; first we describe the aspects from this study that are relevant for future toolkit development. Issues like the exploration of the solution space, specific behavior in constrained toolkits, predictability, iteration and the amount of freedom for the user. The second level of the discussion focuses on the implications for consumer involvement in the design process. This study has shown that when consumers are engaged in the design process they need to understand what it means to create rather than being tricked in some part of a process in an isolated manner. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg, Sweden, 2013.
Keyword [en]
User design, Consumer design, Toolkits, Co-design, Mass customization, 3D printing
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-73708ISBN: 978-91-979541-5-0OAI: diva2:633323
Crafting the Future 10th European Academy of Design Conference
Available from: 2013-06-26 Created: 2013-06-26 Last updated: 2013-06-27Bibliographically approved

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Hermans, Guido
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