Integrating participant research with product design education

2006-05-05T09:17:10Z (GMT) by S. Boess Cherie Lebbon
For significant consumer groups like the over 50's and disabled people, usability is especially important besides lifestyle aspirations, and products have to address a greater variety of functional issues to include their needs. Leading design companies now emphasise their competence in delivering user-centred design solutions. Consequently, research skills such as those used in ergonomic or sociological research are becoming more important in design practice. The paper discusses the integration of participant research with product design education to enable graduates to deal with changing demands on professional practice. The authors have previously investigated older people's needs for bathing environments. Arising from that research, a human factors teaching module was designed in which a group of students and a group of retirees worked together to define needs and to answer them. In the six week module, qualitative research techniques and full size test rigs were used by the students. The outcomes indicate that the work was of benefit to both the students and the participating user group. The benefits of integrating participant research with product design education are highlighted and discussed in the paper, with a particular view to how they prepare students for new demands placed upon the profession.