A better world by design? An investigation into industrial design consultants undertaking responsible design within their commercial remits
thesisposted on 19.06.2013, 08:04 by Norman Stevenson
Growing recognition of the profound topics affecting society; including population changes, social issues, and environmental crisis; is emphasising the need for industrial designers to address additional goals beyond those associated with purely commercial targets. Industrial design consultants, however, have a myriad of complex and inter-related elements influencing their work. This thesis investigates those influences and offers a portrayal of what affects industrial design consultants addressing more responsible design goals within their commercial remits. It reviews the literature relating to the nature and role of industrial design, and its relationship with society s larger needs. From this, it expounds the methodology underpinning the investigation, and describes the phases involved. Two main studies were undertaken to pursue the research objectives: an explorative workshop involving 19 participants from design practice and academia; and a series of semi-structured in-depth interviews involving a total of 31 industrial design consultants, leading academics, and design-related strategic consultants. From the analysis of the data, three sets of key observations and theory are presented in the thesis. The first set of findings examines the range of influencing factors acting on the consultant and their work by depicting the characteristics of the main elements constructing the product creation context. The second and principal set of findings identifies what determines the possibility for consultants to incorporate responsible design goals within their work. Using a framework derived from the analysis, and drawing on interview data for empirical backing, it expands on six key areas, identifying a critical determining factor for each. The third set of outcomes combines the findings from the primary data with existing knowledge on design actions and behavioural theory, to depict the formation of an industrial design consultant s behaviour and their tendencies towards responsible design. In this way, the research offers a thorough investigation of what affects industrial design consultants addressing more responsible design goals, by considering the characteristics of their circumstances; the determination of their possibility to act; and what shapes their individual behaviour.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)