Thesis-2018-OConnor.pdf (5.45 MB)

Development of an evidence-based toolkit to support safe design for children

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posted on 22.06.2018 by Suzanne M. O'Connor
This thesis contributes to developing an evidence-based toolkit for designers when designing products based on theoretical inputs from human-factors study. Theoretical and developmental knowledge, relevant to the design of warning and risk communications and the area of design for child safety, is translated into support for reflections to practitioners. The risk management framework derived from this study aims to increase awareness of the implications of the aspects involved and as a reference point for groups involved in design for child safety. The thesis covers a shift from risk communications with children to information about children (including physical dimensions etc.) for designers. The final output is a collation of this knowledge base and some conceptual tools that can be applied to a specific design context whether that context be in risk communications or the area of general safety design considerations. Designers with little experience in managing design for children can benefit from this study when deciding on their design strategies. This reflective support is the result of a study of risk communication as a complex and unique activity in which various groups and domains are involved. The process of building an understanding started with an analysis of the literature in the field and with the direct experience of the researcher, who worked directly within ergonomics as part of a design-innovation team. The framework presented in this thesis follows a more structured approach to risk communications. It is conceived as an aid to help practitioners reflect on the implications each stage of the development process has on the experience of developing appropriate risk communications and appropriate products. In this way, it is thought of as a dynamic and flexible reference that can be adapted by design researchers when planning and coordinating design to suit different design situations. The use of this tool in the childsafety, design, and study communities would provide validation of the effectiveness of the framework and its continuous improvement. The purpose of this study is twofold: to contribute to study and practice with the aim of providing fundamental guidance to designers. The research detailed in this thesis brings readers up-to-date with the current literature on theories of risk communications. It then highlights methodologies, tools, guidelines and requirements for risk communication advances in study and practice. A framework for risk communication for young children has been developed out of a resource review based on previous work in the area by McLaughlin and Mayhorn, (2014). The information accumulated in this study has been used to develop initial prototype tools for designers who are considering young children. The developed platform supports practitioners from two different angles: theoretical and practical. Designers engaged in the core activity of design for child safety need methods that support the consideration of ergonomics and other product requirements, such as risk communications. This study contributes to developing methods and tools that can be used by designers and other relevant groups when designing risk communications for young children. Available knowledge is collated and integrated into the framework with the intention that it will be developed further throughout the thesis to consider effective use within the design cycle. This study aims to contribute to child safety by providing the first development of tools/decision supports aimed at designers who are designing for young children and are accordingly evaluating human-factors methods in design for child safety. The aim of this study is to gather the requirements of a collaborative design tool for use by industrial designers, engineers and other groups involved in design for child safety. This thesis aims to address these needs. When considering the needs, limitations and capabilities, ( mental model ) of the intended users (i.e., children), important aspects such as safety have been considered. The general need for support methods are addressed through a review of the safety, design and ergonomics literature. After this, empirical study through interviews and observations is used to outline some problem areas: the development and implementation of human-factors methods in design, lack of available resources and inaccessibility of data. Three empirical studies were conducted to meet the requirements of this study: Study 1 in Chapter 4 involves documentary analysis of existing models and methods, Study 2 in Chapter 5 involves formal interviews with designers (N = 30), and Study 3 in Chapter 7 involves an online survey for initial feedback about the prototype-persona (N = 50) respondents. The first section outlines the study questions. It discusses the outputs of the three main studies contained within this thesis.


Arts and Humanities Research Council.



  • Design


© S.M. O'Connor

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




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