Product Phase theory and IDEA
“Product phases have the potential to map the status quo and
future of a product”, Prof. dr. eng'r. A.O. Eger
The product phase
theory provided by prof. dr. eng’r. A.O. Eger in combination with the
IDEA theory (Industrial Design Evaluation Analysis) provided by eng’r. R.E.
Wendrich led to the game controller design as is displayed in the product design section,
and has also played a small role in the development of the turntable design.
The product phase theory describes the phenomena that appear during the
various phases of a product's life. According to this theory, six phases can be
distinguished in the life of a product, aptly named 'product phases'. Each
phase is described by means of ten product characteristics. As such this theory
improves insight in a product's life cycle and when extrapolated aids in the
development of a product.
A visualisation of the application of the product phase theory to the game
controller is shown below.
IDEA is about breaking down a product and scrutinising all its elements,
from the molecules that make up the material of the casing, to assembly and
patents. This process gives insight into the development of the product,
leading to a deeper understanding of the details and how they contribute to the
product as a whole. In case of the game controller, the Wii remote was taken apart and analysed, after
which all components were recreated in SolidWorks to create a complete 3D model
of the Wii remote.
By thoroughly examining the product, one becomes much more aware of the
intricate design processes that have led to the product's existence. For
instance, it becomes clear how a clever choice of components' colours and
shapes facilitates the assembly
process. One also
gains insight into the intricacies of the injection moulding
process and how to
exploit it to enhance both functionality and aesthetics of the design. A FEA (finite
element analysis) also aids in this process.
Overall the combination of these two product theories forms a solid basis to
work from to create a succesful product, a product that manages to take the
next logical step and thus stay ahead of the competition. A link to the report
that details the application of both product phase and IDEA theory to the game
controller can be located here.
Human factors / ergonomics
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the
unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore
all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, George Bernard Shaw
In the current highly competitive market, it is more important than ever
before to deliver a perfect user-centred, highly integrated, product
experience. Throughout the entire cycle of product development the user is
taken on board: human factors provides the tools for research and evaluation.
Human factors (or ergonomics) is the scientific multidiscipline concerned
with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a
system, and applies theoretical principles, data and methods to design in order
to optimise human well-being and overall system performance[IEA].
As example, user interface design illustrates the importance of human
factors perfectly: a user interface forms a thin layer of interaction with a
very limited bandwidth between human and machine. One must be fully aware of
the existing conventions, how tasks affect attention allocation and intensity,
what search patterns are followed, how data is processed by the user, whether
or not auditive or cross-modal attention may be of use, etc.
From scenario based product design with its design improvisation, endowed
props, role-playing or tangible interaction to ethnography with its
observation, CUTA or probing techniques (to just name a few): there is a wide
array of human factors related tools available to address any possible
Mechatronics in design
“The mechatronic designer needs a wide knowledge with medium
depth”, Dieter Müller
Products are becoming increasingly more complex from a developer's point of
view; they contain more functionality, feature an ever increasing difficulty of
said functionality, and touch on more disciplines than ever before. The term
often used to describe systems that integrate multiple disciplines is
Mechatronics is the multidisciplinary field of engineering, combining
mechanical, electronic, computer, software, control and systems engineering. It
aims to move away from designing separate mono-disciplinary systems to a design
process where all different fields of engineering are combined and fully
integrated, for example by using models and principles to translate concepts
A group project to develop a bicycle storage concept acted as a test case; more than 10 group members
were involved, allocated into smaller groups to work on separate subsystems
under the supervision of one systems engineer. A systems engineering approach
proves imperative in order to efficiently coordinate such a large
Art style analysis
“Only the marvellous is beautiful”, André Breton
It is important for a designer to have a wide array of tools at their
disposal. A product and its (re)design is more than the sum of problems that it
solves: creativity can lead to inspiring and clever designs. Art is a perfect
muse, it inspires and offers an infinite wealth of examples by free
The past 300 years has seen a great development in art styles and movements.
Styles and ideas merge or split up to take new directions, at a faster rate
than ever before in human history. I have taken a close look at this intriguing
process in order to acquire a deeper understanding of both the process in
general as well as the characteristics of the art styles. This information has
been put side-by-side with the evolution of record players - this product's
long existence makes it a perfect candidate.
The evolution of art goes hand in hand with the ideas and morals of a
generation, ultimately reflecting in the items they surround themselves with.
In our current society of mass production and consumption, it is easy to
overlook this point of view. Hence why I created a redesign of a turntable
using art, to show how valuable this perspective can be. The redesign is displayed
in the product design section of this site.
A link to the report that details the influence of art on turntables and
turntable design can be found here.
Design and emotion
“It’s almost shunned to say it: men and women are not the same.
This is usually interpreted as meaning not equals. However, the fact that
they are different is actually quite interesting. So: equals but fortunately
not the same. Designers should also be conscious of this difference”,
Design and emotion share an interesting correlation. Some products have a
strong emotional connotation, think of an alarm clock for example. An alarm
clock has a major effect on your mood in the morning, so why should the product
not take your feelings into account? Other products are simply hard to probe,
for instance a product aimed at autistic children: how does one uncover the
bond between the user and the product in such a case? Design and emotion offers the tools to handle
A link to my paper that describes how to consolidate brand loyalty through a
design emphasis on long term strategic benefit aimed at women can be found here.
Biomimicry as inspiration
“but the assumption is that technology and the way we engineer
things represent the best. [..] this is an untenable assumption”, Prof.
Nature has seen 3.8 billion years of evolution, solving problems that are
encountered on the way in the best way possible. Biomimicry aims to tap into
this source of information, offering infinite opportunities to apply to
contemporary design. The graph below quantifies the quote at the beginning of
this article, painfully showing technology's efficiency shortcomings.
Sustainability and the environment are high on the agenda nowadays, making
biomimicry a very valuable design tool.
In my experience biomimicry works best for solving problems that relate to
functionality. It also inspires to take a look at the "ecosystem" of a product
and see how the product could contribute to that system. An effective method of
applying the principles of biomimicry to a design issue is by combining the
following steps with life's principles as displayed in the graph below
(courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild).
- Identify functions and context
- 'Biologise' the functions (e.g. "transmit" would become "communicate")
- Look at nature's solutions
- Choose materials
- Choose a production process
- Pay attention to the end of the life cycle and the overall entropy
As test case we developed a lift concept
based on biomimicry principles, to be more specific: based on peristaltic
movement. As example: the building is the lift's ecosystem, offering
opportunities with relation to exploiting the lift system for ventilation of
the building. In addition to that, the lift system
was overhauled to cater to individual