Product design and people,
Department of Media Technology and Product Development,
2 x 2 h workshops (and homework in between)
In this course Product design and people, students worked in 3-5 person teams on a project that ran throughout a 10 week course period. They worked on cases related to the theme of sustainability such as recyclable product components, upcycling, packaging-free supermarkets, indoor food production etc. The course had a particular focus on the human life aspects and perspectives, so it was natural to include values in this course.
After being introduced to the basic theoretical perspectives on values in design (Friedman & Hendry 2019), the students engaged in a selection of activities to get a good grasp of the human perspectives of a product: values, context, life situations. Two of these activities applied in this course are presented here:
Since the course happened during the pandemic period, students worked remotely from their homes, and all the workshop materials were presented to them via video conferencing and shared via a digital learning platform. The members of the student teams also worked with each other and stakeholders remotely via an online digital whiteboard.
The assignments and accompanying worksheets were introduced verbally through video conferencing along with the other weekly design methods. Since the course was focused on practical work related to model construction, the course literature was focused on design methods (Boeijen et al., 2014) with recommended literature on values in design (Friedman & Hendry, 2019, p. 35-44).
In week two of the course, being in the middle of the research phase, the students were to identify their stakeholders. When having analyzed data from their stakeholder research through affinity diagrams, the student groups were asked to fill in the direct and indirect stakeholder worksheet (see “Materials) based on the insights that they had gathered.
In week five of the course, being in the middle of the idea development phase, the students got the task of creating utopian and dystopian future scenarios of their ideas (see “Materials” for instruction slides). In this process, student groups got inspired from the Design with Intent toolkit (2015), and they were also provided with the future scenario envisioning cards (Envisioning cards, n.d.), so that they could take the aspects like stakeholders, time, values and pervasiveness into account. Finally, students were offered a specification sheet for future scenarios, where they could document their ideas.
The results of the stakeholder identification and analysis show that students considered a wide array of stakeholders. One team included the designer as well as people who cannot afford the design. Another team included non-human stakeholders. In a few teams where non-human stakeholders were considered, values were confused with functions, and harms were sometimes connected to malfunction of the product. Here the teacher could make it clear that values are different from functions, and that a product might be harmful, even if it is not malfunctioning. The below examples are in Swedish because the course was taught in Swedish, but are here included to illustrate an example of the students visually presented their reflections.
In example below, the team worked on a product that allowed people to grow edible plants in their homes:
Figure 1. One of the things students evaluated as “benefits” was better indoor climate and good self esteem (this also included the designer). One of the harms was the feeling of not succeeding in growing edible plants. The team considered the house owner who rented out a flat being worried about the product – if mismanaged or broken – creating water damage.
The future scenarios showed that not all students reflected deeply on how the scenarios made them re-consider aspects of their design (see more in the final note below the examples). All the examples are in Swedish because the course was taught in Swedish.
In example 1, a group worked on a neighborhood shopping station for food that is close to expiry date. They made use of some interesting personas like an environmental activist and an elderly lady and used the same personas in utopian and dystopian scenarios. They considered which types of products would work and how this kind of shopping affected the consumers' self image.
In example 2, a group that designed a mobile food growing station considered the consequences for supermarket chains – which types of products they could not sell anymore. The group considered the huge electricity consumption it would take to grow the food in the dark Scandinavian winters, and they even considered an increase of insects in private housing that would have a negative effect on home environments.
In example 3, the group reflection on how the scenarios made them re-consider aspects of their design: pricing, appropriate instructions for how to manage the product, extra features and parts that can replace broken parts and expansion of food production in the home through modules. This indicates that the scenarios made them think out of the box.
Final note: it became evident that the student teams needed in-class time, both during the work with their exercises, and also afterwards. The benefits of in-class work are that teachers can walk around between the groups and pop into the group discussions and talk about the materials that they work with along the way. This could have been facilitated through break-out rooms via Zoom. Furthermore, teachers should also dedicate time to follow up on the student work through plenum discussions, where everyone can reflect on each other’s material. Perhaps through some sort of peer-review or opponent process.
Envisioning cards (n.d). Envisioning cards. Retrieved 2021-06-16 from https://www.envisioningcards.com/
Friedman, Batya: and Hendry, David. G. (2019) Value Sensitive Design – shaping Technology with moral imagination. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Friedman, Batya; and Hendry, David (2012). The envisioning cards: a toolkit for catalyzing humanistic and technical imaginations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’12). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1145–1148. https://doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2208562
Design with intent (2015). Design with Intent : Insights, methods and patterns for designing with people, behaviour and understanding. Retrieved 2021-06-16 from https://designwithintent.co.uk/
Nathan, Lisa P.; Friedman, Batya; Klasnja,Predrag; Kane, Shaun K.; and Miller, Jessica K. (2008). Envisioning systemic effects on persons and society throughout interactive system design. In Proceedings of the 7th ACM conference on Designing interactive systems (DIS '08). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1145/1394445.1394446
Boeijen, Annemiek van, Daalhuizen, Jaap, Zijlstra, J. & Schoor, Roos van der (red.) (2014). Delft design guide: design methods. BIS Publishers.