Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 4239-4247
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1990
Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain
In this paper, the authors investigate the role of design language when the context of use is multicultural and multidisciplinary.
The discussion arose from the result of a didactic activity held in the Design Fundamentals Course at the Design School of Politecnico di Milano, Italy, during the first year of Mater Degree in Design & Engineering, in 2015/16.

The Design Fundamentals Course addresses to first year students in Design & Engineering Master Course in relation to their different academic backgrounds. The aim of the course is to deepen and merge languages and knowledge of students coming from several Design or Engineering disciplines and from different cultural backgrounds (Italian, European and extra European). The course deals with theoretical and cultural aspects of Design, discussing some relevant issues, such as design definitions, product identity, product character, product aesthetics and product values. Aim of the course is to develop critical skills to interpret the context in which Design evolves nowadays, so that students will develop their own understating and point of view on their work as designers.

This paper discusses the result of the exercise “The relationship between the character and form of industrial products”.
First, the authors gave two lectures to the students. One was about the parameters that describe the form and surface of products and the second one was a lecture about the attribution of product “character”.

Secondly, students had to do an analytical exercise in three steps: first step was to analyse a given product (a chair or a sofa), through the given list of form and surface parameters; second step was to attribute a character to the product; third step was to find the relation between the two analysis. That is, the overall aim of the exercise was to let students find out how form and surface qualities convey the attribution of a certain character.

In this exercise, the parameters of form and surface where clearly defined by specific terms, such us “dimension (small, medium, large); proportion (balance and unbalance); finishing (matt or glossy), etc. While no limits where given to the use of terms to attribute the character of products. Thus, in the end, the authors noticed that this aspect could lead to unexpected outputs. In particular, some terms recur very often and they seem to refer to very different meanings. For instance, the term “comfortable” appears in a range of meanings that go from “friendly” to “ergonomic” indiscriminately.

The authors had no clear understanding of the reason why some terms recur with different meanings while they are used to the describe the same product and, possibly, the same character. Therefore, they made a survey of the students’ backgrounds (cultural and disciplinary) to check for any possible connection. The hypothesis is that the cultural background can limit the choice of terms, because English is the common language in class and it is not the native language of most of the students. In addition, it was interesting to check if the disciplinary background could influence the choice of terms, being the design or engineer students.

The author discuss the result of the survey and highlight a set of questions for possible further studies.
Product Language, Product Form, Product Character, Multicultural Context, Multidisciplinary Context.