Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 392-400
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper goes over an explorative approach used at the Design School of Politecnico di Milano in the Design& Engineering Master Course for the development of students’ final thesis. Design Engineering MC is an inter-faculty course where teachers coming from both engineering and design fields work together in order to make students aware of the different skills that play the principal roles in a design product development. In the master thesis students have to put down into practice the knowledge they acquired during the master course. They are asked to design a new radical innovative product following an entire design process from design brief definition till product development.

During the master course students develop several projects answering a brief given by the teachers while during the thesis they have to follow the process below:
- Identify an interesting research field
- Analyse the field through benchmarking
- Identify strength and weakness of existing products
- Figure out if there is a potentiality for new products,

Define a brief describing needs and requirements, Design a new product. The objective is to understand the market,the environment, the user and generate a new product through a design driven innovation. Design-driven innovation can have three possible levers, meaning three possible starting points of the creative process; these levers are:Form, Mode of Use and Technology. This paper describes three innovative projects developed according to a design process focused mostly on the mode of use lever. The described projects are:a motorcycle back protector, a wearable device for safety in building site, a body harness for construction site. In these kind of products the mode of use and the way the user interact with the product play a really important role so the students started the design process considering the mode of use of the product, in order to define the non-satisfied needs that could be better fulfilled with new usage ways and/or new functions. Besides,the design process required an overview of the profile of the target costumer because the field of use was very specific. Indeed,in the projects development students were asked to use a new design driven approach that promotes collaborative design with users. During the last years the role of the user in the design is changing so a participatory design replaced the user-centered one. In the classical user-centered design process, the user is a passive object of study, and the researcher gets results through observation and interviews.

The results are given to the designer in form of a report used to generate ideas, concepts. The user has the position of ‘expert of his/her experience’, and plays a large role in knowledge development, idea generation and concept development. In the participatory design the user gets a partner in the design process and follows most of the phases from the concept to the test. This approach helps designers to develop a real innovative product because it becomes the results of an answer to real discussed needs. For this reason during their thesis students were pushed to go beyond the classical thesis framework development by first reasoning on the issue of how to use the product itself and in the specific environment, and then ideating and designing the new product with the user himself. The effectiveness of such an approach was proved by final thesis marks but also by the interested showed by different companies to manufacture some of the projects.
Design driven innovation, user centred approach, participatory design, design&engineering.