Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 1668-1675
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
In the product design field, increasing attention is being paid to the emotional aspects of the user-product interaction, in order to enhance the user experience. Product sensory aspects play a main role in this process, since emotional experiences are triggered at a first stage by sensorial stimuli. Both research and production are interested in this topic, and many companies worldwide are focusing on improving the sensory interaction with products, since it is commonly shared that experiencing a product in a deeper and more emotive way can be a differentiation advantage on the market.

However, in product design education in Italy, there seems to be a lack of attention towards the sensory aspects of the user-product interaction, and how this can be exploited to generate more pleasurable experiences. This leaves a gap between the design research field and the needs of companies. A possible strategy to fill this gap is the creation of tools able to transfer knowledge from this research area to design education.

This paper aims to test some theoretical and practical tools, developed by the authors to increase students’ awareness on this topic. Moreover, it aims to evaluate how this knowledge transfer may affect both the design process and its results. Finally, it intends to test if the use of such tools can really improve the students’ skills in this field, making them create more interesting concepts also for companies.

In order to do so, a design workshop has been performed with students, in collaboration with a worldwide company working in the field of household appliances, interested in developing product concepts able to improve the user-product experience from a sensorial point of view. The workshop was addressed at designing new properties or features of dishwashers, which could evoke more engaging experiences.

From previous studies conducted on this topic by the research group, two strategies had been identified to stimulate users at a sensory level: the design of static features pleasurable for senses (e.g. smell, shape, colour, texture); the creation of dynamic features able to communicate information to users through changing sensations (e.g. colour changes, movements, active sound). The first represents the usual way products communicate with users, the latter a new possibility to be exploited which is potentially more effective in terms of pleasurable product experience.

The research group transmitted this knowledge to the students taking part in the workshop, through a theoretical lecture. Moreover, a design tool supporting students’ activity was tested as well. 14 students were involved in the workshop; during the concept design activity, they worked in pairs for a full week, leaded by a team of researchers. As a result, 12 concepts emerged that introduced either static or dynamic stimuli in new product characteristics. In order to assess the usefulness of both the knowledge transfer and the design tool, feedback from students involved was collected. Feedback from the company was also collected to assess every concept in terms of the sensory experience generated, both from a design and from a marketing point of view. Eventually, the research group evaluated the educational effectiveness of the tools developed and how they affected the students’ activity.
Design education, product experience, senses, design tools.