ERGONOMICS APPROCHES APPLIED TO PRODUCT DESIGN, INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH AND EDUCATION EXPERIENCE
1 Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2 Middle East Technical University Ankara (TURKEY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:This abstract presents the results of an education/research activity carried out through an Erasmus teaching staff exchange, to explore the consequences of different inputs in the design process. This experience was performed involving industrial design students in a workshop. The Workshop has been performed in Ankara on May 6th 2009 with the collaboration between the Industrial Design Departments of Politecnico di Milano and Middle East Technical University of Ankara. The specific aim of the workshop has been, beside the international collaboration in design education, the evaluation of the influence of different ergonomic research approaches (Usability evaluation and Ethnographic observation) on product development.
An initial 1 month preparation phase involved designing the workshop process, tools and research activities. The students were asked to do preliminary researches in order to play different roles during the workshop. The ergonomics-oriented roles are: "anthropologist/ethnographer" and "usability expert". We also defined function-oriented designers and form-oriented designer.
Specific material and advices for each group's preparatory research activity were delivered to the students.
For the workshop 4 project groups were shaped, each composed by 1 function-oriented designer, 1 form-oriented designer, 2 ergonomist (either anthropologist/ethnography or usability expert).
The workshop was organised in 4 phases:
1. individual synthesis of the research work,
2. its presentation inside the project groups,
3. team work for concept generation,
4. final presentation in plenary session.
Organizing parallel design teams was effective and inspiring, albeit logistically challenging. It permitted the collection of rich and diverse proposals.
At the end we compared the results to see how different ergonomic approaches affect the outcome of concept design. The preliminary researches needed an extra effort but they provided positive results: generally they enabled the students to start project team work in a more efficient and involved way, specifically they drove the concept to different directions: new ideas were pushed by video-ethnography, detailed innovative solutions by usability tests. One of the usability groups had a dishwasher in the workshop room; also this condition possibly pushed the participants to develop more specific solutions as the ones proposed for the drawer's mechanism and the user-interface layout. On the other hand, video-ethnography groups focused on radical changes based on real use conditions. As example, one ethnography-group designed a "lift dishwasher" for the unused corners of the kitchen counter. An unexpected event, not depending on preliminary research activities, was that all the groups worked on emotional aspect of concept design, proposing different changing colours for the front of the dishwashers. Since it was an optional feature, it might address the cultural needs of the dishwasher users in Turkey. Actually, also the significance of cultural diversities and correlations in design education has been an inspiration for the research team to experience ergonomic oriented design in an international platform.
The workshop results can act as starting point for further development of the comparative approaches regarding ergonomics and cultural phenomena and for other experience exchange between the two institutions.
Keywords: design education, international exchange program, ergonomics, field observation.