University Iuav of Venice (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 6610-6617
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.1679
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
According to the most common design methods, such as the double diamond, a typical product development process begins with data collection (research), to clearly define the problem to be solved. Next, the designers develop a divergent creative process that aims at finding the best solution. While defining the details of the new product, it is advisable to produce models or prototypes. As is known, it is acutely helpful both for designers and end-users handling a physical model for greater awareness of the object's physicality. However, in the case of interactive products, with mechatronic/digital functions capabilities, the simple model shows all its limitations in terms of support in the interaction design stage. Therefore, designing new product types, besides being a difficult challenge for designers, also means becoming familiar with rapid prototyping and usability testing. And so, crafting a working prototype, giving it some of the designed "smart" functions, allows the designer to control the quality and the effectiveness of the interaction design choices. Thus, knowing how to prototype a product with digital capabilities becomes a strategic skill for the modern designer, above all in the user-test phases as a fundamental part of the user-centered design process.

Furthermore, the driving force of research and design practices is based on product development through trial and error processes (iterative design) starting from field research, focusing on user needs and thus reaching user-friendly results. Moreover, the diffusion of low-cost electronics and the easy access to the knowledge of ICT technologies allow more designers to creatively deal with the difficult scenarios of assistive technologies. Open access digital solutions and shared prototyping platforms could be a good opportunity for designers to quickly develop customized solutions based on users' needs, requirements, and physical characteristics.

In this paper, we present five examples of assistive technologies products developed involving disabled users, through a hands-on and participatory approach. Products have been developed by design students of the Product Design Studio during the 2020-2021 academic year (in the course of Covid-19 restrictions).

The contribution focuses on the user-centered design approach as particularly effective in the design of a product for a real user affected by a disability. This is why, according to the teaching strategy, students identified a person with a disability and then worked together to identify a need. Subsequently, through the prototyping process, the students came up with a functioning solution of a product that can help the user with a specific task which now aren't able to do. All projects were tested and used by the end-user, both during the design process and at the end of development. In this laboratory course, students are encouraged to specifically design for the end-user, not only based on their expressed needs, but also by directly involving them in interaction tests. In this way, the acquired skills in digital prototypes development become a strategic plus that highly qualifies the profile of the trained professional.
Design education, assistive technologies, product design, rapid prototyping.