Exploring Physicality in the Design Process

RAMDUNY-ELLIS, Devina, HARE, Joanna, DIX, Alan and GILL, Steve (2009). Exploring Physicality in the Design Process. In: Undisciplined! Design Research Society Conference 2008, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July 2008.


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The design process used in the development of many products we use daily and the nature of the products themselves are becoming increasingly digital. Although our whole world is turning ever more digital, our bodies and minds are naturally conceived to interact with the physical. Very often, in the design of user-targeted information appliances, the physical and digital processes are formulated separately and usually, due to cost factors, they are only brought together for user testing at the end of the development process. This not only makes major design changes more difficult but it can also significantly affect the users’ level of acceptance of the product and their experience of use. It is therefore imperative that designers explore the relationship between the physical and the digital form early on in the development process, when one can rapidly work through different sets of ideas. The key to gaining crucial design information from products lies in the construction of meaningful prototypes. This paper specifically examines how physical materials are used during the early design stage and seeks to explore whether the inherent physical properties of these artefacts and the way that designers interpret and manipulate them have a significant impact on the design process. We present the findings of a case study based on information gathered during a design exercise. Detailed analysis of the recordings reveals far more subtle patterns of behaviour than expected. These include the ways in which groups move between abstract and concrete discussions, the way groups comply with or resist the materials they are given, and the complex interactions between the physicality of materials and the group dynamics. This understanding is contributing to ongoing research in the context of our wider agenda of explicating the fundamental role of physicality in the design of hybrid physical and digital artefacts.

Physicality; Digitality; Product Design; Design Process; Prototyping; Materials

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (-)
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2009
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 13:35
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/552

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