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'In Touch' With Consumers: Freeform® as a Co-Design Tool for Real-Time Concept Modification

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This paper presents work from a collaborative project between Loughborough University and Procter and Gamble Technical Centres (UK), to establish how new product modelling technology (SensAble Technologies' FreeForm® touch-based virtual clay modelling system) can be strategically integrated as a co-design tool within new product development. The core of the work involved a step change in consumers' involvement in product design processes at Procter and Gamble: from reactionary to participatory.

The use of digital tools in user-centred design and co-design are reviewed and the complexities of introducing such tools to non-designers are highlighted. Three product design projects are reported, involving consumers in co-design sessions where they were made active in the form creation process and engaged in real-time concept modification using FreeForm®. Findings from the co-design sessions are presented, with advantages identified in the empowerment of consumers and the streamlining of product development processes. The innovative nature of involving consumers with digital design tools is stressed and notes of caution are issued. A case for the strategic and effective use of FreeForm® as a co-design tool is developed and enhancements to the FreeForm® system are suggested.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • Established in 1998, The Design Journal is an international, refereed journal covering all aspects of design. The journal welcomes articles on design in both cultural and commercial contexts. The journal is published four times a year and provides a forum for design scholars, professionals, educators, and managers worldwide. It publishes thought-provoking work that will have a direct impact on design knowledge and that challenges assumptions and methods, while being open-minded about the evolving role of design.

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