An Exercise in Symbiosis: Undergraduate Designers and a Company Product Development Team Working Together

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The paper presents an exercise in which a manufacturer and industrial design undergraduates worked together in developing 'blue-sky' concepts. The aim was for students to experience working with a product development team from the company. The company in return wanted this team to be exposed to initial concept development work normally done external to this team in a separate design department. Hence the symbiosis. The exercise was different from many similar exercises in that it was run out of term and students had to apply and compete for a limited number of places. Students were placed in small design teams and worked collaboratively over an intense three-day period. The exercise was evaluated by staff observation, student feedback questionnaires and questions to the company staff. The discussion concludes that there are significant advantages to operating concentrated design project work, whether it is team- or individually-based. Such techniques effectively use Hawthorne-type effects to boost motivation. Students rise to the challenge, outputs are good in terms of ideas and the positive experience for students. However, it is recommended that such projects should not be conducted too frequently due to the intensity for both staff and students. The company product development team benefited from involvement with the concept development phase of design.

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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