Design for Desirability: A Collaborative Innovation-Initiative between New Zealand Design Academia and Industry

Design for Desirability: A Collaborative Innovation-Initiative between New Zealand Design Academia and Industry

Mark Goellner (Massey University, New Zealand), Anders Warell (Lund University, Sweden), Rodney Adank (Massey University, New Zealand), Lyn Garrett (Massey University, New Zealand) and Tony Parker (Massey University, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch017


This chapter outlines an innovative and collaborative design research project that connects New Zealand SME manufacturers with advanced design thinking about affective design. This project was developed and implemented by the centre for affective design research (Affect) at Massey University. Design researchers and five NZ companies have collaborated to foster ‘design-for-desirability’ thinking and develop capabilities by means of knowledge sharing, enterprise training and individualised projects. This created visionary product concepts utilizing the perceptual product experience framework (Warell, 2008). The chapter provides a novel model for collaboration between industry and academia that focuses on implementing ‘design-for-desirability’ thinking in SME companies with the aim of improving their international competitiveness. Well-designed, functional products are expected in today’s competitive global markets. Gaining success in global markets requires a step beyond this level of usability in order to develop products that are desirable and appeal to the users on emotional, social and intuitive levels.
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Introduction: Economy And Design In New Zealand

New Zealand (NZ) is a relatively small, industrialized free-market country with 4.3 million people (, 2009). It is it an entrepreneurial society that is known for its ingenuity and innovation in industry and research. Frederick describes New Zealand as one of the world’s most entrepreneurial countries, with more than 17% of all employment in New Zealand being in entrepreneurial companies (Frederick, 2002). In the design sector many New Zealand companies have portrayed this entrepreneurial thinking by producing highly innovative design solutions. This is either done by internal design teams (for example the highly successful company Icebreaker1) or by independent design consultancies working alongside manufacturers. Regardless of type these product design teams are generally small in size: one to three designers and rarely more than four designers (Goellner, 2005).

Currently New Zealand manufacturing and design industries are facing issues related to: global competition from the internationalisation of design and engineering services; the manufacturing capabilities from Asian markets offering low-cost products; an increasingly well- informed consumers that expect exceptional products (which they can access globally through the internet); and the increasing customer’s awareness and demand for sustainable products and solutions.

In New Zealand the design community and the government is seeing the integration of sustainable solutions and the certification of sustainability as some of the most important aspects for New Zealand industry in order to maintain their “100% pure and green” New Zealand image. Conferences with focus on sustainability have been organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ 2007, 2008). The “Sustainable Business Network” was formed to promote sustainable practice in New Zealand and support businesses on the path to becoming sustainable, and in March 2009, the “” website was launched as is the world’s first online directory of green products and services that are compared against basic principles of sustainability. In addition, the Ministry of Economic Development is working on a sustainability assessment and certification for New Zealand products.

With all these current challenges, one needs to keep in mind that most New Zealand manufacturing companies are small to medium sized by world standards (Darroch, 2002; New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, 2004) and despite their entrepreneurial thinking, exports of products and services to the global market have increased only in recent years (Frederick, 2002;, 2009). The main issues for NZ manufacturing companies are their geographical remoteness to major markets such as America, Europe or Asia, and their relatively small size, which, through resource scarcity, makes it difficult to compete internationally. At the same time, the absence of domestic markets has also led the small to medium companies in New Zealand to draw knowledge from international networks and “to provide high levels of customisation for their international market customers which in turn drove R&D and innovation practices” (Davenport, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Innovation Pilot Initiative: A New Zealand governmentally funded tertiary education commission initiative (2007 - 2009) that aims to foster industrial competitiveness through design for desirability. The intention of this project is to assist New Zealand manufacturers and designers to achieve increased levels of success in international markets through focusing on Design for Desirability by establishing collaboration between manufacturing industries and academia.

Industrial (Product) Design: “Industrial design (ID) is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimise the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” (Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), 2009)

Affective Design: Affective design describes a design (of a product) that is capable of eliciting certain emotional experiences from users. Affective design aims to identify the subjective emotional relationships between users and products and to create products that are capable of eliciting pleasures for the users.

Product Experience: Product experience is the entire set of effects that is elicited by the interaction between a user and a product, including: (1) the degree to which all our senses are gratified (aesthetic experience); (2) the meanings we attach to the product (experience of meaning); (3) the feelings and emotions that are elicited (emotional experience) (Hekkert, 2006)

Emotional Design: Emotional design is concerned with the discovery and understanding of human emotions elicited by user-product interactions. Emotions are the results of appraisal process that is based on our experiences and concerns regarding the activity / interaction. They can be positive, negative or absent (Desmet, 2002).

Perceptual Product Experience (PPE): The Perceptual Product Experience framework is a model to understand, map, organise and analyse possible user experiences, by means of the sensory, cognitive and affective mode of user-product interactions. The PPE framework focuses on how we experience products with all senses; how we process and categorise stimuli and make sense of things; and how we feel and think of things when we experience products (Warell, 2008)

Design for Desirability: Design for desirability is the creation of relevant, desirable and meaningful experiences in products and user-product interactions. It addresses the user’s aspiration of owning and using the product. This is related to personal identity, cultural and social values, and self-representation. In order to be successful, the product must be more desirable than the competition.

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