DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Ito, Akira; Taoka, Yuki; Saito, Shigeki
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
Section: Responsible innovation in design and engineering education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.63
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


In order to develop innovative products or services, it is essential to understand users to identify their latent needs. The main goal of user research is to gain insights into user lives. Insight in design is defined as a “clear, deep, meaningful perception into a particular design context” [1] that can be achieved by empathising with users. Empathy has been researched in psychology, which influences the research of empathy in design. Although there are no widely accepted definitions of empathy in design, empathy is commonly understood as an attempt to understand users comprehensively [2]. To gain insight, empathising deeply with users is one of the most critical challenges in the design process. Some studies focused on how designers empathise with users [3] and how designers think during the process [4]. However, the difficulties for novice designers in learning empathising skills and in conducting the process by themselves still remain. There is a need for research to identify what good insights are and what the best ways to empathise with users are. In particular, in design education, it is necessary to provide appropriate evaluation and advice to students to help them acquire design skills. Making it possible to evaluate not only the creativity of solutions, such as products and services but also the results of user understanding may enable more accurate advice and achieve practical education. The aim of this research is to investigate design educators’ perceptions of good user understanding in design projects as the first step of support development. This study focuses on responding to a research question: “what are the perspectives for evaluating user understanding in product/service development projects in design education?” Semi-structured interviews of thirty minutes to one hour were conducted with ten faculty members involved in design education or design practice. Examples of questions are “how students could gain insights in design projects?”, “what are the most impressive insights, and why?”, and “what are the most common mistakes students make in understanding users?”. All interview data were transcribed, and qualitative content analysis was conducted. The interview transcripts were read and coded by two researchers. The result reveals evaluation perspectives that change with the stage of a design project and are helpful for evaluation and advice to students on user understanding in design education. [1] Kolko, J. (2010), “Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis”, Design Issues, MIT Press, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 15–28. [2] Chang-Arana, Á.M., Piispanen, M., Himberg, T., Surma-aho, A., Alho, J., Sams, M. and Hölttä-Otto, K. (2020), “Empathic accuracy in design: Exploring design outcomes through empathic performance and physiology”, Design Science, Vol. 6 No. 16 [3] Smeenk, W., Sturm, J. and Eggen, B. (2019), “A Comparison of Existing Frameworks Leading to an Empathic Formation Compass for Co-design”, International Journal of Design, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp.53–68. [4] Dorst, K. (2011), “The core of 'design thinking' and its application”, Design Studies, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 521–532.

Keywords: problem definition, needs statement, user understanding, user research, empathy


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