Designing the Designer

Author:
Wesley Woelfel
Company/School:
California State University, Long Beach

DESIGNING THE DESIGNER
UNIQUE INTERDISCIPLINARY MASS CUSTOMIZATION EXPERIENCES

Wesley Woelfel
California State University, Long Beach

Frequently, a design is created purely to emphasize an experience for its users.  Today, designers are harnessing new technologies and reaching out to new disciplines to develop heightened personal experiences of mass-customization in industrial design.  In these scenarios, the users become the designers, and the designers are designing the design experience itself.  What innovation in methodologies and product strategy are utilized, and how does this break from and challenge the norm to further enhance the user experience and perceived quality of a product?

Mass-customization is a technique for developing unique and custom results from an algorithmic array of mass produced or limited run choices.  For example, some sneakers can be customized to look unique, or scientifically perform differently through an assortment of choices determined by the customer, and in effect, delivers an experience of being designed by the customer.  Mass produced designs initially utilized artisan, crafted, or fabrication based production methodologies, and in turn would yield slight variations in designs with a feeling of one-of-a-kind ownership.  Noticeably, in the past two hundred and fifty years, industrialization has made identically produced designs of objects, structures, and spaces the norm, emphasizing a reality where slight variances are frequently construed as defects or imperfections.  The demand for unique or customized designs, a return to our artisan routes, is growing rapidly.  User interface software has flourished in customization and in encouraging a semantic of individualistic ownership, but how has the physical product evolved to enhance the user experience by encouraging a customer’s emersion and ownership into its design?  With innovations in technology, and the inclusion of retail and other user experience disciplines, the mass-customization experience has become heightened.  Will a user’s fingerprints increase a mass-customization product’s sustainable lifespan, perceived quality, help prescribe markets, and track desirability? Or, does this customer involvement simply tend to encourage a hoarding trigger, or gimmickry?  

This paper explores examples from interdisciplinary methodologies and strategies that challenge the norm in an effort to create memorable mass-customization experiences via industrial design including scenarios from unique in-store experiences, immersive digital technology, hand-crafted/artisan based methodologies, and creative student designs. 

 

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