Implementation and Assessment of the Trend Boards Method in a Product Design Engineering Program
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Maya Castano, Jorge Hernan; Arenas, Michelle; Velez, Manuela
Section: Design Methodology and Education 2
The User Experience (UX) with a product can be fundamental to designing innovative products today. A large variety of methods to design this experience exists. Some of these methods, (ie., mood boards) facilitate the communication of the desired experience for the user, inside and outside the design team. However, the methods that relate directly the user experience with the form style most appropriated to the product are relatively scarce and imprecise. Usually this relation is made intuitively by the designer after reading magazines and internet sites with images of products related to the designed product. The trend boards method, TBM, remedied this shortcoming. TBM was originated in fashion design. It has been developed and structured over 15 years to solve the problem of selecting and defining the products’ form style. The result of applying TBM is a board where through a structured imagery the values, attributes and characteristics of a product trend are conveyed. In this board the product-user experience is represented. French automobile industry has applied it intensively in the last decade. The needs covered with TBM led to the European project Trends Project  where steps of TBM were formalized and automated. Despite the success of TBM, assessments in the academic context are rare. This paper evaluates its use by two product design engineering students in their graduation project. The aim was to design a product for home organization. They followed Ulrich and Eppinger’s (2004) and Pahl et al (2007) product design methodology These methods were complemented with the TBM at the time of defining the form style of the product. Five trend boards were obtained using TBM. Two boards were selected as the most suitable to vehicle the desired trend (experience) for the user through consultation with two product design engineering experts and one in the marketing of plastic organizers. To assess if the two boards conveyed the desired trend, a projective test was performed on the boards, using 10 potential users of the product. Test results were recorded. A content analysis to identify the presence or absence of terms associated with the experience suggested by the trend board was carried out. After this, the designers proceeded to the product embodiment process using the two trend boards for inspiration. A prototype of the final product was constructed. Through a semantic differential test a qualitative validation was carried out to determine if ten product’ potential users perceived the attributes conveyed trough the two boards. The results were completely coincident with the two boards. The relationship trend board–product was also assessed qualitatively. First, it was determined to what extent the image of the product was consistent with the imagery of the five boards by introducing the image of the prototype on the five boards. Second, potential users were asked to choose the boards they would integrate the product. This assessment has revealed points where TBM is less structured and where designer’s subjectivity could be predominant. These points will be investigated later. Finally, quantitative studies on the reliability and robustness of TBM are required.