Stigma-Free Product Design: An Exploration in Dust Mask Design

Year: 2012
Editor: Lyndon Buck, Geert Frateur, William Ion, Chris McMahon, Chris Baelus, Guido De Grande, Stijn Verwulgen
Author: Kristof Vaes (1), Achiel Standaert (1), Pieter Jan Stappers (2)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Artesis University College Antwerp, Belgium; 2: Delft University of technology - Industrial Design Engineering
Section: Design Methods - People and Knowledge
Page(s): 141-146
ISBN: 978-1-904670-36-0


Assistive, protective or medical products that are visibly worn or used in proximity to the human body can have an emotional impact on users and bystanders. An encounter with a person using or wearing a potentially stigmatizing product can be an impacting experience that is the result of the product itself, the individuals experiencing the stigma, the observing bystanders and the cultural context in which the situation is set. This paper reports on ways in which stigma-free product design could be achieved for a dust mask. To illustrate and evaluate the various design approaches, 45 mask concepts were matched with their corresponding stigma-free design intervention. Two design interventions were derived from stigma related literature in both social psychology and design research, one aimed at user identification, the other at user de-identification with the product. The design concepts were the results of an 8-week User Experience Project, in which third grade bachelor students Product Development at the Artesis University College of Antwerp participated. Apart from interesting conclusions regarding the applied design strategies, our analysis showed that depending on the targeted population, the selected anti-stigma interventions differed substantially. The article ends by exploring the results of a one-week workshop focused on user empowerment. The initial results show that this might be a promising anti-stigma design intervention that actively involves the end-user. In addition to the extrinsic qualities of identification or de-identification strategies, empowering products have the capacity to intrinsically reinforce the users capacities.

Keywords: Stigma, product acceptance, product semantics, design education


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