Where Design and Electronics Meet: Integrate Electronics in Product Design
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Tommie Varekamp, Ianus Keller, Jo Geraedts
Institution: Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, The Netherlands
Section: Teaching Design Technology
In the last decade inexpensive digital electronic components have become accessible for the field of product design, making it possible to integrate electronics in all kinds of products. By using integrated electronics a product can differentiate from its competitors with a large variety of new functions and/or product behaviours. However at the same time the complexity of the product increases. Therefore a selection process is required that explores the added value and at the same time evaluates the feasibility of electronic technologies early in the design process. With a combination of user centred design and technical knowledge especially industrial designers seem to be well equipped for this selection process. Unfortunately evaluating the technical feasibility of integrated electronics is currently receiving too little attention in design education.
This paper presents the conclusions of a qualitative study in the working methods of professional design practice to gain insights in this early selection process. It shows industrial designers themselves possess limited technical knowledge of the electronic domain, but compensate this by communicating with external electronics experts early in the design process. Their communication is facilitated by the visualization skills of designers making it possible to talk about integrated electronics in a “designerly” way with little technical terminology. However this way of working also has its downsides, because it limits the exploration of different electronic systems and the ability of designers to design the product behaviour. By comparing the findings of this study with research on interdisciplinary cooperation this paper proposes a starting point for design educations to empower designers to work with integrated electronics early in the design process.