Design of Multipurpose Products: A Study on User Expectations
Editor: Julie Linsey, Maria Yang, and Yukari Nagai
Author: Vimal Viswanathan and Shraddha Sangelkar
Did not have an abstract, here is motivation and background:
Multipurpose products are the artifacts with more than one intended or realized purposes. A Swiss Army
Knife is a popular example of a multipurpose product that has multiple utility features such as a blade, a
screwdriver, a can opener, and scissors. In this study, we are focusing on multipurpose products that may
have an intended purpose but may also have unintended or realized purposes. We intend to cover the
broader notion of products with multiple purposes instead of just focusing on products with more than
There is an abundance of multipurpose products in the consumer market. Many of them are highly
successful such as the Swiss Army Knife; but, there are several of them that are big failures in the market.
Many of such failures are primarily caused by their poor design – often, the design of these products do
not take customer preferences into account. This raises interesting questions about the gathering of
customer preferences that may lead to the success or failure of such products in the market and warrants
development of proper guidelines for the design of such products. This study aims to set the premise for
developing design guidelines for multipurpose products.
The study described in this poster aims to address two research questions related to the design of
innovative multipurpose products: (1) Why and when will a customer prefer a multipurpose product to
their single-purpose counterparts? (2) What are the crucial attributes a designer should consider while
designing a multipurpose product? A qualitative content analysis (Cavanagh, 1997; Rosengren, 1981;
Weber, 1990) has been conducted on the multipurpose products (both successful and unsuccessful as
determined by the customer ratings) available in the market to answer these questions. This poster
describes the study method along with the preliminary results.