An Affordance-based Approach to Evaluating Consumer Variation
Cormier, Phillip M.
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A design process exists to help designers transform an identified need into a solution. However, the solution required to satisfy the need will vary from consumer to consumer, as each consumer has a unique set of human factors, preferences, personal knowledge, and solution constraints. A design firm must therefore decide what variation will be addressed and how they will address it. Currently there is little work supporting the decision of how to address variety, resulting in an ad hoc or a priori decision. Currently, there is little work that specifically investigates how to guide designers through the selection process. This research explores the information and tools needed to help designers capture, quantify, and leverage consumer commonality in order to address consumer variation. This facilitates the creation of a system or set of systems that meets the demands of both the consumer(s) and organization. An affordance-based approach is leveraged because it maintains the relational field of view between the user, artifact, and resulting artifacts. Because the use of affordances is inconsistent in the literature, a formal affordance form was created to capture all required information, and a working affordance basis was created. Numerical Taxonomic Research from the biological classification domain is adapted to help designers understand consumer variation. Once consumer variation is understood, the design firm enters the conceptual design phase. When addressing consumer variation, designers are tasked with developing concepts for the different subproblems, but must also develop concepts to address the consumer variation. Traditional design approaches can be leveraged for both; however, to facilitate addressing consumer variation, a set of design heuristics was developed. This research is packaged within the early stages of a design process, both leveraging and complementing existing design research.