Designing and Making Principles

Using primary and secondary data to understand client and user needs

Designers need a starting point for their designs. To come up with creative, innovative and practical design it is vital that you undertake a series of research and analysis tasks before investing money in production.

Designing and Making Principles, figure 1

Using primary and secondary data to understand client and user needs:

Market research

Understanding what is already available or needed is vital to new designs.

  • Market research takes place with the group of people your product is aimed at, this might be a certain age, gender or job. Questionnaires or interviews are the most common form of research.

  • Interviewing a certain type of person individually can give you a good starting point, particularly if that person has an expertise in the area you’re designing for. For example, talking to a chef before designing cook ware.

  • Researching human sizes and movements is vital before products are made, ergonomics (the study of how a body relates to an item and fits a user) and anthropometrics (the study of human sizes) all need to be taken into account.

  • Analysing existing products can also provide important information, function, form, ergonomics, cost, sustainability, materials and manufacturing techniques. This can give you a clearer idea of what parts of the design to keep, adapt or rule out.

How to write a design brief and produce a design and manufacturing specification:

As a designer you will be given a brief description of what you need to design by a client, this is your design brief. Once you have analysed the points in the brief, completed your research and found the target audience it is possible to write a design specification. A specification gives a list of specific points your design must have. That might be size limitations, colour, style, function, consumers and environmental issues. You need to consider the user’s needs, wants and interests.

The environmental, social and economic challenge posed by designing with a conscience is becoming more and more vital as resources get less available and pollution becomes an important factor to consider.

Ecological and social footprint

Ecological issues in the design and manufacture of products:

The world has a bigger population than ever before. This means that more raw material to produce anything is needed. This causes a range of issues:

- Deforestation – Cutting down trees to create enough wood to build houses and furniture is causing huge areas of forest to be cut down and their unusable parts burnt. Hard woods are particularly slow growing and cannot be easily replaced in a lifetime. If forests are destroyed through logging or burning, their carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a climate-changing greenhouse gas. Trees also help with the water cycle by absorbing water up through the roots, a lack of trees can cause flooding or areas of extreme dryness. Deforestation also reduces wildlife habitats cutting down numbers due to a lack of food and places to live.

- Mining and drilling – The environmental impact of mining and drilling is primarily to the area around the sites. Loss of habitat for wildlife is caused by the clearance of land above the sites as well as the noise and light pollution in the area. Water run off can also create ponds of concentrated chemicals which can harm the human and wildlife population.

- Farming – The need for more food and raw products has meant that farmers are trying to create more space by claiming areas of land that had previously been wild, trees are cut down and wildlife habitats are destroyed.

Mining, moving and processing raw materials, then moving it onto the consumer causes pollution of its own:

Carbon footprint - Co2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from factories, power stations and vehicles need to be reduced to stop further damage to our environment and the air we breathe. Everything has a carbon footprint of some sort, from creating the raw material to delivering the product in a vehicle.The best way of combating C02 emissions is by using the 6R’s.

It is important for designers to think about the impact on the environment their products will have.

Environmental footprint:

How far has your product travelled?

Does the company do anything to offset its emissions like plant trees or put filter systems in place? (Different rules apply to different countries regarding what it can put into the atmosphere.) How much waste do they dump in landfill or into the sea? (Oceanic pollution)

Ethical issues are becoming more and more important to us – the consumer. We are becoming more likely to ask whether the products we’re buying are harming the environment or unfairly treating people. Fair trade is a principle where everyone in the chain or manufacturing is offered fair wages and good working conditions:

  • Farmers are paid a fair price for the raw materials.

  • Factory workers are paid a living wage.

  • Workers conditions are monitored and kept safe.

  • Use of safety equipment like goggles and guards is encouraged.

  • Toxic chemicals which could harm staff are changed.

  • The use of sweat shops and child labour is banned.