Analysing the Work of Others to Inform Design

Analysing the Work of Others to Inform Design


When choosing a material to manufacture a product functionality is vital. How well it does the job has to be considered whilst designing every product. Designers need to be aware of a whole range of material properties. For instance, you wouldn’t choose chipboard for outdoor furniture as it would swell and disintegrate in the rain. How easy a product is to work with is also a consideration, for instance card is easier to fold and more stable than paper when making packaging.


How something looks is what aesthetics is all about. What colour does your product need to be? Should it be shiny or matt? Smooth or textured? A surface finish can be added to most materials to change its colour and texture. Natural finishes can also make something more aesthetically pleasing, waxing and varnishing wood leaves the grain visible but smooth. Designers have to make sure they are designing for their target market, different people have very different taste so the aesthetic would have to be carefully analysed.

Environmental factors:

Analysing the Work of Others to Inform Design, figure 1

It is becoming more and more vital that environmental factors are considered throughout the design process. There are various ways that materials can be selected for their environmental impact:

  • Is the material renewable? (like softwood and cotton)

  • Can it be biodegradable when disposed of? (Card or wood)

  • Can the material be recycled (like thermoplastics)?

  • Can parts be changed when worn out or reused as something else? (Wooden furniture)


Considering how easy it is to get hold of materials is also a design factor. Widely available materials are cheaper, quicker to get delivered and easy to get exactly what you want. Rarer materials (such as slow growing hardwoods) are expensive, difficult to find and generally worse for the environment.


When designing you have to consider how much material you will need and how much it costs. The price of your end product will depend on the cost of each part. A product which aims to be cheap to buy will have to be made out of cheap materials. The more of a product you produce the cheaper you can buy materials. A supplier will negotiate a better price for more raw materials bought. As a designer you may choose to create a product using the best quality materials which would cost more. (See mass, batch and one off production).

Analysing the Work of Others to Inform Design, figure 2

Social factors:

As with environmental design it is important to consider factors which affect us and the world around us.

  • Has the material we use been sourced from a renewable supply?

  • Have the farmers, processers and factory workers been treated fairly (Fairtrade)?

  • Have the raw materials been processed without causing environmental damage?

Cultural factors When designing for specific people you may have to consider what is seen as appropriate by them, for instance in some countries clothing would have to cover the shoulders and legs. Sensitivity to cultural beliefs has to be considered in your designs.

Ethical factors – Ethical design would include Fairtrade materials, using renewable products from sustainable sources and not using products made from animals, such as fur and ivory.

You will have to research the work of a few of these designers for your exam. Start with these brief descriptions and find out more information - make bullet points to help learn the facts before you take your exam.

__Alessi: __During the 1970’s Alberto Alessi began employing product designers to make original and fun designs for every day kitchen equipment. The bright colours and stylish designs were mass produced and affordable to everyone.

Apple: Apple phones and Ipods were the first hand held electrical products to have smooth, sleek edges and simple intuitive design. Jonathon Ives took the ‘less but better’ (see Braun below) ethos to create the instantly recognisable design.

Heatherwick Studio: Thomas Heatherwick is a British designer and architect amd the founder of the Heatherwick Studio, a group of problem solving designers based in London. ‘Ingenuity and inspiration are used to make projects that are affordable and buildable.’

Joe Casely - Heyford: A British fashion designer who has produced men and women’s wear since the 1980’s. His signature style is original but wearable.

Pixar: An American animation studio which has developed CGI and made their RenderMan programme the industry standard when producing high quality animation. Famous for films such as Toy Story and Up!

Raymond Loewy: An industrial designer who is said to have revolutionised the industry with his designs which stream lined previously purely functional items such as trains, cars and logos.

Tesla: An American company which specialises in electric vehicles, energy storage and solar panels. Seen as innovators in the area of environmental design.

Zaha Hadid: Is an Iraqui born British architect, famous for designing buildings such as the London Aquatic Centre and the Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar.

There are several different design strategies:

Collaboration: Working with a group of people to come up with innovative ideas to solve design problems.

User centred thinking: The process of design is done whilst gaining a deep understanding the eventual user of the product.

Systems thinking: Designing to cut costs, improve performance and increase user satisfaction.

Design ideas can be drawn and developed in a variety of ways:

2D or 3D sketching to quickly create images as designs are being developed.

Annotated sketches, labelled designs to help explain decisions.

Cut and paste techniques to gradually develop an idea.

Digital photography/media.

3D models.

Isometric, orthographic, exploded and oblique technical drawings can help create prototypes.

Assembly, system and schematic designs are technical and planning tools.