A design-relevant model for product analysis: why the existent is not enough
The present paper debates the need for specific methods for design research in one area, that of product analysis. Initially, on-going discussions on design research methods and product visualization are described. The relation of these to the debate at hand – namely on the possibility of visually assessing design differentiation in consumer products – is presented. The paper is informed by literature on methods for visual and object analysis currently employed to investigate the shape design of products. There is a discussion on traditional models for artefact analysis when these are employed to compare groups of products. The discussion will highlight the shortcomings of these methods for understanding product shape differentiation and draw attention to their flaws when the aim is a comparative analysis of a three dimensional sample group. The central argument is that knowledge on the product, gained when conventional artefact analysis methods are applied, is only tangentially relevant to design. Finally, a new model for comparative product analysis is introduced. This model was developed to bypass the limitations of those methods in existence. The newly developed model is used to illustrate the possibility of combining various types of visual analysis methods in order to better understand the quantitative and qualitative information materialized in product design.