Planning Aspect 3; Design Specifications and Variables
Assessing the Design Project Using the IB Design Technology IA Criteria: Planning (Aspect Three)
A common problem with many students’ design projects is the inclusion of a generic list of specifications rather than a set of specifications relating to the context identified in Aspect One and the Design Brief explained in Aspect Two. Such a generic list usually covers categories of specifications given by the teacher to all students as a starting point and encompasses areas such as safety, ease-of-use, aesthetics etc. Students need to then go on to conduct research in order to identify (and justify) their own set of specifications. Take a look at the exemplar below of a Standard Level project assessed for Planning.
Modern decorative interior designers often incorporate themes, which were developed in the past by famous designers and design movements into their own designs. Manufacturers of interior domestic products often use the work of famous designers in developing themed “ranges” of products which share similar decorative features. Some design movements which have influenced the design of domestic products include the Arts and Craft Movement; Art Nouveau; Art Deco; De Stihl; The Bauhaus and Memphis. Although many designers have developed their own distinctive styles, most contemporary designers have been influenced in some way by these movements as they were the first groups which seperated product design for commercial production from fine art/craft. A European interior decoration retail outlet is looking for design proposals for products which reflect the influence of designers and design movements of the 20th century. http://mind42.com/pub/mindmap?mid=0e7c0ba7-5e06-4bf6-a8c4-a2734c10f87b
To design and make a mirror for interior domestic use which incorporates metals and metal finishes. The mirror must be decorative yet functional and must reflect the style of a well known design movement or designer of the 20th century.
Function: my product is going to be a mirror which not only has a practical use, but which can also be used for decoration. The mirror will be used for people to see their reflection in, and also for decoration.
Aesthetics: the product will be in the art nouveau style. Colours and shapes used in designs of that time should be used. These include elongated curves and natural shapes.
Materials; the materials used should be hard to withstand use and easily machinable. The materials should also be easy to clean and resistant to wear and chemicals so that they are not damaged during cleaning. They must also be able to be joined in a variety of ways and soft enough to carve a pattern into.
Manufacture: I am going to use the tools and machinery available to me in the school workshops to model the product. The product will eventually be designed and developed for batch production in a factory.
Market: the product will be aimed at anyone over the age of 18. The product will be sold for about £15. The mirror will be sold by a European interior decoration retail outlet and will be advertised in the same way as their other products, probably on the internet. in catalogues and in shops.
Cost: I would expect the mirror to cost about £5 or £6 to make so that it could be sold for £15. It would have to be made cheaply, £5-£10, so that a profit of at least £5 can be made from each mirror.
User: the product can be used by anyone over the age of 10, but will probably be bought by people over the age of 18 who like the art nouveau style. The mirror will be used for people to see their reflection in and also for decoration.
Source: author’s archive project material
A problem here is that the brief does not state the target market so the specifications are also weak. For example, the function is stated, ‘for people to see their reflection’ which is fairly obvious otherwise it’s not a mirror!
For “aesthetics” the student identifies “art nouveau” as the intended style but does not explain or justify the reason for this. The brief is clearly a repeat of the teacher’s instructions which no doubt are intended as a starting point for the students to explore the various design movements listed in the “background” section and then linking this research to the target market/target audience.
The “materials” section is vague and does not link to the “aesthetics” i.e. what were the dominant materials of the art nouveau movement and what considerations should be taken into account in relation to surface finish? Are certain colours important or perhaps a chromed finish? How does the choice of materials impact on manufacturing? Batch production is stated as the commercial method of production but batch produced using what kind of system – mechanised? The market stated is vague and should have been explained in more detail as part of the design brief. The point -of-sale price of £15 seems arbitrarily chosen – is this based on market research/competitive pricing? How does the style of art nouveau relate to the market? Presumably, the mirror is aimed at the domestic market but this is not obvious – the client could be a hotel group who want a distinctive mirror design for all their hotel rooms. Where and how it will be used is important to size, function and style – a mirror intended for the bathroom will have different specifications to one to be used in the lounge.
Again, the “costs” stated for manufacture seem arbitrary – how are they related to fixed and variable costs?
There are clearly other important specifications which have not been considered such as how the glass will be fixed to the frame allowing for replacement of the glass if it becomes damaged. Life cycle issues such as use of recyclable materials should also have been included.
It may be that some of the information mentioned above is not appropriate at this stage of the design cycle and will be addressed once further research has been carried out. However, normally a final set of specifications are based on technical factors and are referred to as the Product Design Specifications (PDS). In relation to the mirror project it is at this stage that implications of the design for commercial batch production will be stated such as a design for materials strategy or a design for process strategy.
An appropriate design specification states the desired performance characteristics and attributes of a solution but not the solution itself.
One technique often used to indicate priorities in relation to design specifications is to include a weighting factor. For example, an important consideration of the marketability of the mirror is the style of it as consumers have a huge range of mirrors available to them all with similar functions. Many people will be persuaded to purchase (another) mirror not because an existing product does not function properly any more but because they are bored with it or after seeing a new mirror in the art nouveau style they are prompted to make an impulse purchase. In this respect therefore, applying a weighting factor such as a mark of 9 out of 10 for aesthetics would reflect the importance of this aspect in relation to other specifications such as a mark of 5 out of 10 for function. The mirror clearly must function well, such as be an appropriate size for its location and so on, but there is not so much design input into functional aspects as there is for aesthetics. It is the aesthetic requirements which require more radical thinking.
The weighting factor is also important when deciding which of then initial ideas to take forward to the design development stage. The weighting factor may also be used when evaluating the final solution to illustrate that the solution is not perfect in every respect but it satisfies most of the requirements and, in particular, the most important requirements i.e. those with the highest weighting factors. Illustrating the weighting factors in the form of a matrix usually provides an easy reference facility