Explore Collaborations: Design Perceptions and Emotional Impact of Cars: a collaborative project with CarMen Gmbh

Project name: Design Perceptions and Emotional Impact of Cars: a collaborative project with CarMen Gmbh

Project information:

This project involved 2nd year Undergraduate in the subject area of 3D Design, Product Design and Transportation Design and Graphic Design, Interactive Design and Motion Graphics. The collaboration was a Group project with an external client.

An overview of the project:

This project has two stages. The first stage required the students to explore the correlations between social status/social group and their design perception. The second stage relates to a process developed by CarMen, described as 'Emotional Profile' (EP). The design of a vehicle creates through its form language a kind of visual message which has an emotional impact on the customer. CarMen would define this visual message as the 'Emotional Profile'. The students' task were to undertake detailed research using existing vehicles and to map their emotional profile. They were asked to draw up a working profile of a comprehensive series of vehicles that have similar characteristics and to develop up a "tool-kit" for analyzing future designs.

A description of who was involved in the project:

The client was CarMen GmbH, a company with major links within the automotive industry with their core business dealing with brand analysis/extension and the development of product planning initiatives. 2nd year students from the Transportation Design degree at Northumbria University participated in the project.

A description of the key outcomes of this project for all parties which were involved:

For us the key outcome was the development of new thinking into strategic design planning specifically with relation to semantic profiling and attributing character to vehicles that are attractive to pre-defined consumer groups. Such invaluable information will be introduced to teaching material throughout the program.

Our collaborator comment:
Car Mens conclusion after the final presentation was that for students who had studied vehicle design for such a short time the results from most of the students were very good. They attempted to explore a field of research which was for them very new and probably difficult to grasp in such a short time.

We felt that the outcome could have been more significant had we had the chance to work more with the students and monitor and support their efforts on a day to day basis.

We hope nevertheless that the students have come some way to understanding the complexity of the market and the reality of customer taste.

In the final presentations there were many issues and results which we would have liked to discuss with the student but the time allotted did not allow for that.

Following the final presentation we definitely felt that we had not been able to give the students enough meaningful feedback and that we really needed the whole day. There only seemed to be time for negativefeedback.

The presentations of Luke, Chris, Thomas and Roy were particularly interesting and would have been good to discuss in more depth.

The evaluation of Objectives fulfilled is generally low as we felt that the research results which we wanted from the project were only in part understood and delivered.

We would nevertheless welcome the opportunity to run a similar project with more mature students and build on the experience we have had in this first collaboration.

 Exploring Collaboration Learning

Placement of user profile on style map

 Exploring Collaboration Learning

How form is related

 Exploring Collaboration Learning

User profile axis

Planning the Collaboration

Tutors were asked the following question to help them to reflect on the issues and decisions considered before the project began:

How were the groups formed and how many students were in each group?

Placed into groups based on complementary skills (chosen by tutor), and the average size of the group was 3.

What were the main reasons for setting up a collaborative project?
The tutor indicated a collaborative project was set up:

  • To develop interpersonal skills
  • The assignment was too large for one student to complete
  • To learn to work in a group
  • To learn from your peers
  • To simulate a 'real-world experience'

What were the client's expectations at the start of the project?

The Project was devised around a frame work that would allow CarMen to test the effectiveness of collaboration with Undergraduate programs to widen their involvement with academic institutions and test the validity of research generated.

Early factors were for them to understand the academic requirements of UG programs and how this could match the scope of a given project. The project represented an opportunity to observe their own design development tools in action in isolation from subjecting ongoing input/analysis.

How did you align the client's expectations with the module's learning objectives?

Defining key objectives was achieved by staff understanding the company's current and future objectives first. This allowed for a meaningful exchange centred on the project focus and output potential. A formal Brief was written and submitted to the company for review. Slight amendments were made but due to the networking event, and understanding of each others' objectives, defining an approach, content, and output was simple.


Planning the Collaboration

Tutors were asked the following question to help them to reflect on how you have monitored interactions during the project duration.

Did you use any type of tools or resources to help students work more effectively in their groups?

The tutor indicated the following tools were used to form groups and assign roles:

  • Skills audit

The tutor indicated the following team bonding tools were used to help the student work more effectively in their groups:

  • Ice breaker exercise

The tutor indicated the following team development tools were used to help the student work more effectively in their groups:

  • Peer and Self-assessment
  • Reflective diary

What kind of other measures did you put into place to help foster collaborative learning and for what purpose?

Initially each group was assigned the task of helping to generate a year group research database of first-hand observations, focus group questionnaire results and market trend analysis. This was supported by ongoing peer-lead group tutorials, problem framing exercises, interim presentations of each group to the cohort and a reflective journal being produced by each team.

How did you monitor students' progress during the collaborative project?
The tutor indicated that they monitored students progress:

  • By regular progress checks
  • By setting formal progress report stages
  • By team review exercises

What kind of strategies did you use to manage the team development?
Select the following:

The tutor indicated that they use the following strategies to manage the team development:

A mixture of both -

A mixture of both a prescribed design process and developing individual working practices was used. Groups were given guidelines on the key stages of the project with each stage having pre defined deliverables. Each stage was described in terms of the development process involved: research, synthesis and communication.

Research activities were governed by tools developed by the collaborator but students were asked to develop their own techniques. From these students were asked to define a series of core development drivers (criteria) for ongoing

Assessing the Collaboration

Tutors were asked the following questions to enable them to describe the assessment methods employed during the collaborative project.

What methods of assessment were used?

The tutor indicated the following method of assessment were used during the collaborative project:

  • Tutor assessment
  • Client assessment

A combination of Client assessment at pre defined intervals and ongoing Tutor assessment. Peer and group sessions were used throughout at staged intervals.

Can you elaborate on how you assess the students in the collaborative project, both in terms of the project and how they work as a team?

Assessment, in terms of formative feedback, was ongoing throughout the project. This type of assessment is of paramount importance for the successful completion of the project and in enabling students to understand what they were trying to achieve at each stage.

Staged reviews or critiques were used to assess each group's activities and present findings and formative group feedback was given by their tutor. Group and individual activities were assessed then redefined if necessary at these stages and individual tutorials given. Tutorials were used to highlight group project potential, illustrate areas of good practice, and to help each student with their individual activities within their group.

Summative assessment took place at the end of the project in the form of a formal presentation to the client. Each group member was asked to provide their own solution based upon the criteria defined by the previous group research gathering stage. Individual were required to go further with more analysis of the market segment pertinent to their proposed design solutions.

The client was given a breakdown of the module and marking criteria from the beginning of the project and a set of mutually acceptable marking criteria were agreed upon. Project specific criteria, or definition of deliverables, were defined at the briefing session to the students. Student's individual performance was assessed against these criteria however in an attempt to qualify the grade boundaries each group was also given an overall "boundary defining" performance related grade to find top, middle, and bottom in terms of overall performance. This was used in an attempt to clearly illustrate the success of a team's performance within the cohort, and then individual endeavor within those teams.

Tutor's reflections on the Collaboration

Tutors were asked the following questions to allow them to consider what has been learnt by running this collaborative project.

What benefits did you as a tutor perceive students had gained from the collaborative project?

Students quickly became focused upon design research activity beyond their previous sphere of knowledge/influence and without personally motivate design activity. The project had an inside out approach, where students were asked to understand fundamentally the core drivers behind vehicle development lead by user profiling and market analysis.

Firstly, students had to understand the dilemma of finding and defining a market, understanding the segmentation differences between markets and then focus in upon the core values of one market in particular. The activity of interviewing, questioning, setting up focus groups and developing appropriate research tools was demanding for the students but ultimately rewarding and beneficial for future projects.

Secondly, students were asked to identify key profiles and conduct first-hand analysis of their requirements and hence begin to define a "tool kit" when developing new vehicle architectures for that specified market. The definition of defining key design criteria for the production of exterior design proposals was particularly successful in light of the student's lack of previous experience in this area. Research into market specific design tastes through multi layered mapping exercises proved to be a valuable activity and one which the teaching team believes will be invaluable in making them marketable design graduates.

The project was made up of three distinct tiers of activity and learning opportunities. User centric research, brand/design language (or product semantic) analysis, and design solution generation and validation. The project resulted in students having to complete each stage before embarking on the next. Critical analyses of research findings lead to a comprehensive testing stage where design criteria were defined; the project then moved on to testing of their design solutions with user group review before presenting results to the client.

The major benefit beyond in-house projects being that each element was interrogated fully rather than students slipping into introspective design. Group activities informed personal enquiry which then set out a series of research methods for use by individual members of the group and resulted in broad and focused set of solutions from each of them.

From the point of view of the teaching team the most rewarding aspect of the project was that for the first time students were displaying the ability to approach vehicle exterior design development from a very analytical point of view. The project illustrated a visual design justification process which separated students from their preoccupation with vehicle styling through insular empathic sketching in isolation from research.

If you were to run this project again, what would you change or improve?

The need for regular client reviews and internal reviews lead by a Tutor with close relationship with the clients allows for a clear understanding of deliverables, all of which means a student's experience is as "real-world" as possible. It would be beneficial to have more interim feedback on student development from the client, or an even better understanding of the processes they already employ.

Developing appropriate research tools was difficult initially for the students, if the project were to run again more direct involvement from the client would be required to speed up the process and ensure workload efficiency. Personally I always felt an opportunity for staff to engage in a project day with the client to work on the project in a series of staged practice sessions would be helpful. This would allow staff to actually develop their own responses to the project brief and observe first-hand the way the client operates.

The project was very demanding for year 2 students because of the scale of the skill set competencies they needed to develop to fulfil the brief. However, the response from CarMen was fantastic with a very interesting, and progressive, multifaceted brief being defined. The brief was initially intended to ask students to apply their knowledge of User perceptions from the first two stages and apply it to the contemporary debate around ecologically sound design principals. The hope was to generate meaningful design decisions based on User emotional profiling spurred on by a need, highlighted by manufacturers, to be able to define their Eco principals through aesthetic representations in the vehicle architecture. Pressure has been applied to CarMen by their clients to define a new visual language for vehicles that address consumers need to be seen in vehicles that project ecological ideals. Even if aesthetically and not functionally, car companies are currently looking for design solutions that defend their consumers Eco sensibilities.

Problems arose due to the complexity of the project and the relative inexperience of the second year students involved. This coupled with this being a new venture with potential project "scale" issues and with a collaborative partner whose relationship with the program was at that time untested, resulted in some minor changes, and the need to re-evaluate final the output. Hence the third stage was removed and focus redirected to ensuring students completed stage two, emotional profiling.

What were some of the issues that the students faced during the project?
a. The tutor indicated students had the following issues relating to Team Management during the collaborative project:

Communication with team members or tutor, Negotiating team roles, Working effectively within a team, Personality clashes and Dealing with non-performing team members

b. The tutor indicated students had the following issues relating to Team Development during the collaborative project:

Working to deadlines, Motivation, Conduct – appearance, manner, Learning from peers and Supporting team members

c. In general, the tutor indicated students faced the following issues during the collaborative project:

What areas would you as a tutor like to have more support or resources to help you in your next collaborative project?

a. In the planning stage (preparing students for collaborative learning), the tutor indicated they would like more support or resoures in the following areas:

  • Timetabling (to fit into a set module or a standalone project)
  • Facilities
  • Team Management (assigning team members or roles)
  • Team Development (instilling professionalism, teamwork, peer learning etc)

b. In the managing stage (managing the collaborative project), the tutor indicated they would like more support or resoures in the following areas:

  • Communication with team members or tutor
  • Negotiating team roles
  • Working effectively within a team
  • Personality clashes
  • Dealing with non-performing team members

c. In the assessment stage, the tutor indicated they would like more support or resoures in the following areas:

  • Deciding on the method of assessment
  • Assessing group vs individual performance

Any additional comments?

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