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


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

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