Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom reported these items from the Industrial Designers Society of America's national conference, held Sept. 23-26 in Coronado, Calif.
Design can fall short if process is flawed
The ideal industrial design process is rarely seen, according to Don Norman of the Nielsen-Norman Group, who gave the IDSA keynote address.
Understanding fundamental users' needs is done ``best by watching ... and understanding how they go about their daily activities,'' Norman said. The designer should melt into the woodwork rather than interact with the user.
The next step should be rapid prototypes, ``whatever makes it possible to fake the thing you want to build,'' he said. ``You rush back, and you have them make believe they are using it. You work through [and] repeat over and over again.''
An easy-to-understand manual should be a fundamental part of design and, with the prototypes, it becomes the design specification, he said.
Finally, the concept should go ``to a really good team of people simultaneously [including] industrial designers and interactive designers and graphic designers and people who know about the engineering and people who know about manufacturing,'' he said.
``That's the team that makes the total design, and that's what I see so rarely,'' Norman said. ``And that's what's hard. That can make a real difference.''
Norman and Jacob Nielsen formed the Nielsen-Norman Group in Atherton, Calif., on Aug. 8. Previously, Norman was senior technical advisor and head of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s appliance design center in Palo Alto, Calif.
Norman describes himself as an advocate for, and critic of, design.
He chided the industry about a conference program with small type, automatic cruise controls with conflicting messages and computer software lacking clear instructions.
``What I care about is user experience,'' he said.
Personal computers raise his ire. They ``must be designed specially to do a unique job, and as soon as you try to make one device do two things, it is interfering with both,'' Norman said. ``The digital computer does all things, and therefore it is interfering with most.''
Designers spread out tooling expenditures
Acuson Corp. designers found a way to introduce the Sequoia ultrasound system and stretch the tooling budget for the sophisticated, low-volume product.
``The team conceived a plan to allocate the initial tooling budget to parts which the user interfaces with most,'' Richard Henderson, industrial design manager, told a meeting of IDSA's Materials and Processes Section. ``Now, the team is gradually converting the molding processes for additional parts for cost savings and parts consistency.''
Acuson is transforming both pressure formed covers and reaction injection molded parts to structural foam technology and changing urethane-cast transducer holders and inserts to the injection molding process.
A team from Acuson and Lunar Design Inc. focused on user needs in creating the mobile diagnostic system, said Gerard Furbershaw, senior vice president of Lunar in Palo Alto, Calif.
The product is designed for a service life of more than 10 years in any clinical environment.
The system's electronics allow users to see heart capillaries not previously visible in ultrasound images, Furbershaw said.
Henderson said Acuson designed and makes the system in California, incorporating a customized monitor from Barco Group of Kortrijk, Belgium. Barco's display systems division does final assembly and delivers the high-end units for Acuson's installation.
Uniteam of Quarto d'Altino, Italy, made the housing tools, and Varta Plastic GmbH of Wachtersbach, Germany, injection molds the covers using a Cycoloy polycarbonate-ABS blend.
Recently, the IDSA section has expanded its scope to include computer-aided design and rapid prototyping, according to Warren Ginn, section chair and an industrial designer with Integrated Design Systems Inc. of Great Neck, N.Y.