Bryant, Scott & Wrigley, Cara (2014)
The drive towards user-centred engineering in automotive design.
In Bohemia, Erik, Rieple, Alison, Liedtka, Jeanne, & Cooper, Rachael (Eds.) Proceedings of 19th DMI : Academic Design Management Conference, London, UK, pp. 741-758.
Falling sales in Europe and increasing global competition is forcing automotive manufacturers to develop a customer-based approach to differentiate themselves from the similarly technologically-optimised crowd. In spite of this new approach, automotive firms are still firmly entrenched in their reliance upon technology-driven innovation, to design, develop and manufacture their products, placing customer focus on a downstream sales role. However the time-honoured technology-driven approach to vehicle design and manufacture is coming into question, with the increasing importance of accounting for consumer needs pushing automotive engineers to include the user in their designs. The following paper examines the challenges and opportunities for a single global automotive manufacturer that arise in seeking to adopt a user-centred approach to vehicle design amongst technical employees. As part of an embedded case study, engineers from this manufacturer were interviewed in order to gauge the challenges, barriers and opportunities for the adoption of user-centred design tools within the engineering design process. The analysis of these interviews led to the proposal of the need for a new role within automotive manufacturers, the “designeer”, to bridge the divide between designers and engineers and allow the engineering process to transition from a technology-driven to a user-centred approach.
The research, conducted as an embedded case study with a global automotive manufacturer in Germany, sought to test the following hypothesis developed upon reflection of the current state of the industry:
“The acceptance and implementation of design tools such as personas within the context of automotive engineering departments is dependent upon the benefits of the tools perceived by engineering staff in terms of effort vs. reward, in addition to its ability to be adapted to the inertia-bound, heavily regimented and hierarchical structure of large, global firms such as that assessed in the research.”