Design for assembly meaning: a framework for designers to design products that support operator cognition during the assembly process

  • Davy D. ParmentierEmail author
  • Bram B. Van Acker
  • Jan Detand
  • Jelle Saldien
Original Article


Designing assembly instructions is mostly considered to be a non-designer task. Hence, in many companies, it is performed by production planners or instructional designers. However, analysing product components and looking for clues on how these components can be fitted together into a subassembly or final product is a fundamental part of assembly. Product designers play an important role in the way these components are perceived by the operator. This paper discusses the need and importance of a new approach to product design focused on how the assembly design can promote meaning to the operator, supporting operator cognition. The aim of this approach was to guide assembly operators more intuitively through their increasingly complex tasks. Doing so will allow them to avoid some of the major drawbacks that are present when using procedural instructions. Hence, this approach has the potential to decrease cognitive load and frustration, and increase mental wellbeing, work motivation and efficiency. As a first step towards this new approach, a conceptual framework is constructed, and insights are formulated after reviewing various design theories and concepts of design for meaning on their potential in a context of manual assembly.


Product design Manual assembly Meaning Cognition 



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© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Product DesignGhent UniversityKortrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.imec-mict-UGentGhentBelgium

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