Positioning industrial design students to operate at the ‘fuzzy front end’: investigating a new arena of university design education
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This paper describes pedagogic research to instigate, support and understand a significant change in the education of undergraduate industrial design students. Design educators at Loughborough University, UK, have proposed that it will be critical for future industrial designers to learn new knowledge and abilities which will enable them to successfully operate at the ‘fuzzy front end’ of new product development. This is an arena before a traditional design brief exists (i.e. ‘pre-brief’), and typically involves in-depth investigation of such issues as users, experiences and brand, followed by exploitation of the findings. Curriculum development and new teaching, evolved over five annual cycles of implementation, reflection, planning and new implementation, is described. A model of the activities and processes of this ‘pre-brief’ arena is presented. Through structured investigation of the cycles of improvement and follow-up evaluation research, evidence gathered from stakeholders (students, educators, and industry) indicates that industrial design students can be taught to successfully operate at this fuzzy front end, and that this can be a highly effective strategy for students in their design project work. It also suggests that the students’ enhanced abilities will be in demand following their graduation.
KeywordsIndustrial design education Fuzzy front end New product development Pedagogic research
The author would like to acknowledge the contribution in the development of teaching and learning material and curriculum development of Mr Michael Rodber, Dr Rebecca Cain and Mr Ian Storer.
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