Academic journal article International Journal of Design

An Application of Implementing a Cognitive Structure Model to Obtain Consensus from Consumers

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

An Application of Implementing a Cognitive Structure Model to Obtain Consensus from Consumers

Article excerpt

Introduction

In order to satisfy consumers' needs, many product manufacturers adopt consumer-oriented design guidelines. Kramer (2003) has proved that, assuming all other variables remain constant, products co-produced with participating consumers will better meet consumers' preferences. However, the majority of consumers lack the capability to clearly and comprehensively describe their needs; this leads to the fact that designers cannot truly understand consumers' preferences (Chang, Lai, & Chang, 2006). Ulwick (2002) believes that it is no use asking consumers about their needs; they only know what they have experienced and have no ideas about new technology, new materials, etc., to which they have not been exposed. Needless to say, there is a limitation on what can be collected from the voice of the customer. Therefore, when conducting consumer research, designers must put more focus on how consumers feel about the product and how their needs are formed and influenced.

A product can convey various special meanings to various consumers, and these meanings are the results of cognition; this also influences the evaluation as to whether a purchase decision will be made (Kapoor & Kulshrestha, 2009; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002). Thus, the meanings that a product conveys are ultimately determined by consumer cognition rather than by the nature of the products. Therefore, during the design process, designers should give priority to consumers' cognition toward the product. Armstrong and Kotler (2000) state that cognition is a process in which a consumer selects, organizes, interprets the external information, and then internalizes it, thus creating meaning. However, due to the fact that designers and consumers have different backgrounds, a product does not quite convey the same meaning to the two parties. In other words, there is a discrepancy between designers' and consumers' cognitive models (Chuang, Chang, & Hsu, 2001). A product's meaning, created by a designer, may not be well recognized and interpreted by a consumer. Consumers today have constantly changing needs, and designers should not design products solely based on their trained and internalized thinking model.

Van Kleef, van Trijp and Luning (2005) point out that a new product development cycle has four major stages: opportunity identification, development, optimization, and launch. Whether or not a new product can be successfully developed is strongly influenced by the quality insights gained at the opportunity identification stage, especially the involvement of the unmet consumers' needs. Alam and Perry (2002) employed case studies to analyze the importance of consumers at each stage of new product development and found that idea generation is the most important stage, followed by idea screening, and the formation of a cross-functional team. If an organization can integrate consumers' opinions as well as eliminate ideas that are not feasible as early as the idea generation stage, unnecessary losses can be effectively minimized. Diverse design methods and approaches have been devised to address the consumers' needs and help conduct the design. These methods and approaches show an increasing concern on understanding the consumer experience (Frascara, 2002; Reynolds & Olson, 2001), context-of-use (Chamorro-Koc & Popovic, 2009; Sleeswijk Visser, Stappers, & Sanders, 2005), and request that designers involve consumers' experience in product design process (Henson, Barnes, Livesey, Childs, & Ewart, 2006; Kouprie & Visser, 2009; Maletz, Blouin, Schnedl, Brisson, & Zamazal, 2007). Designers and researchers use these techniques which are still under development to gain deeper insight into the demands and preferences of potential consumers of new products. As most of these techniques have assisted designers in gathering information about consumer needs, they have not helped to further understanding of the specific ways in which visual representation is employed to identify difference between designers' and consumers' thoughts. …

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