Statistical Analysis of User Preferences Through Design Competitions

This Article Covers Four Ways to Utilize Design Competitions to Benefit From The Diversity of Participants, However Especially Focuses On Statistical Analysis

How design competitions could be used to gather statistical data regarding the preferences of end-users within a specific country, territory or geographical region? Designers, when they partake in a design competition, reflect in action; they reflect their preferences through their selection of forms, colors and materials when creating or coming up with new products. End-users also reflect their preferences in action, they do reflect their preferences when they compare products, especially when all other things are kept constant such as the price; here we will notice the preference of end users are revealed by effectively buying the product that appeals to them most. To understand what the clients or consumers like, you would normally ask them to compare products, to have a clear understanding, binary comparisons with everything else constant, would be the best; this means; for example given two products with the same price, we could understand why a consumer chooses a particular product, we could ask consumers to choose based on colors, forms and many other details too, to understand their aesthetic preferences, if we repeat the process thousands of times, making them compare colors, materials, textures, i.e. at each binary comparison, meanwhile making sure that not only price but all other elements are constant and repeat the process tens of thousands of times, for each specific country or sub-region and we would perhaps analyze the users’ preferences in a statistically significant way. However, in this case, we would be spending quite a lot of resources, therefore, we can conclude that this is not a good idea; i.e. millions of binary combinations is too much to be feasible.Alternatively, we could organize a design competition to gather data on end-user preferences, with a cost of a fraction of the research and comparison cost that you would be paying for the approach above. The system is much intelligent, instead of trying to discover what the clients or end-users want to achieve through reverse engineering of preferences through binary comparisons, we can, through design competitions, directly identify the preferences, in a way that it also makes sense. We can know for instance, the colors preferred by end-users, and the percentage distribution of these colors. We can see for instance, the materials preferred by end-users, and their percentage distribution, but more importantly, we can make the end-users tell us, which colors or materials they would be paying more; if a material is more expensive, we can understand if they would be willing to pay or not, this applies for other parametric components as well.These type of design competitions that allow you to configure (within restrictions), could help organizers to optimize their supply and operation chain: By knowing how many yellow mugs we will sell in a year, we can stock the right amount of them; not less, not more. Good forecasts and statistically significant insights can be derived through the analysis of the results of the design competitions which utilize the configurator tool that other design competitions does not utilize normally. This means profit maximization. This means optimization. The tool is called a configurator, a configurator is an interactive user-interface software with the aim of gathering user preferences through configuration with restrictions, unlike design competitions that are open to all sorts of submissions, the configurator allows you to be very specific; it allows you to configure a product or service, through existing options and choices and restrictions. The restriction part is important, as this is the core factor to come up with statistics, the user-interface and an easy-to use tool is important, as this is what it helps us to include the end-users in the process.A very simple example; lets imagine that we are a company that produce ceramics, and we want to analyze user-preferences for a new mug that we want to launch. We have 6 options for the handle for, 6 options for handle color, 6 options for exterior color, 6 options for interior color, 6 options for exterior decoration, with a total of 6*6*6*6*6 = 7766 possible combinations, how could we know which options would lead to the most successful product (i.e. a product that sells more)? It is easy.We have 5 questions, with their respective choices. We ask several thousand users to join our competition, (it is common to have 2-3 thousand participants for such competitions as it is really easy to configure products using such tools, no design skills required).These thousands of people first decide the handle form, giving you a distribution table for handle form. Second they choose handle color, giving you a distribution table for handle color. Third they choose the exterior color, which gives you a distribution table of values for the exterior color. Etc.. These options determine the form and color. Then we can see statistically which color and forms are most commonly used; this gives us the median preference; i.e. what the general public would want to have. Furthermore for colors, we have a statistically significant (correct) pie-chart that is exactly telling us what the people will want to have; the percentage value of color choices, the top 3 colors are perhaps what would sell most as many people prefer them to others. This configuration tool help us to know especially understand preferences for simpler unrelated parameters easily. A good configurator tool will have all elements independent. For instance, let’s say that we want to measure preferences again for the mug, but in this case, we will have the volume fixed (height and width predetermined), and we want the user to choose a handle, and color. Then we can actually see what users prefer for handles, and colors. This is of course the simplest example possible, but gives us insights on what could be built upon.The Power of the configurator tool is the ability to come up with statistics that are relevant to optimize supply chain. Each participant, before utilizing the configurator, registers to the competition, while doing so, supplies demographic information such as birthdate, nationality, income etc. These supplied information can be matched with the results of the competition, thus we can for instance see, country level statistics, or demographic level statistics; while for instance country-level statistics could be helpful to choose number of green mugs to send to France, the demographic statistics can help us choose the right color mug for our advertisement to university graduates. (Now, when advertising online, you can see the demographics of websites in which you advertise, so this information is highly relevant to increase clickthrough rates).By making a reverse data analysis, we can for instance see what Italian nationals like, an arch model could be displayed by the software that shows the most common options picked for our initial test where we were for instance configuring a coffee mug, choosing 5 options for interior and exterior color, decoration, handle form and color. We can see the most common models, but also second common options or preferences. These information are all relevant, to optimize supply chain; we can know how many red mugs, green mugs, yellow mugs and purple mugs we would sell. Of course, if you are in the business for the last 40 years, you already know this, but if you just started this new segment of business, the competitions statistics provides good insights.The configurator tool can help us identify the differences between preferences through diverse nationalities; we can understand what a coffee mug means for a “British”, and what a coffee mug (not cup!) means for “Italians”. Knowing these preferences we can create diversified products that appeal more to the distinct cultures of the world.By being able to design specific products for diverse cultures, we would also be increasing the overall utility of these cultures, making them effectively happier by providing a choice that appeals to them. To remind you once more, we discover the needs or preferences of a cultural dominion by reverse analysis of the results for the configuration competition; we check from the database by filtering countries, to see for instance what Italians like when it comes to mug design.Of course, knowing the preferences of all different types of cultures, we could come-up with products that are appealing to all, thus this is another way of coming up with world-infusion designs through aggregated analysis and collection of preferences of designers through many diverse cultures.Global access to world markets opens up new opportunities for commerce and expanded access to talent and business resources creating new opportunities [Lockwood 36]. One of such opportunities is crowdsourcing innovation through design competitions or contests, to come up with world-infusion products and services. World-infusion services or products intelligently combines the best aspects of other local products and services in different cultures to create a new level of service or a new type of product that is better than the existing products and services. World-infusion means, gathering together all bits of information for product and service development in the world to come up with a much better product or service. This is possible by working with multi-national design consulting companies that have offices worldwide or via an international design competition to utilize the diversity of participants. Innovators are not always the idea generators. Innovation is all about integration: integrating data, information, knowledge and experience from many different sources. [Gaynor 54], and design competitions allows us to integrate; innovate at a whole new level. The international design competition method is a thousand times cost effective way to do so, but an intervention is necessary because it is an algorithm. The algorithm generates savings by turning judgments – a general way of getting toward the desired solution – into a formula or a set of rules that, if followed, will produce the desired solution. Algorithms can be run by less experienced and less expensive personnel, thus are more efficient then heuristic way of solving issues. [Roger 75] . As also suggested by the famous wired magazine article in 2006, the cost is literally 1/500th of what it would regularly cost. [Howe 5]. In addition platforms that help crowdsourcing such as the Mechanical Turk largely eliminates recruiting effort, makes it easy to extend or modify a study, and automates administration, furthermore very large scales can be reached. [Heer 206]. In design competitions and contests hundreds of users can, be recruited for highly interactive tasks for marginal costs within a timeframe of days or even minutes. However, special care must be taken in the design of the task. [Aniket 456], thus we design a system of two-step competition. To be able to create new world-infusion products and services, a special type of two-level international design competition must be held. The design of the first step of the competition starts with a brief that aims to fulfill our initial mission of gathering the “local aspects”, thus participants are asked to create specific new products or services, that are nurtured through the culture of origin of the participants; i.e. the brief says create neo-traditional products or services, and furthermore in the brief it is asked from the designers to write a paragraph about the tradition, and how it was transformed into something new. This first competition is aimed at sense-making process, utilizing the distinctive characteristic of the designer through her ability of giving new meaning and new symbolic qualities to object; thus making sense of things. [Baldwin 722]. The sense-making is required in order to be used as filters and references to build upon. Furthermore, the transformation description part is also required to increase the statistical significance of a design rooting from traditions; otherwise designers would just design whatever and say that it is traditions, many crowdsourcing papers confirms this idea of a control-parameter to be embedded in order to increase the quality of responses. The results of the first competition, aside from the designs, is an extensive study that no consulting agency would be able to generate; given thousands of participants from hundreds of countries, this is a study that identifies the “local aspects” that could be converted and utilized in new product development to come up with better product or service design. While, for designers, the aim of the first competition would be to come up with neo-traditional designs, the real aim of the first competition, from the perspective of the organizer, is to create the “brief” of the second design competition. The second competition is about utilizing the previously found “local aspects” and combining them together. The “local aspects” could be considered as hidden information; “opportunities”, “potentials”, “discoveries” etc. The second competition is about utilizing the previously uncovered information from different cultural diversities to come up with a product that “infuses”. The second competition is not necessary an international design competition; it can be held within a design unit of a company, or a design research unit, and does not require the initial participants to re-join, but it could also be possible. The results of the second competition is synthesis of different local aspects into singular products and services, that are reinforced through collective knowledge and experiences of different cultures, if an example is required, we could point out the Starbucks Coffee’s Frappucino, a combination of cultural heritage and knowledge of many cultures. Frappucino was not developed as a result of a competition, but rather through an eureka moment of its creators using their experience and luck combined, while our two-step competition is a methodological way to come up with new products without the eureka moments; to create an algorithmic way to come up with world-infusion products and services through utilization of diversity of participants especially in the first level. The design of the competition does matter a lot, the initial competition must be international and should have a control mechanism to ensure the quality of submissions and the second competition must provide access to the information supplied by participants in the first step, however the idea is very simple and clear; to utilize the diverse participant base to collect insights, and to utilize a new or the same participants base to combine the collected ideas to come up with world-infusion products that would include more. Imagine, you are a company that is producing gift items, worldwide, as it is now a new trend, you would like to come up with hundreds of different phone covers, mugs or bags, representing a country each. Design competitions can help save both time, and resources. Coming up with localized products is easy through organization of regional or national design competitions with a brief aimed at re-innovation and re-consideration. We can organize two distinct type of design competition for this purpose; first by limiting the participants to a specific area, and furthermore by requiring the participants to not come up with new products but rather improve existing products in the local market, the design competition could be used to arrive localized products that are going to be better from others in the market with design that is both local, and of course slightly global. Here, the organizer of the competition must provide what kind of “local” products do exists, and could provide guidelines for the participants to come up with products; i.e. the organizer could provide a list of local products that has space for re-thinking for the new century, as given in the earlier example, this could be also a challenge, however, an earlier contest could also be organized to create the brief for defining products to be improved. Second, we can require the participants to come up with products that are continuation or complementation of existing ones; in this case, we would ask the participants to design products that are fed from the local heritage. The result of such competition is very similar to what you would find in “museum shops”; updated, high-tech versions of old items; usually new materials or production techniques are used to produce traditional products, making them once again economically feasible. Both type of competitions find great press attendance and interest, in addition to be able to respond to the initial request of coming up with localized products. The concept of “local” is quite large, and could also be interpreted as nation-wide, continent-wide as well, however the original idea is the same; the competition participants are limited by the brief and eligibility conditions; only “local” designers are admitted, and they are asked to come up with new versions of “local” products, of course alternatively, they can come up with products that were inspired by the local products, or products that compliment them; thus the design of the brief is important in arriving the exact type of “localized” products one would seek. Thus, for this section we could conclude that through an optimized brief around heritage and culture and through eligibility conditions that limit foreigners participation, it will be possible to organize a competition that pushes designers to come-up with “localized” products.Design competitions are great tools to come up with statistics (through configurator tool based competitions), to identify cultural differences, to come up with localized designs or to come up designs that are appealing to the all diverse cultures at once, as much as it could be, by outputting world-infusion products. However, in each case, the initial design of the competition itself is very important; the brief, the preparation of the configurator tool or other tools if any, the clarification of the eligibility conditions etc. are all relevant and drastically change what we would get from a competition. In future, especially an in-depth experiment would be conducted to test the validity or strength of the statistics provided by the configurator tools.Exerpt:How design competitions could be used to gather statistical data regarding the preferences of end-users within a specific country, territory or geographical region? Designers, when they partake in a design competition, reflect in action; they reflect their preferences through their selection of forms, colors and materials when creating or coming up with new products. End-users also reflect their preferences in action, they do reflect their preferences when they compare products, especially when ..

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