Form Evolution

Form evolution,
The interplay between product form and technology


When developing a products form concept within a product development process, earlier solutions are often studied in order to either improve upon them or to use them in an innovative way. Therefore knowledge about products design history can be an important aspect for industrial designers, since it represents earlier solutions. When trying to directly apply knowledge about design history to a product concept a problem arises however, which could be linked to the fact that design history often focuses upon the philosophy behind specific designs, rather than explaining how and which properties that changed over time within product categories.

Such a description of how products form changes over time, could be a way to explain how improvements and innovation were achieved, assuming that earlier solutions were improved upon. This type of description can be defined as a trend of evolution, which would bridge the gap between having knowledge of earlier solutions, design history and being able to directly apply it to a product concept. To fill this knowledge gap the author developed a framework and methodology to evaluate products systematically, considering their technology and form. By using the framework and methodology to analyze over 1000 products, the author identified three cyclic trends of evolution.

1. Creation and depletion of a prototype
2. Composite-integrate-separate
3. Complex-simple-complex

The author proposes that the formulated framework, methodology and trends of evolution can be used as powerful tools to create concepts and aid creative thinking in product design.

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