|Keywords:||functional apparel; apparel product development; collaborative design|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/1813/40959|
The Product Development and Management Association indicates that between 17.8%-47.1% of products introduced into the market are not successful (Markham & Lee, 2013). A high failure rate represents an enormous inefficiency in the conversion of user input into thoughtful products. Therefore, it is important to consider ways to improve the process by which products are conceived. In the field of textiles and apparel, there has been little research, which can offer specific data about apparel product success or failure rates. This dissertation explores ways to improve product success by involving consumers, or users, as active participants in the creation of products which meet their needs. Specifically, this research addressed lead users as collaborators who can make valuable contributions to the design and development process. User contributions are important to consider in the development process so that designers can move away from abstract representations of perceived use to concrete ideas and solutions that are grounded in insightful understandings of users' needs. The research is conducted in three steps: First, by interviews with 15 design professionals who detailed how users are currently engaged in the functional apparel design process. Second, by exploring the efficacy of lead users as a theory to identify influential user-collaborators through developing a method to identify lead users. Third, by examining the overall experience of designers and users and the influence of facilitation on the overall collaborative design process and product outcome. This research demonstrated that users can be influential collaborators, specifically lead users. Interviews with industry professionals revealed a duality in the collaborative experience for designers when working with users. Designers view user input as valuable, but designers still use their personal insights and experiences to transform user insights into workable product concepts. Product concepts developed by lead users, especially when a professional facilitator assisted the group, were highly rated among their peers. This research shows promise of utilizing lead users and professional facilitators in a collaborative design scenario to enhance functional apparel products. Lead users and professional facilitators can make valuable contributions to the design and development process. Advisors/Committee Members: Feathers,David Joseph (committeeMember), Bell,Bradford (committeeMember), Park,Huiju (committeeMember).