Design exploration and co-creation by consumers

In my post on blank canvas syndrome I wrote about that co-creation is a solution. In this post I would like to write about how co-creation — or co-design — can help and which approaches work best. It is based on some excellent research done by Loughborough University.

There are two approaches to let consumers do co-creation:

  1. Consumers design their own and have a designer help them
  2. Consumers choose a template and a designer modifies this template to their liking

When taking approach 1 consumers only deliver 1 design to the designer. They do not use multiple iterations or explore the design using multiple designs. Their final design is delivered to the designer. The designer need to abstract all design intent from this one drawing.
Interesting enough they regard the first drawing delivered by the designer as a draft and feel the need for iterating on the design to come to a final design which they like. They clearly recognize at that moment that multiple iterations are necessary.
Consumers expect that when the designer starts working with them that the designer “fills in the blanks” in their design — both from a functionality as an aesthetics perspective.

Most people prefer approach 2 from a process perspective by far while at the same time they are more satisfied with the results of approach 1. Consumers definitely suffer from the blank canvas syndrome and experience discomfort when they have to design their own ideas. At the same time the result of this approach leads to much higher satisfaction with the end result.
This means that any consumer taking approach 1 is very motivated to get the end result but the actual market demand is much lower. Research shows that only 10% of all consumers like this approach. The other 90% is much more comfortable with the template approach.
Approach 2 gives a less unique feeling over the end result. Consumers think that others will come to the same design changes they asked for.

For more information please read these two excellent articles:

  1. From Configuration to Design: Capturing the Intent of User Designers (Part 1)
  2. From Configuration to Design: Capturing the Intent of User-Designers (Part 2)