Apparel producers can develop products that are more appropriate for the target population by identifying and engaging users in the collaborative design of apparel products, thus reducing risk and waste in production.


 As the apparel design paradigm becomes more flexible, diverse thinking, rapid problems solving and collaboration are needed. Managing and utilizing information from collaborative information remains a challenge due to lack of systematization. This project explores ways that enhance the process of collaborative innovation between users and designers. By the end of this study, we aim to identify attitudes and current practices of users in the functional apparel development process, identify users who are likely to be successful, and test the effectiveness of facilitation as a collaborative method.  Interviews with designers, lead-user design sessions, and facilitated collaboration are used to flesh out methods for collaborative innovation. This is addressed through industry interviews and studying user interactions as they work to develop a cold weather running prototype. Lead users in wear trials will test the prototype. The design process will identify consumers who may produce successful apparel products and explore facilitation as a means to generate novel concepts.



 Design process for dissertation study that examines Lead User concepts and facilitation.

Design process for dissertation study that examines Lead User concepts and facilitation.

In parallel design sessions, several small teams will work to solve the same design challenge (Maguire, 2001; Nielsen, 1993). Based on data from the pilot study, least five lead user (L) groups and five traditional user (T) groups are needed to have the statistical power to detect significant differences. Three additional teams of lead users will work with a facilitator (F/L) during their design sessions.

The design teams are composed of four users and one designer (and one facilitator  when appropriate). The design sessions will last 60-90 minutes and conclude by asking each team to choose their strongest concept, which will be evaluated by expert designers and crowdsourced to an online running community. Both groups will be asked to rank design concepts based on its ability to meet the user’s needs and technical feasibility.

The highest ranking styles from the evaluations will be manufactured. Prototypes will allow users to interact with, visualize, and comment on future designs (Maguire, 2001). 

The prototype will be evaluated in real-life scenarios of use through wear trials. Performance measures are based on the ASTM standard F1154-11. Over three weeks, six lead users will test the prototypes three times and each use will be recorded in an online activity journal. 

Maguire, M. (2001). Methods to support human-centered design. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 55(4), 587-634.

Nielsen, J. (1994). Usability Engineering. Elsevier.


For an example of how to teach aspects of the dissertation themes, please see my undergraduate course syllabus Design Process in the Apparel Industry: Flexibility and Security on the Backbone of Design.

Last Updated: 5/14/2014