There are many rewards of designing your own product, and modular production has made it possible for consumers to personalize everything from their computers to their footwear. But there is a supposed darker side to co-design…that consumers are concerned that they will not be happy with the product they designed…that they would rather leave it up to the ‘expert designer’ and settle for colors they don’t necessarily like or accents that don’t speak to them. Over and over again, consumers post comments on shoe personalization websites like miAdidas that they are not sure if they have chosen the right product specifications (Novak, Hoffman, & Yung, 2000).
So what is it about this risk…they are just shoes after all!? And what is it about the expert/non expert dynamic. Have we, as designers, browbeat everyone into thinking that we are the masters of design? And if you do not hold the ‘designer’ title, you cannot add a funny saying and develop your own color scheme on a pair of Nike’s?
Frank Piller, a researcher on mass customization, has an idea that touches on this phenomenon. He posits design is not created in a vacuum and is definitely not created alone. Think about it, when you are developing the next great (dress, ring, lamp, meal, painting, beer mat, running short, shoe lace, thesis topic) you bounce ideas off your peers, the person in the mail room, your family. You are looking for confirmation and feedback so when the incubated design reaches the world, you have already addressed many of the unknowns. What is lacking from co-design websites is the community, and as Dr. Piller elaborates:
“Customization with regard to (aesthetic) design is often influenced by peers and the taste of a group rather than by the individual taste of a single person. Customers do not just follow their own “individual taste” when selecting a customized offer, but are guided by a special design which is likely to appeal to their peers. Often, consumers (especially the younger ones) are trying to copy the look of a role model.”
Communities hold three major potentials in the course of consumer co-design: (1) the generation of customer knowledge to provide a better starting (pre-) configuration, (2) the support of collaborative co-design fostering joint creativity and problem solving, and (3) the building of trust and the reduction of the perception of risk.
In order to address this phenomenon in the co-design of their trainers, Reebok has established a community-esque atmosphere. The main landing page shows how many people have created custom shoes based on shoe model then the product pages show different custom shoe designs organized based on number of views and regional location of designers; the final product purchasing page shows the number of views, shares, favorites, and purchases by the co-design community. Users can make purchasing decisions based on purchases of their peers.
No information was found on the success of the Reebok community design program, but judging by the amount of views, purchase, and number of contributors the project seems to be a success in engaging users in the design of their own product by supporting a whole community instead of individual customers. This may lessen the burden and effort and minimize the perception of mass confusion (Piller et al., 2005).
Images courtesy of: YOUR Reebok @ : http://shop.reebok.com/us/custom/your-reebok; MiAdidas @: http://www.adidas.com/us/content/miadidas; NikeID @: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nikeid?sitesrc=id_redir
Novak, T. P., Hoffman, D. L., & Yung, Y-F. (2000). Measuring the customer experience in online environments: A structural modeling approach. Journal of Marketing Science, 19(1), 22-42.
Piller, F. T. (2004). Mass customization: reflections on the state of the concept. International Journal of Flexible Manufacturing Systems, 16(4), 313-334. Piller, F., Schubert, P.,