Every Sheet Matters: Design Research based on a Quantitative User-diary of Paper Towels

By Tsai Lu Liu.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

User-centered design research, emerging as a focus of industrial design education, enables students to explore knowledge domains beyond their own experience to create more user-friendly product concepts. Methods that interact with the users, such as observation, interviews, surveys, or focus groups, have provided venues of more intensive understanding of users’ behaviors. For user behaviors that require longer- term monitoring, user-diary is an effective approach to document the daily user behavior. This paper will present a quantitative user diary conducted in a design project funded by a major paper towel company. One hundred and twenty seven family members in fifty homes documented the purposes of every single sheet of paper towels used during a five day period. A checklist of common paper towel applications was provided to the families, and they were encouraged to fill in open areas with other paper towel usages. The study provided valuable information that user surveys or interviews could not accurately reveal. The usages of 4,168 paper towels were analyzed and compared. It was the first time the client learned in detail the multiple functions of their paper towel products. The user-diaries were followed by user interviews, allowing industrial design students to propose several revolutionary product concepts for the client. These new concepts were created to deliver better satisfaction to users in several applications, identified from the user-diary study. The process in this project provides an excellent case study for monitoring long term user behavior in a quantitative context.

Keywords: User Research, Industrial Design, User Diary

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.231-240. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.930MB).

Prof. Tsai Lu Liu

Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Graphic Design, Auburn University, Auburn University, AL, USA

Tsai Lu Liu graduated in 1985 from the Department of Industrial Design of National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan. After working for a year as a corporate identity designer in Taiwan, he went to Georgia State University and received a MBA degree in Marketing in 1990. Liu went to Auburn University and completed the graduate study of industrial design with a MID degree in 1992. He then worked for three years as a product designer and marketing manager for Design Principles, a product development firm in Huntsville Alabama. In 1995, Liu went back to Taiwan and started working for several manufacturers managing product design and corporate marketing. His teams developed and introduced several new game machines, toy cars, and computer servers to the international market, some of which are still on the market today. In 2002, Liu started his own company designing and producing adaptive products for disabled children. A series of special chairs, tables, and rehabilitation products were marketed to hospitals, schools, and to families with special needs children in both Taiwan and Australia. In 2004, Liu returned to Auburn University as a member of the faculty of industrial design.


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