Tools and Methods to Assist the Product Customization in the Field of Furniture Design

By Marco Gaiani, Alessandro Deserti, Fausto Brevi and Silvia Ferioli.

Published by The Design Collection

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

The design-to-customer pipeline in companies operating in the high-end furniture market is pretty complex and fragmented, mainly because during the last years fundamental requirements have become:
• to suggest the customer not only a single piece of furniture, but a whole interior design solution, building and communicating a ‘brand atmosphere’ with a strong semantic coherence;
• to provide an increasing level of customization of the product, which turns into the problem of controlling variety and variability.
For these reasons the sale process requires wide spaces, filled with many physical products, and the use of sophisticated images of furnished scenes in communication tools, to suggest the customer not only the functional performance of products, but also a ‘mood’ linked with immaterial brand values. Unfortunately, photographic sets and physical showrooms are resource demanding, and do not allow a fast time-to-market. Moreover, it’s practically impossible to have the full range of each product in a showroom, with all the configurations, accessories and finishing variants (i.e. the swivel sofa AMOENUS in Maxalto collection has more than 430 variants).
In this context a first goal for companies is to have a significantly more structured design process, compressing time, optimizing resources, building a simpler and faster communication process.
In this paper we present a new framework to assist the product customization in the furniture sector using digital methods, 3D virtual models, and high quality real-time rendering solutions.
The paper is organized in 4 sections:
a. Furniture customization problem characterization;
b. B&B Italia Case study explanation;
c. New design process pipeline using 3D models description;
d. New ‘virtual furniture’ framework, adopting new visualization and project management solutions developed to support product customization, combining virtual modeling with photorealistic visualization depiction.

Keywords: Real-time Rendering, 3D Modeling, Virtual Furniture Design, Furniture Design, Product Customization

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.221-238. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.710MB).

Prof. Marco Gaiani

Full Professor, Dipartimento di Architettura e Pianificazione Territoriale - DAPT, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Marco Gaiani is Full Professor of Architectural Representation in the Degree of Civil Engineering at the University of Bologna. A licensed architect, Prof. Gaiani holds a Dott. cum laude in Civil Engineering from the University of Bologna, 1985. Scholar at Istituto di Architettura e Urbanistica of Università di Bologna from 1986/87 to 1987/88; assistant researcher from 1989 in the same Institute; he reached the position of researcher at University of Ferrara School of Architecture from April,1 1993. In November 1999 he became Associate Professor at Politecnico di Milano, School of Industrial Design, and full professor from 2002. Vice Director from 2002 and Director from 2003 to 2004 of INDACO (Industrial Design, Arts, Communication and Fashion) Department of Politecnico di Milano, he founded the Officina Infografica at the University of Ferrara (OFF) in 1993 and the Virtual Prototyping & Reverse Modeling Workshop at Politecnico di Milano in 2002. A specialist in 3D computer visualization for architectural heritage and industrial design, Professor Gaiani has for the past twenty years been working to virtually document, illustrate, and preserve Italy’s heritage and, more recently, in researches and applications in the fields of virtual prototyping and rendering for industrial design. He has conducted detailed surveys and created models of monuments from the Colosseum, to the Caracalla Thermae, a number of Roman sepulchres on the via Appia, Palladio’s Basilica in Vicenza, San Salvatore al Monte in Firenze, Pompei’s Forum. In addition he produced an acclaimed CD-ROM database with full historical citations and detailed multimedia and 3D reconstructions of Andrea Palladio’s villas. The author of numerous papers in representation, surveying, and architectural history Prof. Gaiani’s work has appeared in journals from Casabella, to Paesaggio Urbano, Disegnare, and Parametro and the proceedings of VSMM, Canadian National Research Council 3D Digital Imaging, and Eurographics ‘99 & 2000. Member of the scientific commitee and of the organizing committee of many conferences and workshops like “Museum without walls. New media for news museums”, at SIGGRAPH in 1995; “I progetti non realizzati di Palladio” at Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, in 1994; he is member of Advisory Board of “Center for Design Visualization of University of California at Berkeley” from april 2001; of Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI.). He was involved in the organization of some International Conferences as General Chair including VSMM 2002, E-Arcom 2007, the Simposio Palladiano in 2008.

Alessandro Deserti

Professor, Industrial Design, Arts, Communication and Fashion Department, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

Alessandro Deserti is full Professor of Industrial Design in Politecnico di Milano, where he teaches at the Design School, and is Chair of the Furniture Design courses. He has taught in bachelor, master, PhD and post-graduate specialization courses in Politecnico di Milano, and has been visiting professor in various universities abroad. He coordinated the construction of DI.Labb, the workshops system of the INDACO Design Department in Politecnico di Milano, one of the most advanced international structures supporting education and research in the field of design. He has worked on applied research and consulting for many companies and institutions, including: Aprica Kassai Inc., Japan; Matsushita-Panasonic, Japan; Richemont Group, Switzeland; B&B Italia SpA, Italy; Agape SpA, Italy; Abet Group, Italy; Gardesa SpA, Italy; MS Movéis group SA, Brasil; Shenzhen Design Institute, China; Regione Lombardia, Italy; Camera di Commercio di Monza e Brianza, Italy. For these companies and institutions he coordinated research projects at different levels: strategy, tools and methods, product development, communication, design of point of sale and exhibition. He is Chair of the Commission for the Design Strategies of the Milano-Brianza furniture design cluster, where he is developing new approaches and projects for the internationalization of the cluster. His is member of the ADD (Advance Design) research group of the INDACO Design Department, where his work is focused on the tools and processes for the design innovation, with particular reference to the furniture sector. He has published several books, essays, articles, mainly dealing with the relation between design and innovation. His last books, “Design e innovazione” (Design and Innovation), and “Advance Design”, investigate the new roles of design within the companies, focusing on tools and practices for the development and management of innovation, and presenting some of his research experiences.

Fausto Brevi

Professor, Industrial Design, Arts, Communication and Fashion Department, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy

Fausto Brevi is Associate Professor in the Politecnico di Milano School of Design. He holds a degree cum laude in Architecture. Specialist in 3D computer modelling and visualization for product design, he spent several years working with some of the most important italian Industrial Design departments mainly in car design industries. Recently he has focused on virtual prototyping and real-time rendering issues applied to industrial and interior design. He is the scientific supervisor of Indaco Department Virtual Prototyping Workshop. He is member of the Academic board of the Ph.D. courses “Virtual Prototypes and Real Products” and “Industrial Design and Multimedia Communication”. He is member of the D.Rep (Design Representation) and ADD (Advance Design) research groups of the INDACO Department, where his work is focused on the digital tools and processes for the design innovation. He is Director of the Politecnico di Milano Specializing Master Course in Transportation & Automobile Design.

Silvia Ferioli

Team Leader, Centro R&S Project Department, B&B Italia, Novedrate, Italy

Silvia Ferioli is a licensed architect. She holds a degree cum laude in Architecture, achieved at Politecnico di Milano in 1995, with a graduation thesis in Architectonical Design “A mosque for Milan”, published in GB Progetti (Sept 1995). She cooperated as freelance consultant with several Architects (among which Maria Grazia Sironi, Giancarlo De Carlo, Mario and Claudio Bellini…) for exhibition projects, competitions and interior design. Till 2002 she worked as assistant local architect with Silvio Caputo for the implementation of the point of sales of fashion companies such as Bally, Cerruti, Anteprima, Principe, focusing on a first time on the logistic and factual dynamics of an existing Store Concept to be repeated in different location worldwide and later on defining a complete new Store Concept (Bally, Principe…) with the realization of a mockup store. From 2002 till 2006 she cooperated with Cassina Contract Division, assisting in project management and site supervision for the implementation, production and installation of several shops of many companies in the field of fashion and luxury (Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior, De Beers, Luis Vuitton). In 2006 she joined B&B Italia as team leader for the implementation, design and installation of the major point of sales, monobrand and corporate stores worldwide, working in a strict connection with all the resources of the Research and Development Center and acting as a link with the Commercial and marketing Department to determine a recognizability of the Brand worldwide. Between 1989 and 2000 she won and was awarded in a couple of architectonical competitions and her work published in Interni Magazine (Nov 1998).


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