Scenario Based Product Design

This research concerns the development of a method for scenario based product design. The motivation for this research is based on a number of premises with regard to design processes:


Designing is a multi-actor activity;


Actors in a design process have (partly) conflicting goals and motives;


Effects of design decisions are (partly) uncertain.

The various actors that are involved in a design process (such as design engineers, production engineers, marketing managers, human factors specialists and intended users of the future product) exchange information. They do this to gain insight into (1) the design problem as well as into (2) how possible solutions will have an impact on the design problem. This process of exchanging information may be biased by a number of factors. For example:


Potentially relevant information is not exchanged at all;


Although exchanged, potentially relevant information is not recognized as such;


Although recognized as potentially relevant, exchanged information is misinterpreted.

The aim of scenario based design is facilitating a joint understanding among all actors in a design process. By employing high-end simulation techniques (such as virtual reality), design information is made explicit and verifiable. Through a personalized interface, all actors are enabled to directly influence design information and directly assess the consequences of their decisions. Because of the synchronous and direct communication between actors, it is expected that they learn about (and even empathize with) each other’s goals and motives, that they are triggered to make implicit/latent information explicit, and that their creativity is stimulated.

It is expected that application of the scenario based design approach is especially beneficial in the design of products:


That are used in a complex, (partly) unknown, and potentially dangerous context;


Of which the functionality is (partly) determined by the behaviour of the human operator (and his or her behaviour is likely to change as a result of using the product);


Of which the design and/or the use involves many different actors and/or many different users.

An example of this product type is ‘Advanced Driver Assistance Systems’ (ADAS). ADAS support the driver of a vehicle, for example by providing additional information by giving warnings or even by directly intervening in vehicle control.

In order to further develop and test the scenario based product design method, the design of a lane change support system has been selected as a use-case. In order to carry out this use-case, a design environment is being created. This design environment consists of a driving simulator that is enhanced with ‘gaming facilities’. These are interfaces for the driver to configure his or her own support system and directly apply it to the traffic scenario.

The design environment also incorporates a simulation model that contains (1) the parameters that describe the world relevant to using a lane change support system, as well as (2) the design parameters of a lane change support system. By letting drivers and other actors ‘play’ with these two sets of parameters, it is expected that designs emerge that behave and perform according to drivers’ expectations and preferences.


Dr. Ir. Mascha van der Voort

Ir. Martijn Tideman

University of Twente

Faculty of Engineering Technology

Laboratory of Design, Production & Management

PO Box 217

7500 AE Enschede

The Netherlands