Resolving the paradox of user-centred design

With user centred design (UCD), a design team likes to obtain information on end user needs, user values and desired functionality in the early stages of the design process. However, in those stages the proposals to users are often so little concrete that users have trouble getting a good understanding of the use experience and are hardly able to provide pertinent input/feedback to the design process.

The more concrete the proposal to the user, the more accurate and concrete the information the designer receives from the user; the downside is that in order to make concrete proposals the designer has to fix many properties in advance without adequate foundation from user information. To solve this paradox, the REPAR project aims to combine low-fidelity prototyping (i.e. 2-D or 3-D sketching) and high-fidelity prototyping (i.e. virtual reality) into 'flexible prototyping'.

My research focuses on the high-fidelity aspects. One of the challenges is to make high-fidelity tools more effective in an early stage of design. This requires the tools to be able to cope with unstructured domains. Interaction with other (low-fidelity) tools is anticipated and stimulated by cooperating with the 'low-fidelity' REPAR subproject. The research should result in a (collection of) design tool(s) and methods that can facilitate the UCD dialogue between users and developers in different phases of the development of products in various applications domains.

Contact information

Jos Thalen, MSc / Phone +31 53 489 3192 /

Jos Thalen (1984) obtained his Master's degree in Industrial Design Engineering in 2008, specializing in the design of 'smart environments'. His graduation project involved the design of a hand-held reader for wireless sensor networks and covered the detailed design of the system as well as an evaluation of its usability. After graduating he started as a PhD student on the REPAR (REsolving the PARadox in user centered design) project. Within this project he investigates the deployment of virtual reality as a means of prototyping in an early stage of the design process.