Peeling Potatoes the Japanese Way: an evaluation of the usefulness of the Kano model to inclusively designed products

Research Description

This research is intended to evaluate the Kano model as a means of evaluating inclusively designed products: in this case, the potato peeler.

The Kano model, developed by Professor Noriaki Kano, evaluates customer satisfaction with products, services and environments.  It differs from other methods of evaluation because it is concerned, not only with the quality of the product, but also with the user’s emotional response to the design of the product.  Whereas other methods measure the extent to which the product meets the needs of the user, the Kano model goes beyond this to measure the extent to which the product delights the user.  This is useful in product development in which marketing and design generally work together to produce a product that is competitive through its design.

While the Kano model has been evaluated with several products, it has not previously been evaluated with regard to inclusively designed products.  Inclusive design is a method of product design that takes into account the needs of elderly and disabled people.  For these groups, good design contributes to a healthier, more independent lifestyle, and thus contributes to self-esteem.  By measuring the emotional response to a product, the Kano model can differentiate between these and other groups in terms of their response to the design of the product.

In selecting a suitable product for evaluation, the researcher considered products that related to activities of daily living; these tend to fall into three major areas, dressing, grooming and cooking, and of these cooking was deemed the least intrusive, because it is the least personal. The product chosen was a potato peeler that was designed with an inclusive profile so that it can be used by disabled people and elderly people as well as others.  Though not new, the peeler is an American product, sold in the UK but not well known.  It was compared with the traditional peeler used in this country.  Both have a similar shape and work in the same way, but the inclusive design incorporates a larger, softer handle, and has a more high tech appearance.

Research involved three groups: the elderly, the disabled, and young, non-disabled people, who formed a control group.  There were twenty-two people in each group, aged from eighteen.  Elderly people were defined as those over the age of fifty.  This differs from other research, which generally defines elderly as over sixty-five; for design purposes, however, fifty is considered more appropriate.  Participants were recruited from within the researcher’s university (this included all three groups), and also from specialist agencies: in the case of the elderly, this was through age concern, and disabled participants were recruited from a local special needs school.  In both cases, initial discussion was with those who ran the organisations.

Research involved an interview, during which participants tested both potato peelers, and completed a questionnaire based on the Kano model.  Interviews were videotaped.  Findings were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively.  Results for both elderly and disabled groups were compared with the control group and with each other.  Initial analysis has focused on the elderly group, and has found that this group is much more satisfied with the inclusively designed product than the control group.  This suggests that the Kano model successfully differentiated between the two groups, and enabled the evaluation of the inclusive design aspects.

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