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Designing Product Service System
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New representation techniques for designing in a systemic perspective
The focus of the designer’s activity is shifting from product manufacturing to the definition of
(PSS) i.e. systemic configurations, in which several factors, from physical characteristics of products to organisational, time related and cultural issues, need to be appropriately defined. Designers should define role and responsibility of actors, sequence of events, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the system, material and service components. Unlike the traditional design activity, in which the product of designers’ work was clearly configured at the end of the manufacturing process, the actual configuration of systemic solutions is the result of the interaction of all the actors and is only defined once the actors converge in the same place or time, interpret the system and play their role.
Notwithstanding this shift in designers’ activity, many design schools are still relying on traditional design tools, referring to the more familiar product design activity, which is now only a part of the broader set of competences requested to a designer.
Another equally relevant question is the development of tools and methods to represent such systemic solutions in a way that is appropriate to the different actors involved in it. While product design has its own standardised and widely accepted representation techniques to describe physical characteristics of products, when working on a system designers do not have any communication tool that is widely recognised. In fact, the broad range of actors suggest that such a common tool may possibly not exist at all, given the huge difference in the cultural and technical background of the actors co-producing a systemic solution: designers have to talk to both system engineers and final customers, who do not necessarily use the same jargon or conventional representations.
Representations have a critical role in a systemic solution, because a communication error or a wrong interpretation by any of the actors/co-producers may spoil the whole solution.
Globalised markets and localised needs. Relocating design competence in a new industrial context.
While manufacturing is being shifted to developing countries, the individualisation of market segments requires a partnership between local actors. Companies, institutions and users are cooperating in the production of highly personalised solutions, developed at the local level (i.e. around the user). This context is likely to create innovation and possibly compensate the migration of manufacturing jobs in developed countries.
The small scale of the solution reminds the pre-industrial context, in which the design activity was based on craftsman’s’ work, but, in order to be sustainable, such solution must be thought in an industrial logic, that means a logic in which solutions are clearly codified (by a design plan), partly or totally replicable and based on a clear division of labour and roles.
The industrialisation of such solutions is a methodological approach that has not yet generated an appropriate operative paradigm within the design discipline. This paper will focus on how an operative paradigm could be developed to translate a methodological approach (designing individual solutions in an industrial context) into actual design outcomes.
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