The use and evaluation of focus group technique: The undergraduate industrial designer experience

Deana C McDonagh, H. Denton, Anne Bruseberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Focus group techniques have a history in market research and social sciences. Though focus groups have conventionally supported new product development, they are typically organised and run by market researchers who then feed only the essence of the results to the designer. The authors are suggesting that in fact a designer could undertake the role of a moderator or co-moderator at certain stages in the designing process. This paper presents a case study during which the designers themselves (undergraduate Industrial Design students1) have prepared, conducted and analysed a series of focus groups. The study concentrated on the development of an ironing system (i.e. iron, ironing board and steam generator). It provides a context for evaluation and critical analysis of the technique. The paper discusses the technique – its benefits and limitations – as expressed by the undergraduate designers. The authors feel that this technique could be successfully introduced at undergraduate level. Even before this, at A level and GCSE there could be benefits in employing the technique to help pupils and students understand the benefits of gaining insights into the emotive side of product selection. Findings indicate that considerable training was necessary before undergraduates could successfully employ this technique. However, the potential in supporting new product development was demonstrated to be substantial.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
JournalJournal of the National Association for Design Education
StatePublished - 2000


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