How product designs evolve

De Lima Filho, Marcos Antonio (2023) How product designs evolve. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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How do designs evolve? What can evolutionary theory teach us about the development of products, services, systems, and other artefacts? Inspired by grounded theory, this study compared the design evolution of two distinct industries: smartphones and commercial aviation. The first census attempted to cover the product sheets of all mobile handsets introduced between 2000 and 2020. This group includes feature phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and smartphones. It covers the specifications of 13,212 mobile handset models introduced by 297 brands worldwide. The second census covers the historical production of passenger aircraft built for commercial airline service. Between 1932 and 2020, 54 manufacturers from 19 countries produced a total of 54,793 airframes. A comparison with evolutionary theory suggested a possible parallel with natural selection mechanisms. By analogy, I propose four distinct types of innovation: disruptive, directional, stabilising, and purifying innovation. Together, these patterns form a dynamic model of design evolution. Like the evolution of species, the industries studied here have gone through cycles of relative stability punctuated by short periods of radical transformation, such as the Jet Age and the rise of smartphones. These transformations, however, contradict some foundational premises of the current paradigm of disruptive innovation. Grounded in new data and based on the research tradition pioneered by William Abernathy and James Utterback, this thesis calls for a revision of Clayton Christensen’s disruption theory. By reinstating the concept of dominant design into its core, the theory of disruptive innovation can be reconnected with its history and the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium. With these changes, I believe disruption might achieve greater theoretical parsimony, generality, and resolve anomalies that the current disruption paradigm cannot explain.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: design evolution, disruptive innovation, dominant designs, innovation management, technological evolution
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2023 08:59
Last Modified: 23 May 2024 03:30

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