John F. McClusky, School of Art and Design | San Jose State University
For over 10 years, the International Houseware Manufacturers Association's (IHMA) student design competition has challenged students to invent new product concepts for the housewares market. Since its inception, San Jose State University (SJSU) students have maintained a strong presence in the competition, often winning some of the top awards. This paper documents the goal-centered design process the faculty has developed to help students manage the complexity of open-ended problem statements and consistently deliver thoughtful design solutions.
The IHMA keeps the constraints of the competition to a minimum. Students are given a wide variety of potential topic areas: personal care electric appliances, home healthcare products, furniture, tableware, outdoor products, home décor accessories and juvenile and pet products are but a few. With such a broad range of topics, the only constraints seem to be that entries must be housewares and relatively portable (not permanent fixtures). Although this offers a breadth of options that any professional designer would envy, it also raises the question of where to begin.
We have developed and adopted several methods for structuring open problem spaces, discovering needs, and generating appropriate design solutions. The students utilize these exercises to discover patterns in the housewares market and to develop a clearer understanding of the larger cultural context in which their concepts would operate. This has empowered our students with the ability to more quickly narrow their focus and develop well-refined, award-winning design solutions within a limited time frame.