Investigating the Unexplored Possibilities of Digital–Physical Toolkits in Lay Design
Guido Hermans


Digital–physical toolkits enable the layperson to design everyday consumer products. The aim of this paper is to identify and gain understanding of the unexplored possibilities of digital–physical toolkits. Looking at several different types of toolkits that enable novices to create, adapt or customize a design, we analyzed these toolkits and identified several characteristics and mechanisms that they share. We also investigated how people use toolkits through two usage experiments. In the first experiment, we identified several issues that arise when consumers use toolkits. In the second experiment, we developed a vocabulary for the exploration of the design space and we identified specific behaviors that laypersons enact when designing. The results of this paper are introduced through our lay design model, which deals with different types of layperson autonomy as well as with the unexplored possibilities of learning paths and iteration within digital–physical toolkits. If lay design becomes commonplace there will be an increasing need for understanding this practice. The unexplored possibilities discussed in this paper present opportunities for designers, and taking advantage of them will have far-reaching consequences for the whole product development cycle, from the way products are designed and developed to how they are distributed and sold.

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