“Styles in Product Design” by Mr. Tian Heong CHAN
Mr. Tian Heong CHAN
Ph.D. Candidate in Technology and Operations Management
Products combine function and form. In contrast to most management literature, this paper focuses on product form. We introduce a structured approach to identifying styles (groupings of new product designs of similar form) among the more than 350,000 US design patents granted from 1977 through 2010. We combine state-of-the-art clustering techniques with experimental validation to compile, for the first time, a rich data set of styles. Thus we establish an empirical platform for a rigorous study of the role that product form plays in new product development. Building on this platform, we analyze the determinants of “style turbulence”: the year-to-year unpredictability of changes in a style’s prevalence. We find that (i) style turbulence follows a U-shaped relationship with respect to function turbulence (the turbulence of product functions associated with a given style), and (ii) style turbulence increases over time. We discuss the implications of these findings for managing the design discipline.