Design considerations for therapeutic devices - An investigation of pre-schoolers? preferences for an artefact's basic characteristics

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Balzan, Emanuel (1); Farrugia, Philip (1); Casha, Owen (1); Camilleri, Liberato (1); Wodehouse, Andrew (2)
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Malta
Section: Design for healthcare
DOI number:
ISSN: 2220-4342


Toys are children's first consumer products and while playing they acquire numerous skills, learn about their environment and socialise with other children and adults. Toys are adapted and used by clinicians as therapeutic devices because they allow them to create bonds and communicate with children. Aesthetical aspects should be considered early in the design process, especially since pre-schoolers? views are still dominated by the appearance of artefacts, also known as, the perceptual salient characteristics. The study of emotions mediates the understanding of the relationships between a product, user and the process with which consumers set up preferences over products. Decisions taken in each design stage will influence whether therapeutic devices will be enjoyed by children. An experiment was carried out to test out pre-schoolers? preferences on individual attributes: form, dimension, material (hardness and weight) and surface (appearance and texture). This study exposed dominant characteristic preferences and the fact that some are influenced by gender and age. Employing these findings in therapeutic devices will enable clinicians to better engage the children during therapy.

Keywords: Emotional design, User centred design, Early design phases, Perceptual salient characteristics


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