Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

Customisation of Physical Products

Design Engineering MEng
Dr Shayan Sharifi
Embracing the White Space

What makes a physical product customisable, and how do you design for customisation?

Customisation has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, whilst also increasing the customer’s willingness to pay. However, the prerequisites for physical customisation are inherently complex and difficult to navigate. The Design Tool for Physical Customisation provides a way for designers to identify different factors along the product development process with the potential to impact the customisability of a product. The tool serves as a conversation starter by allowing designers to compare the physical customisability of products relative to each other, and hence better understand the fundamentals of customisation.

 — Customisation of Physical Products

Customisation - A Competitive Advantage

Consumers are increasingly dictating what they want and wish to be given the option to take part in the creation of physical products to reflect them as an individual. This ties in with the notion that ‘One size does not fit all’, which has resulted in a significant shift in the view of customers from recipients to co-creators (Wixey et al., 2019).

The explanation for the attractiveness of customisation is found in the field of psychology. Li (2018) found a relationship between customisation and enhanced psychological ownership – the notion that individuals enter a mental state in which they perceive the object as ‘theirs’ (Baxter and Childs, 2017).

The key to the competitive advantage associated with customisation lies within the ‘endowment effect’. The endowment is defined as “the tendency of people to place a higher value on items once they own them or once these have been associated with the self in some other way” (endowment effect – APA Dictionary of Psychology, no date). Deloitte research indicates that 1 in 5 people with an interest in customisation are willing to pay a 20 % premium (Wixey et al., 2019).

To meet customer expectations physical products are currently being customised to the highest level possible. However, there are several challenges associated with creating affordable and customisable products. Due to the complex nature of customising physical products it is a field that is difficult to navigate, and albeit the competitive advantage associated with customisation, little has been done to identify was features makes a product customisable (Aheleroff et al., 2019).

 — Customisation of Physical Products
Product Customisation Interface


The aim of the project became to create a design tool for physical customisation, which could be used to assess the relative customisability of physical products.

Throughout the project secondary research was used to establish trends and to gain insights from research already carried out. Primary research was carried out in the form of surveys and interviews.

Surveys were carried out within the maker’s community to assess the expectation of different levels of customisation. Interviews were carried out with industry people with experience in the creation of customisable offerings. Furthermore, industrial designers were consulted to gain a better overview of the product development process.

In the absence of formal customisation benchmarks a selection of products were analysed using the “5Ws” method (why, what, when, where, how), and accordingly compared in a product comparison table. This was used in the development of the testing attributes alongside Porter’s Value Chain Analysis.

 — Customisation of Physical Products
 — Customisation of Physical Products


What does the tool do?

The tool provides a way of assessing the physical customisability of products. Upon successful assessment of a product, the product will be awarded a total customisability score.

What does the score mean?

The score itself does not have a significant meaning. The score is relative and thus provides the means to compare products and their respective level of customisability. This is a way of initiating conversation regarding what features customisable products should or should not have, whilst also considering the supply chain behind it.

How does the tool work?

The tool can be used to assess all types of consumer goods. When a user wants to assess a product, they will ask the question associated with each of the testing categories in the tool. To answer, the user will select a number of options from the predefined choices. Each of the fields has a score associated with it, enabling the calculation of a total customisability score for the product.

Who is the tool for?

The tool is intended for designers and/or engineers looking to develop customisable products, or anyone with an interest in the field of customisation. The tool serves as a conversation starter, and a way of gaining a limited understanding of the complex matter - customisation. The tool is predicted to be of most significant use in group settings and as a paper version.

 — Customisation of Physical Products
Design Tool for Physical Customisation
 — Customisation of Physical Products
Relative Customisability Score


No comments have been posted on this project yet.

Outdated Browser

This website has been built using some of the latest web technologies. Unfortunately, your browser doesn't support these technologies. To update your browser, please visit Outdated Browser.