Product design in the context of the social needs in less industrialised economies

  • L.E.C. Guimaraes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is related to the subject of technical innovation, specifically to the activity of design in microenterprises operating in less industrialised economies. Design here is understood as a process, which is not the sole domain of formally trained categories such as engineers, architects or industrial designers. The 'professional boundary' discussion in this investigation is perceived as secondary as, in this context, products are designed, copied or adapted by workers, entrepreneurs themselves, or directly by the poor community. Design capacity at this level is considered to be important both in relation to the conception of capital and consumer goods and to the building up of technical knowledge. Although professional design emerged in Latin America little over three decades ago, this activity has remained marginalised throughout industry. Design activity tends to be concentrated in some product categories in the formalised industrial sector. For microenterprises operating informally, industrial design appears to be unknown. The existing literature pays little attention to 'informal design' capacity. Other areas of knowledge, such as development economies, recognise the importance of microenterprises and technological capability but neglect the potential role of industrial design in small manufacturing units. The management literature, though it focuses on technical innovation and design, has also paid little attention to 'informal design'. In less industrialised economies this neglect is felt by the lack of programmes specifically tailored to create or stimulate 'informal design'. There is a need for recognition of 'informal design' capacity and for the implementation of programmes which specifically target design as a central activity in the manufacturing firm, independent of their size and technological capability. Addressing 'design by the poor for the poor', requires a down-to-earth approach.
Date of Award1995
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStanley Moody (Supervisor)


  • Product design
  • social needs
  • industrialised economies

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