Emotion a Powerful Tool for Designers

June 11, 2020
Collaboration offers speed, accuracy and greater engagement, research finds.

Collaboration has never been more important than in the days of distance learning and shelter-at-home workforces. But long before COVID-19 changed the way people work, the concept of collaborative software enabled design teams to continuously work on projects at any point in the world on continuing basis.

“Products are rarely, if ever, developed in isolation. Contractors, suppliers, manufacturing, sales, marketing and customers should be involved in every aspect of the process,” said Greg Brown of Onshape, a collaborative software platform, during the LiveWorx virtual event presented by PTC on June 9. “To be truly competitive, we need to do this on a global scale. And then COVID-19 happened. And now, rather than just agreeing, we all need to live it. And it’s not just for global collaboration, but for everyday interactions that used to happen in the thing we used to know as the office.”

Onshape, which was acquired by PTC in 2019, is a Software-as-a-Service platform that allows distributed and mobile teams to share documents, drawings and changes in real time and reduce the time needed to bring new products to market.

Such collaboration is crucial in an age where reducing time to market is a key differentiator, Brown said. “Many of the traditional file-based systems and installed systems provide significant barriers to collaboration,” he said. “With all the software systems that need to be installed there are a lot of conflicts. It becomes a very complex situation knowing who has the latest version.”

As part of the LiveWorx session on collaboration, Brown, who was located in Japan when the on-demand presentation was created, spoke with researchers Tucker Marion, an associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston and Alison Olechowski, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Toronto. They discussed research each had done on the value of collaborative tools. The presentation, part of more than 125 on-demand events on the LiveWorx platform, can be accessed at until June 19.

Marion’s research compared two design projects for a sensor module. The second project, which used the collaborative tools, had a much faster adoption rate. “The second project completed discovery and development phases in a much shorter time period,” Marion said. “When teams use these kinds of collaborative tools, they can really accelerate the knowledge that’s being used.”

Olechowski’s research focused both on the collaboration and the reaction of the people who used the tools. Collaborating with researchers at MIT, the research used facial recognition software to assess how designers—some working alone, and others working in pairs—felt during the design phase.

“Designers working in pairs exhibited higher levels of emotion in almost every dimension than designers working alone,” Olechowski said. “Our finding suggest that designing with a partner leads to a higher engagement experience for the designer. Another implication links emotion to behavior. Not only are positive emotions reported, but negative emotions are important to push designers to problem-solve and critically think.”

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