A basic principle for Needfinding [Faste, 1987; Patnaik & Becker, 1999] is that designers and engineers should interact directly with users to get direct insights into the user domain. Needfinding is not a new phenomena, it is almost forty years ago since the process was adopted at Stanford University’s product design program [Patnaik & Becker, 1999]. As the name, Need-finding, implies, this is an intertwined approach to find needs which are not readily articulated by users. The application of a Needfinding process offers qualitative methods to make those needs visible early on in product development. In fact, the process has become more interesting during recent time, since qualitative methods have gained more acceptance outside the academic realm [ibid.].The word qualitative indicates that what are sought for are qualities such as people’s experiences, what they perceive or interpret into a situation [Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2002]. Such data is contextually dependent, i.e., it must be generated in the context in which the phenomena occur. Besides context, people’s activities, behaviours and goals are important to observe and learn from. The objectives, for applying Needfinding, are to make the identification of needs and design a seamless effort, as well as an interest to identify opportunities to innovations. Needs last longer than any solution [Patnaik & Becker, 1999], since they are grounded in people’s activities. The solution and product that might meet such needs change over time. One example is how to store computer data, the products which satisfy the need has changed from, e.g., punch cards, magnetic tape, floppy discs [ibid.] to USB-flash memories. A guiding methodology in Needfinding is a flexible process, which is adapted to the task at hand [Kelley, 2001]. Such a process is conveyed in a few basic steps and, builds on a ‘philosophy’ which permeates all activities in order to adapt the process according to the project. Therefore, the designer’s ability to rely on such a process depends on familiarity with a number of methods for observations and interviews, as well as an aptitude for socio-technical skills. Hence, the purpose in this paper is to present and reflect on methods used in a running development project to identify needs in a product development project. This is done to contribute to the advancement of a need driven product development process. The disposition of this paper is as follows. First, our approach in studying the need identification activities is presented. Second, a theoretical frame for need identification and design is presented, i.e., Needfinding [Patnaik & Becker, 1999]. Third, the practice of finding needs is outlined and discussed.
University of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Croatia: University of Zagreb , 2008.