On Styles in Product Design: An Analysis of US Design Patents
48 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2014 Last revised: 14 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 13, 2016
Products combine function and form. This paper focuses on product form. The authors combine state-of-the-art clustering techniques with experimental validation to identify styles (groupings of new product designs of similar form) among the more than 350,000 US design patents granted from 1977 through 2010.
Thus the authors compile, for the first time, a rich data set of styles that can serve as an empirical platform for a rigorous study of the role played by product form in new product development. Building on this platform, the authors analyze the determinants of “style turbulence”: the year-to-year unpredictability of changes in a style’s prevalence.
The authors find that (i) style turbulence follows a U-shaped relationship with respect to function turbulence (the turbulence of product functions associated with a given style) and (ii) style turbulence increases over time. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for managing design in new product development.
Keywords: Product Form, Cluster Analysis, Experiments, Design Patents, Industry Turbulence
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