The role of human-centered designer in a multinational company through innovative product development for African BoP communities

Işık Tosun, Hande
The importance of the field of design is increasing in the face of complex problems humanity has been facing. Respectively, the orientation of design is shifting from products to strategies that facilitate corporate transformation. In parallel with this transformation, designers take new and diverse roles. However, there is a knowledge gap regarding these roles. This study aims to explore the roles the designer (author) takes in a multinational home appliances company through the innovative product development for the African Bottom/Base-of-the- Pyramid (BoP) communities. Its goal is to propose a model built on research data. The research methodology comprises the designer’s auto-ethnographic inquiry of long-term practice-led research within the new product development case and its analysis with grounded theory. The results show that the designer plays six diverse and contemporary roles throughout the new product development process. These are frame creator, user-researcher, collaboration mediator, creative facilitator, evaluator, and inspirer. Besides, human-centeredness, holistic thinking, change-driven mentality, collaborative mentality, tenacity, and systems thinking emerge as prominent skills. The results and the outcoming model indicate that the designer spreads skills to the entire organization that makes organizational learning possible. The significance of this research comes from shedding light on the contemporary designer roles in the context of innovative product development for a complex problem.