Notre Dame Design and local Elkhart, IN outdoor equipment manufacturer, Lippert Components, wrapped up an exciting project this past week. Inspired largely by the research approach and methods outlined in Liz Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers’ book, Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design, the semester-long research effort focused on using participatory research methods to identify insights and opportunities for the RV industry. Led by Rudolph Design Studio co-founder and Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, Jim Rudolph, Notre Dame Design students were introduced to a range of research methods intended to uncover and understand the needs, experiences, and challenges of RV enthusiasts. 

The semester was divided into three primary phases. Phase 1 focused on immersing the students in RV culture, while actively engaging with RV enthusiasts through online forums. Phase 2 introduced students to ‘sensitizing’ research methods, which were used to solicit participants’ RV-related memories, experiences, and prioritized needs. Finally, Phase 3 of the project enabled students to develop and deploy novel participatory research and ideation methods for creating value-added design solutions for the future of the RV industry. The results were undeniably original, creative, and valuable, while the experience for research participants was overwhelmingly positive and empowering. 

The success of this inaugural project has led to a strong ongoing partnership between Notre Dame Design and Lippert Components, and the ND Design department looks forward to working with Lippert on a recurring annual research effort. A big thank you to the creative and talented team at Lippert for generously supporting this project - we can’t wait to work with you again next spring!