As consumers, we are faced with a glut of products, the source of which we are dimly aware. Being unaware of the source of products, we are also unaware of the conditions under which they are produced. Designers often have an analogous relation with users. Unless we are directly involved with field research or user testing, we have an indirect relationship with our audience; hence, the conditions under which the products designed are actually used. To add to the gulf between users and designers, we are often tasked with designing mass-produced items meant to serve the needs of a vast population of users. With such an approach, a diversity of users and practices are overlooked. And tools are not always optimized to suit a specific task or audience. As an antithesis to this scenario, this thesis seeks out a local context for design solutions. Research was carried out at a local garment factory, resulting in the design of a work- surface solution for seamstresses. By focusing on a specific local context of user artifact interaction, a niche design process is derived. Traditional product design research methods entailing field work and user-centered design are supplemented with Human-Computer Interaction theories such as Activity Theory, and frameworks borrowed from the interdisciplinary study of extended cognition. A softening of the boundary of the individual is an umbrella idea connecting these various frameworks. Humans are seen as adaptive and plastic systems adopting tools and technologies as cognitive enhancements. The work surface design for seamstresses that is arrived at is evaluated in terms of its potential as a cognitive enhancement. The author seeks to put forth a rudimentary notion of a niche design process that seeks out local contexts and adapts design to specific audiences.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Work environment--Design; Industrial design--Psychological aspects; Human engineering; Women clothing workers

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CIAS)


Engstrom, Timothy

Advisor/Committee Member

Northcutt, Rod


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TA59.77 .M34 2009


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