A dissertation comes with many challenges, but challenges are the point of doing a dissertation, challenge yourself to learn without being taught, challenge yourself to read, write and write some more, challenge yourself to come up with an interesting question. An interesting question is not only important to allow the person writing a dissertation to stay focused on the topic and the question, but also so there is enough to fill a dissertation paper with.

The question I chose to focus on was; to study product development with hand deterioration, and research how a product can solve issues with the functionality of cutlery.

There are a few topics to this question which appear in it; product development and issue solving, hand deterioration and the functionality of cutlery. Within these topics there are even more points to research, starting with product development; using the design process to write my paper determines how the product is developed. The design process is made up of six main sections; discovery, define, ideate, prototype, test and implement. Each section allows for new discoveries to be made about where the design of the product is heading, who the product might be targeted at, or how it might affect the target market. These are all very important things to identify during the design process, however, also understanding and remembering the chosen target market, their emotions, wants and  needs. Itis vital to think about all of these when redesigning an existing product or developing a new one. This is especially true when designing for the disabled or the elderly, as these demographics can sometimes go unnoticed. When designing products it is important to think of the uniqueness, emotions, values and daily life activities of those who will be using it. Not only is the target market important, but so is an awareness of the current market; together with a knowledge of what is currently being sold based around the issues with current slender cutlery design; cutlery, products to do with cutlery (adaptive grips or cutlery for arthritis sufferers), products for people with arthritis, products for hand deterioration, products for the disabled.

The target market is the first aspect that was defined; hand deterioration is a needed factor, so is this deterioration due to trauma or due to age? From research which was completed during my paper, I found that deterioration due to age will occur to everyone, it commonly starts after the age of 50 with approximately 0.72% muscle mass decrease per year and continues to become worse as the person ages. Whereas trauma, which can be defined as an injury, can cause a range of impediments which will then set off a domino effect with a large range of consequences; they are all different and even if two people have the same injury it does not mean that they will recover at the same rate, or even suffer the same complications. Furthermore this means  by having so many variations of injuries and consequences, there are too many factors to try and take into account to be able to create a product for all people with trauma, around the problem that has been proposed for the paper. Therefore I chose my target market of both men and women from the age of 55 to 65 years old which is when the deterioration of the hand begins, starting with decrease in muscle mass and a 20-25% decrease in grip strength after the age of 60.

As already mentioned the question for the dissertation is vital to the paper, so how do you come up with one? For me the idea behind the question came from watching my grandparents struggling to eat properly year after year due to the size of cutlery that was available. Eating was a particular hardship for my grandfather who suffered from many medical problems; which stopped him from being able to walk, sit down without help, and hold slender items. His hands had severe arthritis in them, with his fingers having swollen to almost 3 times their usual size, with massive reduction in the range of motion in both the hand and wrist, and decreased grip strength in both hands. By taking on a topic that is obviously very personal and close to my heart it caused an emotional challenge for me, though it was a challenge, in reflection I worked harder and more persistently on this topic than I may have if I had chosen a different less emotionally tugging one. I have been wanting to challenge this problem with slender cutlery for many years, I am happy that I have finally jumped the hurdle and come up with a valid and useful conceptual design, which can still be further developed to create a fully effective and satisfactory design for a new adaptive grip.

In reflection to the topic of my dissertation, it has definitely pushed me to work harder and research more. I’ve always thought that I was quite good at the research sections of the design process for my subject projects, but by doing dissertation it has proven to me that there is always more research to be completed and that going deeper and head first into research is always better and will lead to more innovated and reasoned designs in the end. In reflection of writing my dissertation, I’ve written essays before, but nothing compares to the brain function that I have had to use during the writing and editing process of this dissertation. Though once I know what I am writing and how I am writing a piece I don’t find it too difficult to find the words that needed to be said. All I really need is enough time after it is written to allow me to edit it many times, which frankly now feels like over a thousand times. Now that it is finally all written and edited I think I can safely say  I do not wish to write another essay for quite some time, not for the fact that I do not like essays but because I believe my brain needs some serious time to recover.