Differentiation by Design
: How New Product Design Creates Value and Competitive Advantage in Small Manufacturing Entities (SMEs)

  • Daniel Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In the practice of new product value creation there is a creative quest that product design and development practitioners must address when existing knowledge of practice proves inadequate but the development objective remains. Design practitioners often achieve new competitive advantages as the outcome of these creative quests, and yet truly innovative and competitive products are rare, as their efforts often fall short of the original design aims.

In this study, the design process of the author, a product design practitioner with over thirty years of experience, has been investigated through the examination of three case histories of successful new product development arising from his design practice. The cases were assembled by the practitioner, who is also an academic researcher, seeking an explanatory research analogue of his tacit design process.

The methodology draws on the reflective practice philosophy of Donald Schön, in conjunction with grounded theory and case studies employing mixed methods, to explain how design can create new value and competitive advantage in the marketplace. The chosen cases share common successful marketplace outcomes resulting from their design and development approaches. Although qualitative in nature, this autobiographic study builds on the insights available to the researcher, and the unique access to rich quantitative evidence of the design narrative and marketing histories gained from an insider’s view of industry practice. Competitive advantage and its role in innovation in the real-world laboratory of the marketplace provide the context for researching the process of this design-focused strategy.

This thesis explains the practice-design relationship in strategic new product design and development by distinguishing between existing practice and the new knowledge rivalry created through design practice, bringing focus to the new design’s ability to displace the existing solution. Whilst the primary focus of the study is on design value creation for competitive advantage in new product marketplaces, a new knowledge creation framework has emerged from this research with the potential for application by other practitioners. This strategically focused, differentiation by design based competitory action model (CAM) provides a systematic explanatory framework for practitioners seeking advantaged new knowledge creation for product design praxis, as well as an actionable framework for further academic research.

Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorMartin Woolley (Supervisor), David Durling (Supervisor), Louise Moody (Supervisor) & Deana McDonagh (Supervisor)

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