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The Total Product Design Concept and an Application to the Auto Market


  • Raji Srinivasan,

  • Gary L. Lilien,

  • Arvind Rangaswamy,

  • Gina M. Pingitore,

  • Daniel Seldin

  • The authors thank Hans Baumgartner, Abbie Griffin, Rajesh Chandy, Rajdeep Grewal, Bengt Muthén, Joann Peck, Christophe Van den Bulte, Robert Veryzer, Stefan Wuyts, and the seminar participants at the Arizona State University, at the Product Design Conference at University of Texas Austin in Fall 2007, and at the Marketing Camp at Tilburg University in Fall 2007 for useful suggestions on the research, and Girish Mallapragada for assistance on the estimation.

Address correspondence to: Raji Srinivasan, CBA 7.248, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas 78712. E-mail: Tel: 512-471-5441.


As traditional sources of competitive advantage shrink, firms seek new ones. One such source of competitive advantage is product design because of its effects on customer experience. To understand the role and impact of product design on customer experience, we propose an integrated, customer-based framework for product design that we call the total product design concept (TPDC). We define a product's TPDC as consisting of three elements, namely functionality, aesthetics, and meaning, each of which arises from more elemental product characteristics. We elaborate on the structure of a product's TPDC, its three elements, and the links between those elements and customers' experience with a product. We provide an illustrative application of the TPDC using data from the U.S. auto market. The findings from that application support the proposed three-dimensional view of the TPDC, and demonstrate heterogeneity both in the TPDC's structure and its effects on customer satisfaction. For all three segments, functionality enhances customer satisfaction. For the largest segment of customers, functionality is the most important factor, followed by aesthetics. For the other two segments, customer satisfaction is most influenced by the meaning element of TPDC. We discuss the implications of these findings for the auto industry in particular, and the potential use of the TPDC more generally.