Blacksmith approach

The term ‘blacksmith approach’ comes from a traditional way that people in the United Kingdom (UK) would have had things made. Blacksmiths were the product designers of the pre-industrial age. A villager would ask the blacksmith to make a new gate, for example; possibly standing by whilst it was fabricated. Designing for and with an individual who represents a larger population of end users has been found to be useful when considering niche markets.

This approach has a number of advantages:

  • The direct link between designer and end user ensures the design decision-making process results the minimum of iterative cycles of development;
  • The less well defined, qualitative, areas of aspirations for the product and desirability are also addressed;
  • There is an opportunity for end users to be made aware of design solutions they may not have previously considered;
  • Iterative design cycles, in the form of co-design, enable the optimum compromise to be achieved quickly; and,
  • The end user has a sense of ownership with the final design solution. 

A product design, or service, may be evaluated with a larger sample group once the design solution has been developed with the ‘product champion’ with the confidence that investment in this activity is cost-effective. The methods used to elicit information from the champion user are repeated with a larger sample group at an individual level. The efficacy of information gathering has been found to diminish when obtaining feedback within a group situation, such as when using a focus group strategy.

Useful links

Torrens, GE (2011) Universal Design: empathy and affinity. In Karwowski, W, Soares, M, M, Stanton, A, N, Eds, (ed) Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Products, CRC Press, pp.233-248 Available at: (, Accessed: [23/09/015]

Torrens, G.E., 2012. Assistive Technology product to Universal design: A way forward, Design For All India, 7 (7), pp.182-205 Available at: (, Accessed:[23/09/2015]