The world of design is becoming increasingly aware of the dynamic nature of the context in which products are created and consumed. Designers must ensure that the products they develop will be relevant to consumers at the time of release and for the duration of the product’s shelf life. Design researchers must ensure that their theory accounts for this rapidly changing environment and its impact on the design of products. This is particularly key for modern consumer products that compete on both aesthetic and technical qualities and are undergoing constant change.
Drawing on the extensive sociological, economic and organisational theories of technology evolution, and the theories of fashion that provide a rich, multi-disciplinary perspectives on the creation and consumption of aesthetic artefacts, this study explores how product categories evolve. It finds that there are several core concepts that are common to the evolution of different product categories. These findings are illustrated through a case study of the evolution of the mobile phone. They aim to promote discussion and further exploration of a complex and under-explored area of design.