Product Design Practice Within Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) in Kenya


Prof. Dorothy McCormick

Dr. Walter H Onyango

The Micro and Small Enterprise (MSE) sector contributes significantly to Kenya’s industrial and
economic growth. If provided with the right support and an enabling environment, MSE can enhance
their product design and development capabilities, enhance capacity and create products that enhance the
well being of their customers while promoting environmentally sensitive production. However, in the
context of this research, it is established that MSE sofa-design entrepreneurs do not have sufficient design
considerations in the manufacture of sofas, thus leading to sofa seats that do not adhere to user centered
or sustainable design principles. The scope of design reaches far beyond the development of decorative
products, as design touches on every aspect of human life - health, agriculture, medical services and the
higher end technologies. In the design process, designers incorporate various product needs including
anthropometrics, style and functionality. Using a mix of design research (praximology) and social
research (ethnography) methodologies it focused on five sofa-design entrepreneurs who are owner
managers and who undertake design of sofa. The research was mainly qualitative guided by the research
questions. Data collection included non-participant observation, informal and formal interviews and
focus group discussions. The research findings show that informal apprenticeship remains the most
common way in which skills are transferred within the MSE sector. Within sofa making, the informal
apprenticeship training focuses on technical skills and equipment and machinery handling. However, it
does not include design knowledge and skills. As a result, a Design Extension Services (DES) model is
proposed within Gikomba market in which entrepreneurs can receive training and where stakeholders can
gather for purposes of improvement in MSE design skills and knowledge.

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