Boztepe, S. (2007) User Value: Competing theories and models. International Journal of Design, 1(2), 55-63.
Boztepe’s article provides an overview of different theories and models relating to value and relevant for design. The paper aims to cover definitions of value, types and properties of user value, and methodological approaches to value. The main contribution to at least me is the covering of quite a large number of research fields in related research (anthropology, sociology, philosophy, business, and economics) and the discussion about the relationship between value as experience. The article also presents Boztepe’s own categorization of user value, but the categorization seems to come from another article by Boztepe (Toward a framework of product development for global markets: a user-value-based approach, Design Studies) and is not very well justified in this article.
The article covers three approaches towards value (or user value): value as exchange and use, value as sign, and value as experience. Fourth approach, value as conception of what is good, is mentioned but dismissed since it is about values and not user value. Value as exchange is the ‘economic’ approach and it often misses situations where there is no purchase stage or when the product has strong symbolic meaning. Value as sign approach on the other hand focuses on social and cultural aspects of value, e.g. symbolic meanings. Put in extreme, this approach diminish the role of design by linking the whole value creation to subjective experiences.
Value as experience approach is more design oriented. By connecting the value to the consumption experience, the extreme viewpoints of value as exchange (value only in material) and value as sign (value only in symbolic system). Boztepe quote’s Holbrook saying “value resides not in the product purchased not in the brand chosen, not in the object possessed, but rather in the consumption experience(s) derived therefrom” . According to Boztepe, value as experience means acknowledging both utility and social significance aspects of user value. Similar to user experience, user value is something that cannot fully be designed. Value as experience is nice design oriented approach. However, linking a vague concept to another as vague one does not necessary yield clear and well defined and structured results.