Means-End-Chains And Laddering In Design Research


oops, I did it again. I searched the forum for buzzwords: Means-End and laddering. Almost no hit!

Now I am wondering if the Means-End-Model and the laddering Technique are unknown among design researchers, or if the concept ist yet out of fashion?

A couple of weeks and 244 readings later: Yet no answer. I reconsider the Question: If there is anybody out there, who has heared of Means-End-Chains before or has used Laddering in design research, may anser the question with: “Yes”.

Sorry to dig this old topic up, I recently heard of this means-end theory (laddering) at a Chicago Booth marketing panel in NYC. Thought it was very interesting so after conducting a search on Google, this thread at one of my favorite design blogs popped up! Thought I should at least bring it to the forefront again.

Means-end theory applies well to marketing but I wonder how it could be applied to design, not just in marketing the design. Or is it already inherent in everything we design? I assume some designers (or most) have an idea of what emotion the end user should feel when viewing / touching the piece. I assume this would dictate the type of texture or colors used.

No reason! Thank you for digging this toppic up. So far I leranet, that the means-end theory and laddering is not yet very common among designers.

  1. I learned, that the few designers who have heared about it, still doubt that it is usefull them.

I would say marketing and design share the same goals. We all want and claim to create irresitable, and affordable products, that will be picked as often as possible and that finally pays off.

Therfore designers and marketing specialists need to know, the reasons why people buy. So any tool that is suitable to track down the customers true wishes behind his behaviour is really increadibly helpful.

As a passinate designer I allways tend to give my best, but later or I often need to learn, that it made absolutly no difference to the customer. The customer bought or not bought the product for reasons, we have never thought of before. Regarding your job and your product criticly you may find out, that you could have doubled sales and margin, if you would have decided to concentrate on other design features that were more important for the decision-making process of the end user or customer.

Designers and the guys from marketing basicly have the same job. We just do it form an other perspective and with an other background. But as we share the same goals, it makes sense to use the same tools, if they are appropriate. Exspecially in those fields where products are only bought for one reason, namely “the unique design”, here the designers are often responsible for the financial survival of the whole company. In the past, I guess we all saw some really big companies beeing ruined just by the wrong “feeling” of designers.

Therefore I think laddering is highly appropriate to help us understand the customer and to do our job as marketin specialists, designers and design researchers better than ever. For this reason I would really love to get more response to this topic.

Would you mind giving a scenario and outlining the laddering process? I’m interested to see if this terminology references other research techniques, or if it’s quite different.