Design discussions and debates tend to be focused in and on more industrialized economies (MIEs). In this paper, product design approaches in Kenya are investigated and questions relating to the universality and applicability of design process are explored. Data on informal sector, formal sector and donor-funded design were analyzed in the context of interviews with local producers. Emerging patterns of detailed design acquisition resulted in the delineation of four observed approaches to the design of common-use products in Kenya: imitated design, imported design, basic original design and specialty design. Of the 200+ products examined, a negligible number might be considered original designs targeted specifically at the local market. Most designs originate outside the country or are imitated from imported products. The approaches to product design and findings regarding design activity are discussed with comment made regarding the appropriateness of the MIE-style model to design in less industrialized economies.

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