What Is a Harris Profile?
A New Product Profile (or Harris Profile) is a graphic representation of the strengths and weaknesses of design concepts. Originally, a New Product Profile is applied as a useful tool to evaluate and select development projects (ideas for new business activities). This method can also be used to evaluate and decide in later phases of product development. Per design alternative a Harris Profile is created. A number of criteria are used to evaluate the design alternatives. A four-scale scoring is used for all criteria. The decision-maker himself/herself should interpret the meaning of the scale positions (i.e. - 2 = bad, - 1 = moderate, etc.). Thanks to its visual representation, decision-makers can quickly view the overall score of each design alternative on all the criteria, and compare these easily.
When Can You Use a Harris Profile?
Whenever a number of alternatives of product concepts need to be compared and consensus/an intuitive decision needs to be reached/made, the Harris Profile can be used. Typically it is used after a diverging stage of the process.
How to Use a Harris Profile?
Alternatives for a product (in some stage of development).
Criteria that are applicable to the alternatives on the specific level of development.
One chosen/selected alternative from a group of alternatives. Overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the selected alternative. More understanding of the problem and criteria.
- Criteria should be selected according to which the design alternatives should be compared (be sure to cover all important aspects of the product development project with the selected criteria).
- List the criteria and create a four-point scale matrix next to it. The scale is coded - 2, - 1, + 1, and + 2.
- Create a Harris Profile for the design alternatives you want to compare. Draw the profile by marking the scores in the four-point scale matrix for all the criteria.
- When the Harris Profiles of the design alternatives are completed, the profiles can be compared and a judgment can be made as to which alternative has the best overall score.
Tips and Concerns
- If possible cluster the criteria.
- The four-point scale should be interpreted differently for each criterion: the criteria cannot be compared equally, and therefore all criteria have different meanings on the scale. Make sure that you standardise the meaning of the four-point scale for all the design alternatives.
- When attributing the - 2 or + 2 values to a criterion, be sure to colour all the blocks in the Harris Profile. Only then do you create a quick visual overview of the overall score of a design alternative.
- Give - 2 and - 1 another column than + 1 and + 2 in order to create a visual overview.
References and Further Reading
- Harris, J.S. (1961) ‘New Product Profile Chart’, Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 39, No. 16, pp.110-118.
- Roozenburg, N.F.M. and Eekels, J. (1995) Product Design: Fundamentals and Methods, Utrecht: Lemma.
- Roozenburg, N. and Eekels, J. (1998, 2nd ed.) Product Ontwerpen: Structuur en Methoden, Utrecht: Lemma.