Customer needs are one of the first items gathered and examined in the design process. Currently there are few methods of examining the collected customer needs to help designers track how much of the customer need space has been explored. None of the current prominent design texts provide an universally accepted categorization scheme to help categorize and examine collected customer needs. This paper ventures into the process of building an ontology that can be used to categorize and examine customer needs. The finalized ontology presented here went through 11 iterations and multiple inter-rater reliability tests throughout the creation process. The paper then discusses the possible uses of this scheme and how it can be utilized early in the design process to ensure that a thorough exploration of the customer need space is represented in the designers’ list of customer needs.

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