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Proceedings of DRS 2014: Designs Big Debates.
Design Research Society Biennial International Conference
16-19 June 2014, Ume, Sweden.
Edited by: Youn-kyung Lim, Kristina Niedderer, Johan Redstrm,
Erik Stolterman and Anna Valtonen
Published by: Ume Institute of Design, Ume University
Ume, Sweden
Copyright 2014 by the Design Research Society,
Ume Institute of Design, and the authors
No part of this document may be used or reproduced in any
manner without written permission from the publisher, except in the
content of reviews and for educational purposes.
Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of
copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent
This proceedings was produced as part of the Design Research
Society Biennial International Conference 2014 held at Ume
Institute of Design, Ume, Sweden from 16-19 June 2014.
Proceedings PDF available at
ISBN 978-91-7601-068-6
For printed and bound copy, please contact
Ume Institute of Design, Ume University
SE-901 87 Ume, Sweden


Table of Contents

................................................................................................... 1

Paper Programme Committee


Reviewers List
Designing experiences

............................................................................................ 5

Interaction and Service Design as Oering Perspectives in a Space of Action

........................ 7

Mattias Arvola

Deconstructing Expected Passenger Experience in Airports

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Philip Kirk, Anna Harrison, Vesna Popovic, Ben Kraal

Experience Design Framework for securing Large Scale Information and Communication Systems

. 31

Azadeh Nematzadeh, Omar Sosa-Tzec

Product Impact and Perception

Translating smells into colors: a proposal for improve the perception of perfume packaging design.


Camila Assis Peres Silva, Clice de Toledo Sanjar Mazzilli

From product to eect: Towards a human-centered model of product impact

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

Steven Fokkinga, Paul Hekkert, Pieter Desmet, Elif zcan

Measuring Product Design Preferences with an Aective Stimulus-Response Compatibility Task



Katrina L. Schoen, Nathan Crilly

Communication and Perception

Design for Emotional Well-being: A tactile and a material investigation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

Alexandra Abalada

Learning from others: A ve-year experience on teaching empathic design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

Caroline Gagnon, Valrie Ct

Mapping Innovation
The Chef as Designer: Classifying the Techniques that Chefs use in Creating Innovative Dishes

. . 127

Barry Kudrowitz, Arthur Oxborough, Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, Emily Stover

Design Wizard: Tools to Accelerate the Outline of Innovation Process Regarding Co-Design
Structure and Project Scope

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

Bruna Di Gioia, Joo de Souza Leite

Mapping a design innovation process within a Multinational Corporation  A design perspective to

using Delphi technique

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159

Mersha Aftab, Robert Young

Business Model Design

Creating Organisational Knowledge Through Strategic Business Model Design
Luke Feast

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181

"Should I Patent This"?



Bryan Howell

Game feedback techniques: Eliciting big surprises in business model design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

Sune Gudiksen

Social Sustainability
Users, Stakeholders and researchers: Dilemmas of Research as Practice and the Role of Design
Thinking in the Case Study of a Rehabilitation Living Lab

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220

Poldma Tiiu, Labb Delphine, Bertin Sylvain, Kehayia Eva, Swaine Bonnie, Ahmed Sara,
Archambault Philippe, Le Dorze Guylaine, Fung Joyce, Lamontagne Anouk

Incorporating Queer Understandings of Sex and Gender in Design Research and Practice



Isabel Prochner

Altering expectations: how design ctions and backcasting can leverage sustainable lifestyles

. . . . . . 243

Sara Ilstedt, Josen Wangel

Promoting Sustainability
Evolving a design driven `hybrid' research approach to inform and advance sustainable outcomes
in the built environment sector

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

Kimberley Wilson, Cheryl Desha, Evonne Miller

Communication of Food Sustainability: from Dissemination to Participatory Knowledge Building


Young-ae Hahn

Design vs. the Design Industry

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282

Joanna Boehenrt

Examining Intuitive Navigation in Airports

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293

Andrew Cave, Alethea Blackler, Vesna Popovic, Ben Kraal

The Inuence of User Characteristics in Negative Product Use Experience

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312

Chajoong Kim

Dening the experiential aspects of passengers' comfort in the aircraft interior - an empirical

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325

Naseem Ahmadpour, Gitte Lindgaard, Jean-Marc Robert, Bernard Pownall

Human-centred Design and Ergonomics

Ergonomics Information Flow in Product Design: A Case Study About Handles Used by Turkish
Furniture Producers



Yener Altparmakoullar, Ilgm Erolu

A Design Process based on Field Research: An Adjustable Desk for Children in Rural India

. . . . . . 346

Youngchan Jeong, Sumi Kim, Joongseek Lee

User-centred Design
Transforming User Information into User Knowledge: A Multiple Case Study
Isil Oygur




Adaptable interface model for intuitively learnable interfaces: an approach to address diversity in
older users' capabilities

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 374

Raghavendra Reddy Gudur, Alethea Blackler, Vesna Popovic, Doug Mahar

Research-based design and research through design: a case study of the improvement in the user
experience of an autism caregiver using ICT.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 388

Chun-Meng Cheng, Hsien-Hui Tang, Miao-En Chien, Ni-Miao Lin, Mike Y. Chen

Visual Communication
Graphic design: focus on nine professional reections?



Karel van der Waarde

Point of View as Mediacy of Information Visualization

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411

Soojin Jun

Ecological Perception: Seeing Systems



Joanna Boehnert

Design Transformation
A framework for design and assessment of products in developing countries

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439

Timothy Whitehead, Mark Evans, Guy Bingham

Design Prospects: Investigating Design Fiction via a Rogue Urban Drone

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 452

Andrew Morrison

Change through Service Design  Service Prototyping as a Tool for Learning and Transformation


Essi Kuure, Satu Miettinen, Mira Alhonsuo

Textile Design
An aesthetic approach to the use of textiles in architecture

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483

Tina Moor, Andrea Weber Marin, Janine Haeberle

The Design Alphabet for Textiles as applied Method at the Frontiers of Textile Design Research

. . 500

Isabel Rosa Mueggler, Andrea Weber Marin, Franoise Adler, Janine Haeberle, Kim Poldner

Activism and Behavior Change

Designing For Democracy; using design activism to re-negotiate the roles and rights for patients

. 514

Eva Knutz, Thomas Markussen, Signe Mrbjerg, Jette Ammentorp

Communication design as an agent in creating gender equality in India





Nicola St John

User Diversity in Design for Behavior Change

Aykut Coskun, Cigdem Erbug

Social Innovation and Change

Our Common Future? Poltitical questions for designing social innovation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 560

Ramia Maz

Social Design Principles and Practices

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 572

Ins Veiga, Rita Almendra


Social Implication Design (SID)  A design method to exploit the unique value of the artefact to
counteract social problems

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 584

Nynke Tromp, Paul Hekkert

From Poetry to Computing


. . . . . . . 599

Hui Yun Yen, Po Hsien Lin, Rungtai Lin

Employing Poetry Culture for Creative Design With Six-standpoints

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 609

Moli Yeh, Chiu Wei Chien, Rungtai Lin

The Reappearing Computer: the past and future of computing in design research

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 618

Simone Gristwood, Stephen Boyd Davis

Culture and Place 1

Space-and-place modelling-and-making: a dialogue between design and geography

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 633

Robert Harland, Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos

Archaeology of the Future. Reconsidering the Place and Nature of Trend Forecasting in Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 645

Elisabeth Petermann

Tool complexes of innovation: Spaces for explorative innovation in four manufacturing industrial

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 663

Jennie Schaeer, Yvonne Eriksson

Culture and Place 2

Sustainable Strategies Through Design in Communities of Practice

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 677

Luiza Rossetto, Celso Scaletsky

What Can Urbanism Be? Problematizing the Design of Cities

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 695

Aseem Inam

Cultural Development
Design as Rhetoric in the Discourse of Resonance

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 718

Veronika Kelly

Making the Case: collaborative concept development of products and services for a new design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 728

Louise Valentine, Joanna Bletcher, Saskia Coulson

The Impact of Cultural Dierences in Design Thinking Education

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 744

Katja Thoring, Carmen Luippold, Roland M. Mueller

Design Case Studies

Industrial designers and engineering designers; causes of conicts, resolving strategies, and
perceived image of each other

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 757

KwanMyung Kim, Kun-pyo Lee

Political debate as design process: A frame analysis

Darren Umney, Peter Lloyd, Stephen Potter


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 771

SOURCE, a Case Study for the Design of Precious Moments' Memory

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 782

Pierre Alex, Damien Dupr

Design Tools and Methods

Enhancing Collective Creativity via Enactment: A Comparative Study of Design Research

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 790

Emily Elizabeth Strouse

Enhancing Visual Meaning: Measuring Visual Communication Design Eectiveness

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 803

David Craib, Lorenzo Imbesi

Tools for Eective Communication about Technologies of Domestic Ubiquitous Computing

Systems in User-Centered Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 820

Wonjun Lee, Yeoreum Lee, Jong-bum Woo, Jinmin Seok, Ingeon Shin, Youn-kyung Lim

Design Research Methods 1

The promise of cognitive neuroscience in design studies

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 834

Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Minna Huotilainen, Maarit Mkel, Camilla Groth, Kai


meta-levels in design research: resolving some confusions

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 847

Pieter Jan Stappers, Froukje Sleeswijk Visser

The Use of Grounded Theory Approach in User Experience Based Design Research: A study on
"Automobile Modication" in Turkey

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 858

Selen Devrim lkeba

Design Research Methods 2

Qualitative Study of Smartphone use: Subjective Experience of Time through Personal Ubiquitous

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 871

Yong-Ki Lee, Kun-Pyo Lee

Wearing Two Hats: Reecting Alongside Authentic Designing

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 886

Simon Bowen, Andy Dearden, Matthew Dexter

Designing Deployment: a visual paper of the batch deployment of research prototypes

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 899

David Cameron, Nadine Jarvis, Andy Boucher

Collaborative Design
Ecotone: A Model for Art / Science Collaboration



Leanne Elias, Christine Clark

An automatic open-source analysis method for video and audio recordings of co-design processes

. 921

Miika Toivanen, Minna Huotilainen, Huageng Chi, Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen

Trans-Disciplinary Design Education



Christoph Holliger, Roberto Iiguez Flores, Juan Claudio Monterrubio Soto

Participation and Co-Design

Investigating the Changing Relation Between Consumer and Designer in Post-Industrial Design
Guido Hermans, Anna Valtonen

. 940

Co-created Facilitation and Perspective Plurality to Foster Mutual Understandings of Risk

. . . . . . . 951

Robb Mitchell

Beyond methods: Co-creation from a practice-oriented perspective

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 967

Elisa Ruhl, Christoph Richter, Julia Lembke, Heidrun Allert

Critical Design
Privilege and Oppression: Towards an Intersectional Critical Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 980

Luiza Prado de Oliveira

Agency, Context and Meaning: The Humanities and Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 991

Mads Folkmann

Design and the Projecting of the New

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1003

Mads Folkmann

Design Issues 1
Hacking delivery systems: exploring design tools for user-led innovation in urban infrastructures


Lorenzo Davoli, Johan Redstrm, Ruben van der Vleuten

Uncovering Design Competence: An Overview and a Model of Design Skills



Ufuk Ulusan

Why `design research practice' is not design as we know it

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1039

Tara Mullaney, Erik Stolterman

Design Issues 2
The Rhetoric of Design for Debate: triggering conversation with an uncanny enough artefact


Max Mollon, Annie Gentes

Teaching a User-Centred Approach to Exploring Product Personalities and Sensory Attributes

. . 1062

Lois Frankel

Designing Boundary Objects: Investigating the Aliations of Medical Identication Jewellery



Alex Haagaard, William Leeming

Design Issues 3
Designers in complex problem solving: the contribution of Systems Thinking

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1085

John Darzentas, Jenny S. Darzentas

Staging the Interaction  Explorative Interventions for Engaging Citizens in the Development of
Public Knowledge Institutions

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1096

Eva Eriksson, Josef Widestrm

Visual Approaches to Design Education

DESIGNERLY WAYS TO THEORETICAL INSIGHT: Visualization as a means to explore,
discuss and understand design theory

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1109

Anne Louise Bang, Silje Alberthe Kamille Friis, Anne Katrine Gtzsche Gelting

Bombs Away: visual thinking and students' engagement in design studios contexts
Marianella Chamorro-Koc, Andrew Scott, Gretchen Coombs


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1122

Locating the Emerging Design Identity of Students Through Visual and Textual Reection



Colin M. Gray

Improving Design Education

Intention-Centred Design Education: Beyond Methods and Techniques

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1157

Ylva Fernaeus, Anders Lundstrm

Envisioning a Better Design Education: How Language Can Invite or Discourage Collaboration


Angela Dow, Susanna Engbers

Framing behaviours in novice interaction designers

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1178

Nicole Lotz, Helen Sharp, Mark Woodroe, Richard Blyth, Dono Rajah, Turugare

Design Education Case Studies

Design ecologies, locating and amplifying individual motivations in a collaborative research

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1191

Nicole Koltick

Nurturing Creativity: Assemblages in HCI Design Practices

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1204

Sisse Finken, Alma Leora Culn, Andrea Gasparini

Complexity in Design Driven Innovation: Case Study of Knowledge Transfer Flow in Subsea
Seismic Sensor Technology and Design Education

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1218

Nenad Pavel, Arild Berg

Design Assessment
Designed Research: Publishing Designs as Scholarship

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1229

Cheryl Ball

Using a visually-based assignment to reinforce and assess design history knowledge and



Alethea Blackler

Academic integrity: dierences between design assessments and essays

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1260

Simple Simon, Beth Cook, Mario Minichiello, Chris Lawrence

Design Education for Innovation

An Evidence-Based Design approach for function, usability, emotion, and pleasure in studio

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1274

Peter Scupelli, Bruce Hanington

The learning needs of small and medium-sized enterprises for design led innovation

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1288

Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Sam Bucolo

From BoP to ToP and Vice Versa Daily Practices in Settings with Limited Resources to Inspire

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1301

Eleonora Ibragimova, Annemiek van Boeijen

Design Education through Experience and Reection

Less is too little  more is needed - Body-Motion Experience as a Skill in Design Education
Helena Tobiasson, Anders Hedman, Jan Gulliksen


. . . . . 1316

Learning from Students: Reections from Personal Magazines in Basic Design Course

. . . . . . . . . . 1331

Koray Gelmez, Humanur Bagli

Design and Science

Are you a designer or an engineer? We are both. An insight into Product Design Engineering
through graduate reection

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1353

Blair Kuys, Clara Usma-Alvarez, Charlie Ranscombe

Comparative Analysis of Research on Industrial Design and Engineering Design by Viewpoint of

M Model

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1369

Yuma Sakae, Shuji Kanazawa, Hiroki Tabata, Shuji Takano, Koichiro Sato, Yoshiyuki

Towards a framework of design principles: Classifying system features, behaviours and types

. . . . 1381

Chih-Chun Chen, Nathan Crilly

Design Practices 1
Research-led practice in design research used to best demonstrate design theories

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1395

Blair Kuys, Christine Thong, Nathan Kotlarewski, Scott Thompson-Whiteside

How Has Interaction Design been Perceived by Industrial Designers?



Canan Akoglu, Anna Valtonen

Contradictions in the design space

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1423

Frederick M.C. van Amstel, Vedran Zerjav, Timo Hartmann, Mascha C. van der Voort,
Geert P.M.R. Dewulf

Design Practices 2
Exploring Open Design for the application of Citizen Science; a toolkit methodology

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1437

Robert Phillips, Sharon Baurley

Desirable Imperfection in Product Materials

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1452

Owain Pedgley

Airport Security Screeners Expertise and Implications for Interface Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1465

Levi Swann, Vesna Popovic, Alethea Blackler, Ben Kraal

Designing for Inclusion

Reality check: Notions of accessibility in today's architectural design practice



Hannelore Wauters, Peter-Willem Vermeersch, Ann Heylighen

Service Innovation and Welfare Technology for Sustainable Home Medication: Insights from
Social Practice Theory



Ida Nilstad Pettersen

The design of accessible self service products, systems and services: teaching inclusive design



Jenny S. Darzentas, John Darzentas

Designing for Empathy

Adapting Data Collection Methods for Dierent Participants of the User Study: to Improve the
Empathic Understanding between Designers and Users


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1519

Supporting the designers to build empathy with people with Parkinson's disease: the role of a
hand tremor simulating device and of user research with end-users

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1526

Laura Bo, Monica Milani, Marco Fontana, Gastone Pietro Papini Rosati

Wellbeing and Happiness

How to Interest People for the Hare instead of the Chase, An exploration of open script design to
change consumer behaviour.



Liesbeth Stam, Wouter Eggink

Design Approaches for a RCT Complex Intervention: A Stroke Rehabilitation Case Study



Alastair Macdonald, David Loudon, Anne Taylor

A Framework of Ethical Nudges in the Design of Consumer Goods

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1558

Anders Haug, Jacob Busch

Experiential Knowledge in the Design Product

Verbalising the Silent? Professionals' Framing of Implicit in Packaging Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1571

Toni Ryynnen, Visa Heinonen

A Classication of Consumer Involvement in New Product Development

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1582

Matt Sinclair, Ian Campbell

An Investigation of Interactive Environment Design Constraints



Mengting Zhang

Experiential Knowledge in the Design Process

Making and perceiving - Exploring the degrees of engagement with the aesthetic process



How to Introduce Experiential User Data: The Use of Information in Architects' Design Process


Priska Falin, Petra Falin

Margo Annemans, Chantal Van Audenhove, Hilde Vermolen, Ann Heylighen

Tactile augmentation: reaching for tacit knowledge

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1638

camilla groth, Maarit Mkel, Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Krista Kosonen

Experiential Knowledge in Design Research

Matrix Method: Looking as Generator for Creativity

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1655

Thierry Lagrange

Aspects of Research through Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1667

Danny Godin, Mithra Zahedi

Design Values
Can a Light Switch Be Beautiful? Aesthetic Appreciation of Products as Means

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1681

Odette da Silva, Nathan Crilly, Paul Hekkert

A shift of perspective in design inquiries: from individual boundaries to common needs

. . . . . . . . . . 1693

Daniela Rothkegel

Design eectiveness: Building customer satisfaction and loyalty through design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1707

Ki Woong Nam, Bruce Carnie

Poster Abstracts
Author Index






Design Research Society

Conference DRS2014, Ume:
Designs Big Debates

Welcome! We hope that you will enjoy browsing the proceedings which have been
compiled for all participants of the DRS2014 conference as well as for the wider design
community as a record and as a means to gain an overview of the different themes,
sessions and paper presentations.
The Design Research Society Conferences are held biennially to further and promote
design research internationally. They are intended to bring together design researchers
from communities in design and further afield to engender debates that break new
ground. DRS 2014 has focused on exploring the future directions, challenges and
opportunities of design and design research and their role for our future world.
We believe there is a shared discourse in design: one that includes all areas of design
research, and that is of vital importance for our understanding and development of the
foundations of design. This discourse is something we share and cultivate over long
periods of time, as it tells stories of past, present and future trajectories of design and its
role in society. With an ever-increasing demand for academic specialization and increasing
numbers of highly specialized conferences, there is a bigger need than ever for a venue
where the design research community can address significant challenges that cut across
domains and big issues that will influence the way our field, as a whole, develops.
The main purpose of the DRS 2014 conference is to foster and support a shared design
discourse. By focusing on key big issues in design, the conference seeks to create a forum
where the questions that have the potential to change the way we think and do design its philosophy, theory, practise, methodology, education, profession and history - will be
discussed and debated.
Since 2006, the DRS Special Interest Groups have become one of the main tools of the
DRS to drive debates and cultivate continuity. They are developed through DRS member
initiative and currently include the Experiential Knowledge SIG (EKSIG), the Special
Interest Group for Objects, Practices, Experiences, Networks(OPENSIG), the Design
Pedagogy Special Interest Group (PedSIG), the Special Interest Group on Wellbeing and
Happiness (SIGWELL), and theInclusive Design Special Interest Group (Inclusive SIG),
with a further SIG on Sustainability to be launched at the DRS2014 conference.
In addition to the SIG themes, a number of other themes have emerged prominently at
this years DRS conference. These include a concern about designing for society and
culture; design for people; emotion and affective design; design thinking and design
ethics; as well as design methods and design research methods, to name but some.
This was the first DRS conference that was reviewed by full papers only. The conference
received over 260 paper submissions. All papers were reviewed by double blind review
process through our international review panel, comprising 230 reviewers and 24
programme committee members. Following the review process, 132 papers were invited
for paper presentation and 25 for poster presentations. The submission response, as well
as the review results, speak well of the health of research in the expanded design field, and
of the enthusiasm of researchers both from the academy and from professional practice.

A word of thanks

Many people around the world have co-operated in planning and organising this
conference. Our thanks go to our local organising committee at Ume Institute of Design
who have helped with the organisation on the ground. Thanks also to the DRS Council for
their support, and in particular Peter Lloyd who acted as our main point of contact and
assisted in sorting out a wide range of organisational challenges and decisions.
Thanks are also due to our many international reviewers and our programme committee
members. Many have freely given advice and support at every stage in the conferences
development and have provided extensive explanatory notes and advice on improving the
papers. Further, thanks to all the session chairs, for taking on this task and for managing
their sessions.
Finally, our most sincere thanks to all of the authors who submitted papers and kept their
sense of humour throughout the process. Their contributions are the lifeblood of the
Youn-kyung Lim and Kristina Niedderer (Papers Chairs),
Johan Redstrm, Erik Stolterman and Anna Valtonen (General Chairs)

Design Research Society

Conference DRS2014, Ume:
Designs Big Debates

Welcome! We hope that you will enjoy browsing the proceedings which have been
compiled for all participants of the DRS2014 conference as well as for the wider design
community as a record and as a means to gain an overview of the different themes,
sessions and paper presentations.
The Design Research Society Conferences are held biennially to further and promote
design research internationally. They are intended to bring together design researchers
from communities in design and further afield to engender debates that break new
ground. DRS 2014 has focused on exploring the future directions, challenges and
opportunities of design and design research and their role for our future world.
We believe there is a shared discourse in design: one that includes all areas of design
research, and that is of vital importance for our understanding and development of the
foundations of design. This discourse is something we share and cultivate over long
periods of time, as it tells stories of past, present and future trajectories of design and its
role in society. With an ever-increasing demand for academic specialization and increasing
numbers of highly specialized conferences, there is a bigger need than ever for a venue
where the design research community can address significant challenges that cut across
domains and big issues that will influence the way our field, as a whole, develops.
The main purpose of the DRS 2014 conference is to foster and support a shared design
discourse. By focusing on key big issues in design, the conference seeks to create a forum
where the questions that have the potential to change the way we think and do design its philosophy, theory, practise, methodology, education, profession and history - will be
discussed and debated.
Since 2006, the DRS Special Interest Groups have become one of the main tools of the
DRS to drive debates and cultivate continuity. They are developed through DRS member
initiative and currently include the Experiential Knowledge SIG (EKSIG), the Special
Interest Group for Objects, Practices, Experiences, Networks(OPENSIG), the Design
Pedagogy Special Interest Group (PedSIG), the Special Interest Group on Wellbeing and
Happiness (SIGWELL), and theInclusive Design Special Interest Group (Inclusive SIG),
with a further SIG on Sustainability to be launched at the DRS2014 conference.
In addition to the SIG themes, a number of other themes have emerged prominently at
this years DRS conference. These include a concern about designing for society and
culture; design for people; emotion and affective design; design thinking and design
ethics; as well as design methods and design research methods, to name but some.
This was the first DRS conference that was reviewed by full papers only. The conference
received over 260 paper submissions. All papers were reviewed by double blind review
process through our international review panel, comprising 230 reviewers and 24
programme committee members. Following the review process, 132 papers were invited
for paper presentation and 25 for poster presentations. The submission response, as well
as the review results, speak well of the health of research in the expanded design field, and
of the enthusiasm of researchers both from the academy and from professional practice.

Paper Programme

Alethea Blackler
Erik Bohemia PEDSIG: Design Pedagogy & Education SIG
Rebecca Cain SIGWELL: Design for Health, Wellbeing and Happiness
Lin-Lin Chen
Anna Croon Fors
Hua Dong Inclusive SIG
Haakon Faste
Tom Fischer OPEN SIG: Objects, Practices, Experiences, Networks SIG
Bruce Hanington
Paul Hekkert
Ilpo Koskinen
Jonas Lwgren
Maarit Mkel
Nithikul Nimkulrat EKSIG: Experiential Knowledge Special Interest Group
Arlene Oak
M P Ranjan
Debra Satterfield
Pieter Jan Stappers
Mike Tovey PEDSIG: Design Pedagogy & Education SIG
Brynjulf Tellefsen
Rhoda Trimmingham Sustainability SIG
Mikael Wiberg
John Zimmerman

Designing Deployment: a visual paper of the batch

deployment of research prototypes
David Cameron, Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London
Nadine Jarvis, Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London
Andy Boucher, Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London

In this paper we present the detailed design decision-making that went into the
deployment phase of a project exploring Third Wave HCI [5] through batch-produced
devices. Building on the studios design-led methodologies, we produced multiple sets of
Indoor Weather Stations (IWS), research devices that explore the microclimate of the
home, and deployed them to 22 households over the course of a year to gather
polyphonic feedback from participants [2]. This project built upon our previous work of
gathering polyphonic views of devices deployed to one or few households [6], but in order
to scale our practice for multiple deployments, we had to develop new methods.
We have documented the design and rationale of the IWS and the outcome of the field
study elsewhere [2]. Here, we focus on the design involved in the recruitment of
participants, deployment of devices and the methods of gathering feedback. Designing the
supporting artefacts for projects such as this everything that goes alongside the main
research object demands almost as much attention as designing the object itself.
Our usual fieldwork practice is to make numerous visits in person to participants in order
gain insight into the impacts and effects of our devices. However with the scale of this
project, it was not possible to pay multiple visits to all our volunteer households in the
same way that we do when a single device is deployed. Instead, we designed new
methods for this batch-deployment that we term Deployment Probes, using Cultural Probe
[4] sensibilities and approaches to develop methods to gather polyphonic feedback and
insights from such a large number of participants.
By adopting a visual paper, a paper format which focuses on image, we present material
design decisions in a way that is difficult to achieve in writing, and offer an alternative to
other written accounts of this project [1, 2]. Images require interpretation, so we rely on
readers to interrogate those used here. Granted this, we believe the photographs and
quotes included here effectively reveal our novel methods of recruiting, deploying and
gathering feedback at a large scale.

Design Process; practice-based research; photo essay; visual paper; annotations; design


Designing recruitment

Figure 1: Our intention was to recruit people who lived close to our studio in order to
quickly resolve maintenance issues, so we designed methods to reach out through
existing local networks formed around public and digital spaces. Posters were designed to
offer just enough detail about the project to tantalize prospective participants. These were
placed in local parks, cafes, corner shops and main streets. Similar adverts were
published on local blogs and forums.


Cultural Probes as a priming activity

Figure 2: Cultural Probes [4] were designed to introduce participants to both the context
of the research (the microclimate of the home) and the style of research activities later
used during deployment. We distributed probe packs at group events to 31 prospective
volunteers. As with many recruitment exercises, there was a decline of interest and we
received 22 completed packs from participants who were enthused by the events.


Handover considerations

Figure 3: Traditionally, our studio deploys research prototypes in-situ. While we were able
to deliver some of the IWS to people's homes individually, this was not practical for all of
the devices. So we arranged group events to fit participants availability and designed the
packaging and technical materials to enable participants to transport devices home and
install them independently. The packaging also considered the experience of un-boxing
the devices, clearly presenting the artefacts and technical materials upon opening.


Deployment Probes

Figure 4: Probe-like activities were designed to be distributed over the course of the field
trial. Significant Moment Forms, bound in the style of a notepad, provided a semistructured format for participants to conveniently record glimpses of their experiences
throughout deployment. Returned forms, sent back to the studio in prepaid envelopes,
provided prompts to open conversations with participants later in the project.


Figure 5: Deployment probes also helped to open up conversations between participants.

The design of a community website, displaying real-time and historic readings of every
households sensor data, included photo galleries and comment boxes to encourage
interaction between participants. A number of digital and physical probe-like interventions
were designed to reframe the data. This included monthly paper calendars displaying
colour swatches of light that were posted to households (top right), e-newsletters
containing our own weather observations, maps of community data and probe
assignments for participants to create their own climate report of their home. These
materials prompted conversations between participants on the community website and at
group events later in the project, as well as providing resources for our conversations with
participants during home visits.


Deployment Probe returns: polyphonic interpretations

Figure 6: By deploying to multiple households at once, we were able to collect a greater

range of qualitative data than can be achieved in smaller deployments. Deployment
probes enabled us to gather the individual voices in our study, rather than trying to
capture them all in a summary account. Figures 6 and 7 include photographs and quotes
gathered through deployment probes, accompanied by photographs of participants taken
during home visits.


Figure 7: Deployment probes invited continuous feedback from participants, in contrast to

methods that focus on events (e.g. site visits). The variety of materials designed, from
Significant Moment Forms to website galleries, catered for different forms of feedback. We
found deployment probes complimentary to site visits and many probe returns seemed
both private and reflective.


Participant-Led Evaluation

Figure 8: Instead of enlisting independent cultural commentators [3] to provide evaluation

for our study, a deployment probe task drew upon the skills of our participants themselves
by inviting them to self-report using the language of their occupation or hobby. One
participant, an artist, painted the Light Collector and composed a photo. Another, a
journalist, interviewed the designers and wrote an article for a magazine to which he
contributes. A linguist who participated in our trial was given all the returned Significant
Moment Forms to analyse. A final closing group event for the project was organised,
where self-reports and other deployment probe materials were used as props for
conversations between participants and researchers on emerging practices around the


Often in our papers we focus on the overall evaluative picture of a research study and
rarely have the space to reveal the nuances of our design process. By adopting a visual
format we offer insight into the materiality of our work. The intention here is two-fold. First,
our objective is to reveal the designed, but often unreported, materials of our projects, the
supporting artefacts. We do this in order to demonstrate the level of design detail and
decision-making that goes into the production of these items. Artefacts such as the
posters and adverts for recruitment, manuals and quick start guides, on-line materials to
offer technical and community support, as well as materials for participant feedback all
help scaffold a legible and unproblematic participant experience and enable participant
feedback through multiple forms.
Second is to demonstrate how Cultural Probe methods were useful in scaling our
evaluative practices. Deployment probes were designed specifically to gather glimpses
into the lives of our participants with our deployed devices. We were unable to visit all of
our volunteers extensively, but these probes allowed us to shape our understanding of
how the devices were being used, encouraged polyphonic accounts and created
opportunities for our participants to self-report. We also found value in enabling
participants to give ongoing and reflective feedback about devices, the nuances of which
is sometimes not captured in a site visit. Deployment probes complimented our usual
fieldwork practice of visiting participants in person by offering valuable prompts during
home visits and group events.
We believe design can offer a valuable approach to methods of recruiting, deploying and
gathering fieldwork that is both human and scalable. We hope that the visual format of this
paper goes some way to revealing the details and nuances of this approach.

This research was supported by the European Research Council's advanced investigator
award no. 226528. Third Wave HCI. Thanks to our colleagues Kirsten Boehner, John
Bowers, Bill Gaver, Mark Hauenstein, Sarah Pennington and Alex Wilkie.

1. Bowers, J. 2012. The Logic of Annotated Portfolios: Communicating the Value of
Research Through Design. In Proc. DIS12. 68-77.
2. William W. Gaver, John Bowers, Kirsten Boehner, Andy Boucher, David W.T. Cameron,
Mark Hauenstein, Nadine Jarvis, and Sarah Pennington. 2013. Indoor weather stations:
investigating a ludic approach to environmental HCI through batch prototyping. In Proc. of
CHI 2013. 3451-3460.
3. William Gaver. 2007. Cultural commentators: Non-native interpretations as resources
for polyphonic assessment. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 2007, 292-305.
3. William W. Gaver, Andrew Boucher, Sarah Pennington, and Brendan Walker. 2004.
Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty. Interactions 11, 5 (September 2004), 53-56.
5. Harrison, S., Tatar, D., and Sengers, P. 2007. The Three Paradigms of HCI. In Proc. of
alt.chi 2007. 1--18.
6. Nadine Jarvis, David Cameron, and Andy Boucher. 2012. Attention to detail:
annotations of a design process. In Proc. of NordiCHI 2012. 11-20.


David Cameron: Research Fellow at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths,

University of London. The Interaction Research Studio explores the design of
computational systems for everyday life. Our practice-based research integrates designled research methods with work on embedded and ubiquitous technologies to produce
prototype products embodying new concepts for interaction.

Nadine Jarvis: Research Fellow at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths,

University of London. The Interaction Research Studio explores the design of
computational systems for everyday life. Our practice-based research integrates designled research methods with work on embedded and ubiquitous technologies to produce
prototype products embodying new concepts for interaction.

Andy Boucher: Senior Research Fellow at the Interaction Research Studio,

Goldsmiths, University of London. The Interaction Research Studio explores the design of
computational systems for everyday life. Our practice-based research integrates designled research methods with work on embedded and ubiquitous technologies to produce
prototype products embodying new concepts for interaction.


Ecotone: Finding Common Ground Across

Art, Science and Ranching

Leanne Elias, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Christine Clark, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

This paper uses the case study of Ecotone, a project that sought to bring disparate
groups of people (artists, scientists, ranchers) together for shared discourse and
potential action around agricultural environmental stress in southern Alberta, Canada.
We explore this project from the perspective of an artist and designer. We examine a
framework that values space, time and the pairing of people from different disciplines to
encourage meaningful collaboration and interaction.
Environmentalism and climate change are divisive topics, particularly in Alberta where
the controversial oil and gas industry has made it Canadas wealthiest province,
resulting in both environmental indifference as well as extensive protests locally and
from abroad. It is well acknowledged there is a need for better communication about the
environment for real progress in protecting our resources to begin.
Ecotone begins this conversation by inviting artists and designers to respond to the
science and pragmatic realities of land stewardship.

Collaboration; art; science; ranching; information visualization

Ecotone is a multidisciplinary environmental project that began in the foothills of
southern Alberta. Its aim was to bring scientists, artists and ranchers together to explore
shared environmental concerns. Based on the success of this collaboration, a new
project has emerged that reaches beyond our local concerns to the challenge of using
information visualization to communicate climate change data for all of Alberta.
Francesca Samsel points out that collaboration outside of our spheres is required to
handle the complexity and breadth of knowledge today, and that the scientist benefits
from intuitive thinking and the artist from a scientific approach. (2013, p. 5) In this
project we used ethnographic research methods to explore the merging of our spheres
of knowledge, and that building trusting relationships between collaborators is critical to
a multidisciplinary approach.

Ecotone Background
Southern Alberta, Canada is a vast area of clean water, clean air, a major sink of biotic
carbon, and an important contiguous habitat for wildlife. Important industries include
farming, ranching, tourism, recreation, hunting, and fishing. The communities of southern
Alberta include many small, family-oriented pockets of farmers and ranchers that have
always strived to be good stewards of the land. The extremely short history of
agricultural ownership (Alberta was established as a province of Canada in 1905) makes


it easy to review land practices, and also to acknowledge the growing environmental
stresses. Oil and gas exploration and production, urban sprawl and recreational activity
provide benefit to the provincial economy, yet they also bring significant liabilities such
as land and water disturbance, habitat fragmentation, and invasive weed infestations
(SFS, 2013).

In 2009, governmental budgetary restrictions had closed communication departments in

the southern Alberta Agricultural Research Station. The closure concerned Dr. Rose De
Clerck-Floate, an entomologist whose work focuses on invasive plant species. In a
creative expression of scientific curiosity, she reached out to an art / design community
to see if perhaps there could be a way for artists to help disseminate her research and
the research of her colleagues, who were also working with concerns such as overgrazing and water contamination. An Art / Science collective was organized, and the
Ecotone project was one of the first collaborations that this collective undertook. The
name Ecotone refers to the region of transition between two biological communities, and
in this case, was extended to refer to the distinct groups of artists, scientists and
ranchers. This region of overlap this collaborative exercise can be explored as the
place where work happens. Gerhard Fischer says, boundaries are the locus of the
production of new knowledge. They are where the unexpected can be expected, where
innovative and unorthodox solutions are found, where serendipity is likely, and where old
ideas find new life (2013, p. 6). While De Clerck-Floates original idea was that art could
illustrate the research, over time she came to understand that professional contemporary
artists were more than illustrators: they wanted / needed creative control over their
responses. Because of this misconception, there was a sense of mistrust from the artists
in preliminary meetings. It also became clear that involving ranchers was critical if we
were to study environmental impact on land, they were the ones that were being affected.
This introduced a new level of suspicion as ranchers had often viewed the scientists as
being less than pragmatic, and quite frankly, they had no idea what role the artists were
to play in this research.

What degree of artistic license
do I have over the scientific
and ranching data?

Am I expected to become
an illustrator?

What degree of influence do I
have over the representation
of my data?

Will artists skew my

research data?

How will my work be
represented by art?

Do scientists want to
tell me how to do my

Ecotone Model
Even though there was a certain lack of faith between the 3 groups, there was also a
strong willingness to pursue the project. The overarching desire for action about
environmental threats was greater than the mistrust. The researchers carefully crafted
three distinct events, each of which allowed a particular group to be the expert
Symposium (scientist), Residency (rancher), Exhibition (artist). These events spanned
the course of three years.

Symposium: Science is introduced

This weekend event allowed agricultural scientists to present grazing research that was
being conducted on ranchland in southern Alberta. Artists, ranchers and scientists all


Residencies: Ranchers welcome artists

Week-long residencies, hosted by ranchers of southern Alberta allowed for their
expertise around land stewardship, animal husbandry, grazing practice and water
protection. Artists lived and worked with ranchers, and scientists were invited to
participate as needed.

Exhibitions: Communicating the living art of science

After participating in both the symposium and the residencies, artists were prepared with
enough knowledge to respond in a variety of ways. This was the final stage of the initial
project, and all groups met at the exhibition opening to share a communal meal and
reflect on the project.

At each stage of the Ecotone project participants were encouraged to pair with someone
from another group. This pairing allowed for a more intimate, trusting relationship and
opened the conversation to questions that may not have been asked in a larger setting.
In addition, the concerns or research interests of each person became the focus of
conversation. In a pairing, each person feels more responsibility to contribute, to probe,
to explore.

After Ecotone: Information Visualization (infovis)

The three Ecotone events were completed and several new investigations began. This
paper will introduce one of the latest extensions of Ecotone. Here / Now / Look / See:
Information Visualizations of Climate Change in Alberta is a collaboration between a
designer and a scientist that aims to present 60 years of climate change data of Alberta
using information visualizations. Again, building the trust between the scientist and artist
became paramount to meeting the challenges that disseminating the data presented.

As Laurel Richardson says, Science is one lens; creative arts another. We see more
deeply using two lenses (2000, p. 937) We found that it was not only seeing through the
lenses, but trusting what we saw, and what others were seeing, that gave strength to the

The Ecotone symposium began with evening presentations by climate-change scientist
Dr. Henry Janzen and contemporary art curator Ryan Doherty, both speaking about
shared practice between art and science. It should be noted that discussion was
strained: the disparate groups of scientists, ranchers and artists found little in common,
and there was even a sense of suspicion amongst the groups. Why are we here? What
is the purpose? Are there areas of overlap in our professional practice? The ranchers felt
that this might be a covert attempt for scientists to tell them how to do their job. Artists
were left uneasy because they were unsure if they were being asked to become
illustrators, or were they being invited to interpret scientific data in their own
way? Tensions between the groups arose, but there was sufficient interest in the
potential of the project to push beyond the stress and discover what might be gained.

The development of an interdisciplinary team includes three key factors: shared

language, the development of shared goals, and the establishment of shared trust
(OModhrain, S, 2013). A willingness to share was clearly of immense importance to
the project but with the first night of the symposium complete, and none of the


participants showing enthusiasm for working together, we became concerned.

The second day of the symposium revolved around a walking tour of a 60-year old
grazing experiment, situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This day-long tour,
which taught participants how to assess the health of native grasslands, and thus the
sustainability of our rangeland use practices, traveled through four distinct fields that had
experienced various levels of cattle grazing. Though measurement and trained
observation, researchers have come to understand how the health of the land can either
be enhanced or negatively affected by grazing practices, and this perspective was
imparted to the tour participants using powerful visual and hands-on methods. This
scientific information was not only important to share with the ranching/rural community,
but also within close urban communities because the foothills grasslands are a shared
resource of immense value tied to human and environmental health. Responsible
stewardship protects and sustains western Canadas primary watershed, local
agriculture and rural communities.

Fig 1. Ecotone participants on a walking tour of the foothills in Southern Alberta

This day proved to be transformative. As people walked between four different sections
of land, space was opened for dialogue (Fig 1). People began to share their particular
expertise, and relationships between disciplines emerged. The more we walked, the
wider the dialogue became. Our understanding of land practice expanded and we heard
about other threats: oil and gas explorations disrupting wildlife corridors, urban
encroachment, the disconnect between food producer and consumer, and, of course,
the ever-present issue of water quality.

Ranchers from the area slowly started to engage with others about the reality of working
on the land, and it became evident that all shared a respect for hard work and pragmatic
solutions. The interactions were rich and profound in ways unanticipated by the project


design, such as the discovery of new perspectives and ideas within our individual work
(Fig 2).

Fig 2. Scientists, ranchers, and artists in conversation during Ecotone symposium

The weekend ended with a shared meal enjoyed in an atmosphere completely different
than the night before. Tensions had dissolved. Where people had been wary and
distrustful, they were now enthusiastic and open. Relationships were forged and
research ideas abounded, such as an oral history project with ranch women, a photobased experiment with wildlife and a water investigation in the springs of the foothills.
These ideas were born out of intersection of interests, and as people made space to
listen to others, shared concerns became clear.

Collaboration is a complex phenomenon, one which fluctuates when context changes

and pressures from project environments increase (Isabelle Mahy, I & Zahedi, M , 2010).
These new relationships would not have been established without the time and space
that they were given during the day of walking. The openness that the prairie offered
invited a deep dialogue to emerge. It was extraordinary. On feedback cards distributed
over dinner, we asked two questions and received the following sampling of answers:

What can Ecotone do to keep the momentum going?

What struck me is the need to create a link between our food and the farmers
that produce it. We need to create a brand that reflects this. Still thinking!
Bring this message to schools and other local groups. Expose children to the
magic of our grasslands.
Broaden the engagement and go beyond food production concerns and add
additional emphasis on other land uses.
I would like to invite everyone to the Lethbridge Research Station so that
everyone can hear about some of the science and art that goes on there i.e.
breeding / disease / molecular biology. It can be informative and beautiful!


Think about how to express the connection between long-term experiences in the
landscape and cognitive or behavioral patterns.

What will you do with the information you received during Ecotone?
I will never look at the fields of Alberta (or indeed in the world) with the same
eyes again.
A workshop like this is a great affirmation / reinforcement to me as a landowner
how precious our land is!
I will be digesting this information and landscape for a long time.
I will plant an urban garden and produce some of my own food.
I appreciated the optimism of the scientists.
I will contemplate how my discipline (science) can relate to others and to build
their connections.

Artist Residencies
To facilitate deeper understanding of land concerns, ranchers were asked to host artists
over the spring and summer of 2012. Five ranching families participated and hosted a
total 13 artists for weeklong stays. There was no expectation from the organizers about
what might happen over the course of the week, and each residency was guided by the
participants. Some artists rolled up their sleeves and engaged in the work of the rancher,
others had very little communication and chose instead to make their own connections to
the land. Whatever the approach, the guiding principle at this stage was immersion in
ranch practice and the ranchers expertise would always be available.

The pairing of artist /rancher proved to be one of the strengths of the Ecotone
model. Armed with the scientific knowledge that had been gained in the symposium,
land and animal stewardship were seen in a new light. Artist Glen MacKinnon reflects
on his experience:
During the symposium I was paired with a scientist, and the knowledge that I
gained that day still affects my work, 3 years later. During the residency, the pairing
I had with a rancher gave me a profound sense of responsibility in how I live my life
as an inhabitant of the world. It moves beyond my work and into the way I think
about food, urban vs. rural, landscape, stewardship, climate, consumption life.

The residencies gave birth to projects that challenged and surprised audiences. Artists
worked with a variety of ideas including agricultural sustainability, invasive plant species,
water concerns and oil and gas exploration / production and the deep commitment to the
land that both ranchers and scientists had demonstrated. Exhibited at the Southern
Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta) in 2012 and at the Nickle Arts Gallery (Calgary,
Alberta) in 2013, the work was seen by both the rural community (a first-time art gallery
visit for many ranchers) and urban audiences. Most artworks generated discussion
among viewers. Consider the large-scale 5-minute video loop (Fig 3) that Mary
Kavanagh presented: shot on an abattoir floor, it shows the last few moments of a
heifers life.


Fig 3: Video Still from Facing Io by Mary Kavanagh

Artist Mary Kavanagh:

In the context of global economies driving large-scale food production, questions of
land use, environmental impact, the humane treatment of animals, and labour rights,
are increasingly pressing - and particularly relevant to this region. Following the
Ecotone Residency I was granted permission to film and photograph at a familyowned abattoir. This small-scale operation slaughters animals from independent
farms in the region, many organically raised or free-range grazing animals. Because
of their business philosophy of transparency and openness with respect to the work
that they do, I was able to spend a morning on the kill floor, observing the methods
used to kill and process 6 cows. [For 25 years, this slaughterhouse hasn't changed
its methods of killing cows - a precisely shot 22-caliber bullet to the head, iron bars
and mechanical lifts, skilled labour, and careful pacing - it harkens an earlier era.]
For me, the emotional and psychological demands of bearing witness to the reality
of animal slaughter for human consumption was a necessary aspect of the work I do
as an artist, work that often takes me to sites of industrial production conventionally
removed from everyday urban life.

Facing Io focuses on the few moments before the kill, when man and animal face
each other. The man is crouched, steadfast, waiting; the heifer is anxious, curious,
trapped. It is the dance before death, a timeless exchange between hunter and
hunted, one in which we are all complicit.

The exhibitions raised the level of public engagement, and audiences questioned rural
land use, water quality and conservation, the threat of oil and gas exploration, and
animal welfare. Ecotone became an active entity in connecting the communities, both
urban and rural. Curator Ryan Doherty opened the exhibition with these statements:
From urban encroachment to resource extraction, the multiplicity of responses
offered by the many other artists included in this exhibition speak to the enormous
complexities at play in our local environment. In light of this, one cannot help but
consider the bewildering reality of these same problems magnified and multiplied on
a global platform. And yet, as projects like Ecotone are increasingly cultivated in
communities around the world - sharing stories, perspectives, ideas and actions
there is a renewed sense of optimism and the promise of a future more accountable
than our past.


After Ecotone
Following Ecotone, participants recognized the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary
approach and were extremely eager for projects that would further investigate
environmental issues through multidisciplinary collaboration. There was a pervasive
desire to share what they learned about land use, water, sustainability, and stewardship
in Alberta with the broader public. Recognizing the opportunity to engage larger
audiences through digital interaction, graphic designer Christine Clark sought out
climatologist Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle to create an information visualization on climate
change in Alberta.

Here / Now / Look / See: Information Visualizations of Climate Change in Alberta

Defined by its use of human computer interaction (HCI) and visual representations to
improve comprehension of information (Card, Mackinlay, and Shneiderman, 1999),
infovis is a powerful tool for informing the public about complex issues like the
environmental concerns expressed in Ecotone. A surge of discussion has recently
unfolded in the infovis community on how the field can contribute to improving education
about environmental issues. This has lead to the introduction of several subfields,
including digital media artist Tiffany Holmes concept of Eco-visualization, which focuses
on energy use, and, of particular interest, is a framework proposed by Tanyoung and
DiSalvo in 2013 called Speculative Visualization. Merging the comprehension objective
of infovis with environmental activisms focus on engagement, Speculative Visualization
encompasses the challenging perspectives of artists, the aesthetic representation of
designers, the analytic ability of scientists to interpret data, and the love for humanity of
philanthropists. (Tanyoung and DiSalvo, 2010) With practice in this field depending on
this range of expertise (artists, designers, scientists, philanthropists), multidisciplinary
collaboration becomes a necessity, offering a promising opportunity for the application of
the Ecotone model.

From here, a new collaborative project was established between Kienzle and Clark as
they attempt to disseminate 60 years of climate change data for over 6,834 locations
across Alberta through a series of information visualizations. They were specifically
interested in exploring methods for overcoming three key challenges in visualizing and
disseminating the data:

1. Data Literacy: the audiences ability to decode the visual representations and
fully comprehend the information being presented.
2. Information Apathy: the barrage of information and calls-to-action in our society
have made many reticent to engage with infovis.
3. Bias: people often have pre-existing ideas about a topic, which affects the way
they look at and understand an infovis.

Bringing together their resources and expertise, scientist and designer seek to explore
the extent that infovis can overcome these challenges and evoke meaningful
understanding, connection, and responsibility for our environment in a broad public
audience. The area of overlap of these two disciplines (the boundaries that Fischer says
are the locus of production of new knowledge) is where the information visualizations
take shape.

At the outset of this pairing, both parties were extremely enthusiastic about the new
opportunities that would be opened up through the collaboration. For Clark, who initially
had little understanding about climate science, it was not just the access to data, but
also to the expert with intimate knowledge of the data and the topic it represented. For


Kienzle, the visualizations would be a valuable resource for students to learn about
climate science as well as a way to share his research with a larger audience. The
dialogue between the collaborators became honest and open, allowing for them to talk
through similar uncertainties to those found between participants in the Ecotone
symposium regarding their role in the collaboration:



What degree of artistic license do I have

with the representation of the data?

Will scientific integrity be maintained with

an alternative representation of the data?

Will this collaboration allow me to explore

my own research interests?

Will this collaboration meet my goals for

disseminating my research?

What authorship will I have over the


What authorship will I have over the


In response, Kienzle and Clark looked to the Ecotone model to navigate territory that
was unknown to both of them. Just as the scientists, ranchers, and artists needed time
to build comfort and trust over the day of walking, Here / Now / Look / See encouraged
both members to establish a productive working relationship over a six-month period.
During this time there were intermittent periods of close collaboration as the project
moved through the phases of concept development, creation, refinement, and
exhibition/public release.

To determine the lead expert for the various phases of the project as per the Ecotone
model, the researchers examined the nature of expertise in context with infovis. It
resulted in the expert roles unfolding in a way that was less distinct than those of
Ecotone with Kienzle and Clark both contributing throughout all phases, Kienzle as the
expert of the content (the data and climatology) and Clark the expert of the design and
audience. Having Clark lead the project in relation to the audience was based the
distinction between specialist tacit knowledge, which involves advanced practical
competence gained through immersion in a specialist domain, and ubiquitous tacit
knowledge, which can be acquired by almost anyone through everyday experiences.
While expertise on subjects like climate science and design is typically gained as
specialist tacit knowledge, expertise of a target audience usually takes the form of
ubiquitous tacit knowledge through immersion in the target group (Ross, 2013). In this
case, audience expertise required knowledge of the general public who are non-experts
of climate science, making Clark closest to this perspective and therefore the expert.
Positioning the designer of the infovis as the expert of the audience then allows the
designers experience of learning the content to inform the design of the visualization. By
acknowledging these points of expertise in a collaboration, each member is able to
contribute in meaningful and fulfilling ways while also trusting the others contributions to
accomplish their mutual goal. For Kienzle and Clark, they were acutely aware that while
they would each provide their individual expertise, the outcome would reside in the
converging space between them.

In establishing a trusting and mutually beneficial collaborative foundation, Here / Now /

Look / See became well positioned to tackle much larger challenges presented by the
task at hand presenting the climate change data to the public in a way that overcomes
data (il)literacy, information apathy, and bias to create a greater sense of appreciation
and responsibility for our changing environment. As infovis pioneer Edward Tufte


recently said during a video interview, how can we see not to confirm, but to see to
learn? (Brown, 2013). Climate change is a divisive topic, particularly in Alberta where
the controversial oil and gas industry has made it Canadas wealthiest province,
resulting in both environmental indifference as well as extensive protests locally and
from abroad. It is well acknowledged there is a need for scientists to better communicate
with the public about the science of climate change for real progress in mitigating the
effects to begin. Through this design and science collaboration, Kienzle and Clark hope
to contribute to this discourse.

While Ecotone began with a small group of artists and scientists, it has grown over the
years to include hundreds of ranchers, landowners, water researchers, cultural
geographers, historians, as well as designers, and it has also engaged the urban and
rural populations of southern Alberta in dialogue. The model of engagement, which
promotes the pairing of participants, values extended time to foster relationships, and
allows the expertise of each partner to meet in the space that divides them, has proven
to be one that inspires new knowledge, projects and research, four of which have been
presented in this paper. The common thread throughout Ecotone was the desire to form
a connection to the land and water, and in particular, an interest in nurturing a
relationship to the stewards of that land. The interest in deep understanding of land use
practice is shared amongst rural and urban populations. And as the project continues,
the questions multiply. Who is responsible for keeping our land and water safe? What
role does government play in regulatory policy? How can our community connect and
support a healthy, sustainable environment?

Brown, K. (Producer). (2013, May 9). The Art of Data Visualization | Off Book [Video].
Retrieved from

Card, S. K., Mackinlay, J. D., & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Readings in information

visualization: Using vision to think. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Fischer, G. (2004). Social Creativity: Turning Barriers into Opportunities for Collaborative
Design. Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference (Pdc04), July, 152161. Retrieved October 25, 2013, from

Mahy, I., & Zahedi, M. (2010). When artists and designers inspired collective intelligence
practices: Two case studies of cooperation, interdisciplinarity, and innovation
projects. In Proceedings from the International DRS (Design Research Society)
Conference on Design & Complexity. Retrieved October 05, 2013, from

O'Modhrain, S. (2012). Building an Interdisciplinary Research Team. SEAD: White

Papers. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from


Pierce, J., William, O., & Blevis, E. (2008). Energy Aware Dwelling: A Critical Survey of
Interaction Design for Eco-Visualizations. Proceedings of the 20th Australasian
Conference on Computer-Human Interaction: Designing for Habitus and Habitat.
doi: 10.1145/1517744.1517746

Richardson, L., & St. Pierre, E. A. (2008). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research
[Third Edition]. doi:

Ross, P. (2011). Is there an expertise of production? The case of new media producers.
New Media & Society, 13(6), 912-928. doi: 10.1177/1461444810385393

Tanyoung, K., & Carl, D. (2010). Speculative Visualization: A New Rhetoric for
Communicating Public Concerns. Proceedings of Design Research Society
(DRS) International Conference Design and Complexity. doi:

Leanne Elias
Leanne Elias is an Associate Professor of New Media in the Faculty of Fine Arts in
Lethbridge, Alberta. Her research includes exploring the interdisciplinary nature of New
Media and has worked with art, education, management, and science in various
research projects.

Christine Clark
Christine Clark is a MFA New Media Candidate (14) at the University of Lethbridge.
Her graduate research explores knowledge mobilization through new media, information
visualization, and speculative design. Prior to beginning this degree, Clark was a
principle of Chris Clark Creative.


An automatic open-source analysis method for video and

audio recordings of co-design processes
Miika Toivanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Brain at Work Research Center,
Helsinki, Finland
Minna Huotilainen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Brain at Work Research
Center, Helsinki, Finland
Huageng Chi, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Brain at Work Research Center,
Helsinki, Finland
Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki,

In co-design of several persons utilizing different materials together, capturing movement
and position information of the hands as well as the speaking patterns of the designers
provide answers to research questions related to social aspects of the co-design situation.
Special motion-capture devices exist for precise movement tracking. They are, however,
typically expensive and may restrict the movement of the designers. Recording the design
sessions with a simple web camera offers a low-cost way to obtain the hand locations
accurately enough but exploring the videos manually is a time-consuming and error-prone
task. In this paper, we propose an inexpensive and automatic method to acquire
information on the position of the hands and on the use of voice of the co-designers. We
are offering our Matlab code as open source for other researchers and designers to use in
their work and to amend.

Co-design processes; Audio and video analysis; Hand tracking; Bayesian modeling;
Collaborative designing can be defined as a process of actively communicating and
working together in order to jointly establish design goals, search through design problem
spaces, determine design constraints, and construct a design solution (Hennessy &
Murphy, 1999; Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Lahti, Muukkonen & Hakkarainen, 2000). Some
researchers, such as Perry and Sanderson (1998) and Valkenburg and Dorst (1998) ,
have specifically analyzed design processes with respect to teamwork. Also, many
cognitive theories are emphasizing the socially distributed nature of cognition (Hutchins,
1995) and the role of social collaboration in modern designing (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1996).
Social collaboration appears to have a particularly important role during the conceptual
phase of designing. An important aspect of collaborative designing is working with shared
design objects: through visual representations, conceptual models, tools, and concrete
materials (Norman, 1993).
In co-design, capturing movement and position information of the hands as well as the
speaking patterns of the designers provide answers to research questions related to
social aspects of the co-design situation (Castelli, Happe, Frith & Frith, 2000). Obtaining
body movements and speaking patterns is important also because in order to produce
and to interpret recognizable accountable actions, co-participants orient to the details
constituting the local order of talk and action and mutually display their orientations in their


conduct (Mondada 2006, p. 118). Hence, hand movements may correlate with the object
being designed. Furthermore, the recent findings reporting the importance of mirror
neurons in social situations and the effects of embodied elements in the cognitive
performance of humans suggest that movement and position information may reveal
significant aspects of design work (Kaplan & Iacoboni, 2006).
Traditionally, movement and position is measured with extremely high accuracy using
professional motion-capture devices. In addition to their high cost, these devices restrict
movement and the use of space, and may thus be non-optimal in co-design situations. On
the other hand, recording the design sessions with a simple web camera offers a low-cost
way to obtain the hand locations but exploring the videos manually is a time-consuming
and error-prone task.
We are proposing an inexpensive and automatic method to acquire information on the
position of the hands of the co-designers with respect to each other and with respect to a
common frame, and the use of voice of the co-designers. This method is based on simple
and inexpensive off-the-shelf devices: a single video camera, individual microphones and
recorders for each designer, and self-made markers to attach around the wrist. As a
result, the method outputs the relative and/or absolute hand coordinates in the time
resolution of the used camera, e.g. 30 measurements per second, and the voice patterns
in the time resolution of e.g. half-a-second. The hand coordinates and voice patterns can
easily be synchronized. Compared with 'traditional' video analysis approach in which the
videos are annotated manually, the presented method thus gives more accurate results
and lessens the manual work. The output of the method can naturally be used together
with the traditional tools giving additional information to the analysis.
The algorithms are realized in Matlab environment and they provide simple and
easy-to-modify plots of hand locations and use of voice of each co-designer. We are
offering our code as open source for other researchers and designers to use in their work
and to amend. We propose that this type of open source possibility may provide
researchers with a fast method to process large amounts of video and voice data
automatically. This paper presents the algorithms in a detailed level as well as gives some
illustrative results.

Algorithm for analyzing the video

The purpose in analyzing the video is to automatically locate the designers' hands in each
frame, or more specifically, the two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional hand
coordinates to the plane of the lens of the camera. This means that the absolute (physical)
measures for hand movements will be unknown unless the movement takes place in the
plane perpendicular to the viewing direction of the camera. However, it is assumed that
the observed hand movements between the test subjects are comparable. Also, having
the camera on the roof and having the test subjects work above a table ensures that most
hand movement probably happens on the plane perpendicular to the viewing direction of
the camera as a hand typically moves planar to the table.
The problem of locating the hands can be formulated as a tracking problem. The purpose
of tracking is to find the location of an object in each frame (of the video) by utilizing the
temporal knowledge. In a typical tracking algorithm, parts of the image that resemble the


tracked object are being searched in the vicinity of the object location in the previous
frame. Using temporal information for hand tracking seems sound; with a typical frame
rate of 30 fps, the hand does not move awfully many pixels between subsequent frames.
Tracking has been studied for long (see, for instance, (Bar-Shalom, 1990)) .
The chosen framework for tracking the hands is probabilistic, specifically Bayesian. With
Bayesian methodology, the two assumptions used in solving the tracking problems the
proximity of the markers in the appearance space and world space can be nicely and
intuitively incorporated. Furthermore, Bayesian approach results in a modular method in
which the appearance model or the location model can be easily altered independently of
each other. Similar approach was used in (Toivanen & Lampinen, 2011). Bayesian
tracking is also a widely studied topic (Arulampalam, Maskell, Gordon & Clapp , 2002) . In
high-dimensional spaces, it leads to a computationally demanding problems which can be
solved with e.g. Kalman filters (Kalman, 1960) or particle filters (Doucet, De Freitas &
Gordon, 2001). It is to be noted that we are not making a 'traditional' statistical inference
here but building a probabilistic model to solve the tracking problem.
To alleviate the problem, the test subjects wear specific markers on their hands. The
markers should be such that they differ from their surroundings as much as possible so
that they are easy to track. The measure of 'differing' depends on the used appearance
model. For instance, if the appearance model is based on the shape of the marker, its
shape should be specific. The algorithm presented in this paper utilizes only the color of
the markers so they should differ from the color of the worktable, color of the sleeves and
also color of the markers of the other test subjects if their hands are to cross. Our test
co-design process groups comprised of three persons so three different marker colors
were used red, green and blue. Color has been often used in tracking (Perez, Hue,
Vermaak & Gangnet , 2002; Simon, Behnke, & Rojas , 2001) .
We used two different kinds of markers; printable paper markers and colorful small balls.
The markers are to be attached around wrists, akin to a bracelet. The paper markers
consist of smallish colorful spheres (or ovals, actually). The ball markers are joined
together with a string and they can easily be either printed with a 3d printer or purchased
from a hobby shop. Using balls has the advantage of being visible to basically each
direction due to their three-dimensionality a paper marker in a hand directing straight to
the camera is invisible to it. Because the balls' color differ from white probably more than
from the skin color, it is advisable to have a white paper strip between the balls and the
skin. Figure 1 gives an example of both kinds of markers. Our algorithm treats each
marker independently, that is, no correlation is assumed between different markers. This
assumption seems fare as the hands typically move rather independently. Nevertheless,
should such assumptions be added to the model, it is possible due to its modular nature.


Fig 1: An example of a video frame captured at a co-design process. Persons have paper
markers and ball markers on their hands.
Let us introduce the Bayes' formula (Duda, Hart & Stork, 2000) . By denoting observed
data with D and the parameters of the model by we have

p( | D) p( D | ) p()


where p(|D) is called posterior probability distribution, p(D|) is called likelihood

and p() is called prior probability distribution. The names depict the relation of
parameters and data; the prior distribution is the distribution for the model parameters
prior to observing the data, the posterior distribution is the distribution for the model
parameters after observing the data, and likelihood tells how likely it is to have
observation D given certain model parameters. The (missing) proportionality factor
normalizes the posterior distribution so that it integrates to unity; usually, however, and
luckily, it is enough to know the un-normalized posterior as the ratios of different
parameter values is what matters. In frequentist analysis, the statistic inference bases
only on the likelihood. With constant prior distribution indicating no prior knowledge
about the model parameters the likelihood equals (up to a normalization constant) the
posterior. There is, however, a philosophical difference between the two, as one should be
interested about the distribution of the parameters, not of the data.
Incorporating (1) in the present problem begins with defining the parameters and data. Let
us consider a video frame at time instance t . We are interested in the location of a
marker in that frame. This unknown location is the model parameter and it is denoted as
xt which is a two-dimensional vector, with horizontal and vertical dimensions. Vertical
and horizontal dimensions could basically be unified by sorting them in one vector so that
images would be considered as one-dimensional. However, it is more convenient, and
typical, to use two dimensions. The observed data is the video frames processed so far,


up to and including time t , or more precisely, the color values in the videos as we are
using color as the appearance model. The color values at location x are denoted as
C ( x) . The dimension of this vector depends on the used color space which can be the
conventional three-dimensional RGB space or, for instance, the two-dimensional
hue-saturation space of the HSV color system. The posterior is thus the distribution of
xt given the color values at that location, C (xt ) . We also have dependence of the
past data. Basically, we have the color information of all the locations in the past frames
available but for simplicity, only the color values of the tracked points will be used. Also the
world coordinates of the tracked points in the past frames will be utilized so the posterior
probability is p(xt|x1 : t1 , C( x 1: t )) . The likelihood is independent on the world
coordinates and the prior probability is independent on the color values so we get

p( xt | x1 :t 1 ,C ( x(1 :t ) )) p( C ( xt ) | C ( x1 : t1 )) p ( xt | x 1 :t 1)


Next, in order to implement equation (2) we must choose some actual distributions and
their parameters so that the mode of the posterior would (ideally) be at the marker
location. A natural and commonly used choice is Gaussian distribution, denoted here as

N , which we use for both the distributions (likelihood and prior). Gaussian distribution
contains two parameters: the expected value and covariance matrix. The expected value
of the likelihood distribution is the mean value of the previous tracked points in the used
color space ( E[C ( x1 : t1 )] ). The covariance is a diagonal matrix whose diagonal
elements are the variances of the tracked points in each dimension of the color space (
V c [C( x1 :t 1)] ) which makes the appearance model flexible as it automatically
captures the variability in each dimension. The expected value of the prior distribution is
the previous marker location plus a previous rate multiplied by a coefficient (
xt 1+ d xt 1 , where d xt 1= xt 1x t2 , [0,1] ), and the covariance is a
diagonal matrix with constant elements ( V x ). Hence, we have

p( xt | x1 :t 1 ,C ( x(1 :t ) ))=N (C ( x t ) | E [C( x1 :t 1)] , V c [C( x 1 :t 1)])

N ( x t | x t1+ d xt 1)


In an ideal situation, the marker in the next frame is found at the prior mean. Parameter
controls the effect of kinematics of the hand. With =1 , the hand is assumed to
follow its tangential motion forever whereas with =0 the hand is assumed to stay
motionless all the time. In the experiments, an intermediate value =0.5 was used
which takes the hand motion into account to some extent. The size of the search space
around the prior mean is controlled by the (diagonal) covariance matrix V x . Having too
large search space results in fallacious local maxima in the posterior distribution which
might result in a lost track. Then again, a prior distribution too tight results in the posterior
mode always coinciding with the prior mode making the appearance model irrelevant and
in a realistic case where the marker is not exactly at the prior mean this also leads to a
false track. Hence, choosing the value in V x = I 2 , where I 2 is a
two-dimensional diagonal matrix, controls the balance between relying on the appearance
model and relying on the kinematic model. As the posterior distribution is two-dimensional
and has only as many values as there are pixels in the images, it is possible to simply


table the values of the posterior distribution in each pixel of the current frame and take the
maximum of the posterior to be used in the distribution of the next frame. In order to save
computation time, the posterior can be evaluated only in the vicinity of the prior mean (say
3std ). The parameters of the likelihood can be updated recursively so that the past
data needs not to be stored. The covariance elements in the first frame must be set
The actual algorithm for tracking one marker is depicted in Algorithm 1. In the beginning,
the track must be initialized manually. Also, sometimes a hand is in occlusion, that is,
invisible to the camera (for example under a table) in which cases the track must be
manually put 'on hold' and aid manually to the correct location when the hand becomes
visible again. In addition, the tracking may go wrong despite the marker being visible. This
might happen when the hand accelerates heavily, being something which the prior model
does not take into account. In such cases, the track must also be manually corrected.
Hence, what we have done is really an interactive algorithm which processes the videos
real-time and illustrates the results and which offers the possibility to any time correct the
tracks. We have observed that exploring a video file takes approximately twice as long as
the duration of the video which is still much more efficient than manually writing down the
hand locations in e.g. each second.
Algorithm 1. The algorithm for tracking a marker in a video.
1: Set the constant prior variance and the initial likelihood variance.
2: t=1 . Initialize the track manually (by clicking the marker with mouse).
3: t=t+1 .
4: Evaluate posterior (3) for each pixel xt which is close to the prior mean.
5: Pick xt which maximizes the posterior.
6: Update E[C ( x1 : t1 )] and V c [C( x1 :t 1)] recursively.
7: Go to step 3.

Algorithm for analyzing the audio

The purpose in analyzing the audios of test personnel during the co-design process is to
infer the verbality, i.e. simply the time indices when each person is talking. Using a
headset or other similar device with a microphone located near the mouth and a recorder
this should be a fairly straightforward task. It is important to have a low sensitivity setting
in the recorder so as to exclude the sounds from the surrounding such as voice of other
persons to the highest possible extent.
Each audio signal is divided into short (such as half-second long) clips or blocks. For each
block the audio power, being the root-mean-square (rms) measure of the signal, is
computed. Should the power in a block exceed a threshold, the block is inferred to contain
talk. The threshold for each person can be set manually by looking at the power levels or
it can be set automatically to, for instance, the average power level. The algorithm for
processing audio tracks is presented in Algorithm 2. It is vital to synchronize the audios
using e.g. hand clap in the beginning.
Unfortunately, the recordings may contain loud non-verbal sounds which are also being
classified as talk. However, it can be assumed that these kinds of sounds occur in


average equally rarely in each person unless someone has a cough or tends to breath
loudly through nose making the comparison of results fair.
Algorithm 2 The algorithm for computing the time indices of talking from audio files.
Steps 2 - 5 are performed individually for each person.
1: Synchronize test persons audio tracks
2: Divide audio track into small blocks (half-a-second)
3: Compute audio power (rms value) in each block
4: Set a threshold (e.g. to the average power of the audio track)
5: For each block: If power > threshold the person is talking during the block

This Section presents an example of using the presented algorithms in a real situation
where three persons were designing and preparing an object by hand. The used video
resolution was 480640 and frame rate was 30 fps. The constant variance of the prior
distribution was set to 5. The color space of the appearance model was the hue-saturation
subspace of HSV color system and the initial variance of the likelihood was 0.01 in both

Fig. 2. Few samples of a co-design process and tracked markers at different time indices.
Six representative samples of the session at different time indices are illustrated in Figure
2, together with the locations of the markers found by the algorithm. In Figure 3, the hand
locations as well as verbalities are plotted against a one-minute time frame. In order to
synchronize the video and audio recordings, hands were clapped above the table
producing an audible sound in each microphone and a visible signal in the camera. The
threshold of step 4 in Algorithm 2 is set to 1.5 times the average of each person's power


Figure 3. Few samples of a co-design process and tracked markers at different time
indices. The colors correspond to each other and the markers in Figure 2. In the bottom
panel, the dots mark a high root-mean-square value for a corresponding half-a-second
long audio clip indicating that the person is talking or, e.g., laughing at the time instance.

This paper has presented two algorithms to be used in analyzing video and audio
recordings captured during a co-design process. We propose that these algorithms may
provide answers to research questions related to social aspects of the co-design situation.
The algorithms are easy to implement and require no expensive equipment. The results of
our method can be used either alone or they can be used to assist a more traditional
video analysis tool. For instance, our method could be used to extract periods where e.g.
no one is talking, designers are moving hands more than in average, or designers hands
intersect each others' hands. In a study consisting of many groups the presented method
could be used to filter out the most interesting groups in terms of e.g. hand movements to
be analyzed in other tools.
The algorithm for analyzing video data aims to track the hands of each designer. As
opposed to traditional motion-capture devices, our algorithm needs only an inexpensive
web camera and markers which the designers are assumed to have in their hands. The
markers can for instance be colorful paper strips or small balls. The tracking algorithm
utilizes Bayesian methodology. The likelihood is based on the color values and the prior
distribution on the location and rate of the marker in the previous frame. The mode of the
posterior distribution is used to recursively update the parameters of the likelihood


distribution. The method contains only two fixed parameters: the elements in the constant
covariance matrix of the prior distribution (presumably same variance in both direction)
and the elements in the initial covariance of the likelihood model (also presumably same
initial variance in each direction). Of these, the latter has a minor effect on the
performance as the variances should be automatically settled after some amount of time
but the former is essential as it weights the appearance and shape models. Our
implementation of the algorithm is an interactive method, offering a possibility to correct
the tracks that get lost due to occlusion or poor performance of the algorithm. The
experiments revealed that red markers get lost least amount of time so if there is no
danger of hands getting crossed it might be advisable to use only red markers for all the
designers unless the table color is close to red, of course. The user should anyway
choose such marker colors that best stand out from their surrounding. The modularity of
the framework allows for easy modification of either models to, for instance, take into
account also the shape of the marker.
With a 'perfect' appearance model the temporal knowledge about the marker would be
irrelevant as each video frame could be considered as an independent still image in which
the marker would always be correctly located, independently of the marker locations in
past video frames. In practice, our probabilistic appearance model (likelihood) matches
the marker in each pixel of the video frame with some probability which may not be
highest at the correct location so the temporal knowledge (prior) about the marker location
in previous frames is used to filter out the false positives this is the essence of tracking.
When re-initializing a track after occlusion say, the hand emerges after being outside the
image area the temporal knowledge is absent as we lack the information about the hand
movements during the occlusion (when the hand was outside the image area). As the
color based model of the presented method is obviously too generic to be used for
locating the marker over the whole image (for instance, for a green marker the track might
be re-initialized in someone's green shirt) the user is asked to manually give the location
information. However, we are currently working on a better appearance model which
would hopefully be reliable enough to be used for re-initialization of tracks (or at least for
giving the user a considerable candidate location to be accepted or manually corrected).
Also, the method could automatically infer the occlusion from the likelihood values so that
the only required user-interaction would ideally be the initialization of the tracks in the
first frame.
The algorithm for analyzing audio data splits each audio signal into small blocks whose
audio power values, being the root-mean-square value of the block, are computed. The
person is inferred to talk whenever the power exceeds a threshold which can be obtained
automatically. By synchronizing the audio and video data with a hand clap in the
beginning of the session, the hand movements and use of voice can be compared at any
time instance. Our implementation offers a simple interface to investigate these at a time
interval chosen by the user, as in Figure 3. The algorithms are implemented in Matlab and
the code is published on-line as open source at


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Miika Toivanen
Dr. tech. Miika Toivanen has experience on computer vision, applied mathematics,
computational modeling and theoretical physics. His aim as a researcher is to utilize his
knowledge in practical problems.

Minna Huotilainen
Research professor Minna Huotilainen works at the Finnish Institute of Occupational
Health, Brain at Work Research Centre, focusing on work-related neuroscience. Her
interests include cognitive processes such as perception, memory, and attention, and the
cognitive effects of sleep, work fatigue, attentive problems, and embodied cognition.

Huageng Chi
Huageng Chi's research at Finnish Institute of Occupational Health include eye tracking
glass design, multimodal user input and data visualization, and applications of computer
vision techniques in a number of research projects. He received master degree in Signal
processing in Telecommunications from Helsinki University of Technology, and worked
previously at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.

Pirita SeitamaaHakkarainen
Professor of Craft Studies. She has built her research program on the development and
application of cognitive theories of design processes. Her main interest is to analyse
expertise in design, the nature of the design process and the role of the external
representations such as drawings.


Trans-Disciplinary Design Education Bridging Academia and Industry

Christoph Holliger, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland
Roberto Iiguez Flores, Tecnolgico de Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico
Juan Claudio Monterrubio Soto, Tecnolgico de Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico

Over the past 13 years, the authors have established an international network of partner universities who are committed to co-operate in trans-disciplinary and locally distributed ways by using
modern information and communication technologies and, hence, crossing cultural and disciplinary boundaries. The projects always originate from industrial tasks, tackle challenges that are
complex in nature and that cannot be solved by mono-disciplinary teams alone. The paper describes the pedagogic background of this setting as well as the structure of the course. Due to
the fact that the entire design process is based on electronic communication, the decision making process is accessible for subsequent analyses of the digital data bases generated throughout the multi-disciplinary process. This allows to better understand the characteristics and differences of successful and effective processes vs. miscarried and failing ones.
Trans-Disciplinary Design Education; International and Trans-Cultural Cooperation; Dynamic Knowledge

The efficacy of project-based learning in design education has gained broad acceptance. Moreover, when project-based learning is performed in teams, it mirrors professional design practice
more closely, and offers an attractive proposition to educational institutions to produce highly
employable graduates. Therefore, most state of the art design curricula employ project-based
learning principles within the context of student teams.
Innovative curricula designers clearly recognize the significance of interdisciplinary practice and
organize student teams in such a way that the different functions associated with key disciplines
of design projects are represented. However, the reality is that the majority of students usually
belong to a single educational discipline, and some are simply asked to wear another disciplines hat for the duration of projects. There have been very few consistent attempts at recruiting students who actually belong to different educational disciplines so that a true inter- or even
trans-disciplinary make-up is achieved. We use the terminology based on the US American
Academy of Sciences definition: Interdisciplinary research is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from
two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to
solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.

Project Oriented Learning Environment (POLE) is one such educational paradigm. This paper
describes the POLE platform, discusses insights gained during the more than ten years of its
existence and the resulting methodological improvements and presents key findings of POLEs
assessments. Finally, the recently implemented web-accessible data base (Libraries for Advanced Knowledge Environments, LAKE) is described which allows the analysis of the decision
making process of internationally distributed (student) teams. This is based on the recordings of
the teams' meetings by video conference and their processing by speech recognition software.
With these two columns POLE puts emphasis on the design process as well as on the final


Pedagogic Background
There have been many attempts to establish the theory of design education (Eris, 2006; Dym,
2005; Haselrigg, 1999). But nonetheless, we recognize a pluralist paradigm in this field. One
such paradigm is the "distributed trans-disciplinary project-based design methodology" that is
gaining growing acceptance (Eris, 2005). Nowadays, students are not only increasingly challenged within their specific core disciplines, they are also supposed to develop the necessary
skills to apply this particular knowledge in practice. Ideally, this goes hand in hand with mature
understanding displayed by the individual of a social, cultural, and economic environment. The
practical application of theoretical knowledge can, thus, only be implemented successfully, if
these three basic elements are taken into account (Faste, 1993). It is in this field where the Project Oriented Learning Environment (POLE) has its position, i.e. where knowledge and skills are
combined to accumulate professional competence.
In addition to students disciplinary knowledge, the ability to work efficiently within multicultural
environments has become increasingly important. Universities are, therefore, looking to expand
and deepen this particular aspect in order to provide the necessary expertise in this field. This
has led universities to becoming more proactive with regards to networking and offering collaborative courses.
POLE sees itself as a learning system cooperating within a network of universities and industry
partners. It does so within a reflexive context, taking into account the various cultures involved
in order to create new methods of resolution regarding teaching and learning. The students are
at the core of this concept, and are given the option to develop process-oriented expert
knowledge through trans-disciplinary teamwork. Simultaneously, they learn to work independently and to deal with current problem cases through the use of modern information and
communication tools. In the course of this joint activity, it has become apparent that this complementary aspect has gained in importance.
The rapid technological development and the need to cope with an increasing amount of information generate a challenging situation for both: professional courses at universities and industry. University teachers and researchers have to constantly update their knowledge on newly
available technologies and products. The same happens to professionals working in industry.
The research done at universities increasingly necessitates the support of industry, not just financially, but also to test ideas in practice. Conversely, industries can also benefit from receiving creative concepts originating from unbiased out-of-the-box ideas and having the opportunity
to present their strategies to students, who will be future professional employees and probably
work in their design teams. Therefore, the potential which a collaborative networked learning
environment can offer to both, universities and industry is obvious.
Design innovation, which essentially means the definition, development and creation of new
concepts and their successful launching to the market, is the driving factor for a powerful, competitive economy and the prosperity of society (Feyerabend, 1975; Freire, 1985; Pugh, 1996,
Pohl, 2006; Klein, 2010). Therefore, the education of creative individuals at universities and the
continuous professional development of architects, engineers, industrial designers, etc. in the
wide field of design innovation are of central importance. POLE's philosophy is committed to
fostering trans-disciplinary design thinking and creating awareness for sustainable solutions that
are not only economically viable, environmentally sound and socially equitable today, but also
allow future generations to do the same.

International and Multi-Disciplinary Setting

POLE is a learning system developed in cooperation with several international universities, such
as University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, ETH Zrich, EPF Lausanne, Aalborg University, BTK Berlin, Tecnolgico de Monterrey, NTNU Trondheim, TU Delft,
Politecnico di Milano, Olin College Boston, Savannah College of Art & Design and Stanford
University. It operates within a reflexive context, taking into account the various cultures involved in order to create new teaching and learning methods. Students are given the opportuni-


ty to develop process-oriented expert knowledge through interdisciplinary teamwork, to deal

with current practical problem cases and get accustomed to use modern information and communication tools. Depending on the task, the participating students and faculty can be comprised from fields such as architecture, urban planning, construction management, mechanical
engineering, mechatronics, computer science, industrial design, psychology, the arts and economics. Each individual student is given the opportunity to comprehend different disciplinary
processes and acknowledge their relation to social, economic, and political dimensions of design projects.
The POLE setting shows similarities with the European Global Product Realization course
(EGPR) with respect to multi-disciplinarity and the distributed team aspect but gives stronger
emphasis on the team- and trust-building exercises during the physical kick-off. Furthermore, it
draws from experiences of the international, but more mono-disciplinary course offerings "Architecture, Engineering and Construction" and "ME310" at Stanford University.
Structure of POLE Courses
Depending on the task, students from a subset of the mentioned partner universities are selected to attract the appropriate graduate (or last year undergraduate) students for the project.
Based on a Curriculum Vitae and a letter of motivation the most qualified students are selected.
In an elaborate process respecting disciplinary proficiency, cultural background, gender and
personality (assessed by Jungian typology) they are then put together in 6 teams (with five to
six students each) in the most heterogeneous way possible. The second main pillar of the project is formed by a group of approximately 6 to 10 academic coaches who not only take responsibility for the local disciplinary guidance of their own students, but are also accessible during
the entire project for all participants. Finally, and most importantly, the outermost circle visualizes the integration of the industry partners who have to commit themselves to actively participate as mentors in the design process (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Human Resources

POLE courses generally last for one academic semester. Originally, they used to start with a
physical kick-off week at the site of the industry partner. However, this experience has shown,
that the students were usually overwhelmed and could not react appropriately to the inputs received. Therefore, the new structure (see Figure 2) initiates the project with a virtual session by
video conference in which the students and their coaches introduce themselves, get a rough
introduction into the task and are asked to start their disciplinary analysis and research phase.
After two weeks the students then physically come together for team building and trust building


exercises. The new scheme has shown to be very successful in so far as the students arrive
prepared and already full of questions. The main task during the kick-off phase is to define a
meaningful process planning per team with a shared goal statement and milestones as a deliverable. This physical gathering has proven to be eminently valuable because it is this phase that
creates the "glue" and the commitment to be able to work together afterwards in a distributed
fashion using video conferencing tools.

Figure 2. Time Structure of Project

History and Results

Since 2000, more than twenty projects, all originating from and funded by industry or government partners, have been completed using the POLE platform. To name a few examples:

"SnowDive": Design of Novel Sports Equipment for Use in Snow and Sand
"Architecture and the Body": Planning of a Sports
"CanPlus": Novel Packaging Systems (Nestl)
"Driven Driver": Navigation System for the Car of the Future (Volkswagen)
"High Light": Controllable Head Torch for Mountaineers (Mammut Sports)
"Move!": Multi-Sensory System, Recording Sports Activities (Actismile)
On Track: Novel Ticketing System for Swiss Transportation Company
ConSenses: Interactive Communication Systems for Cars (Continental Automotive)
Catch Up!: The Future of Digital News (NZZ Media Group)
Think 2025: Concept Analyses for Interaction in 2025 (AUDI AG)

The assessment methodology that was used to monitor and measure key aspects of student
experience relied on a mixed set of techniques:

Ethnographic observations during project kick-off and product presentation meetings.

Students interviewed throughout the course.
Structured feedback sessions held with students during project kick-off and product
presentation meetings.
Interviews and discussions held with the instructors.
On-line surveys administered two and ten weeks into the projects, and four week after
the projects.


Some key findings are:

Throughout the course, students appreciated the interdisciplinary and international nature of the teamwork which POLE promotes.
Students appreciation of the realistic nature of projects increased after the projects end.
Communication and interdisciplinary teamwork were clearly perceived to be two major
learning outcomes.
Distributed students spent slightly more time on group work than individual work when
compared to local students although both groups spent about the same amount of total
time per week.
In retrospect, the personal log-book proved to be an invaluable source of experienced
The co-location of the kick-off week is of central importance to the team performance.
Re-evaluation of video-taped team and/or review sessions proved to be a welcome
source for a better process understanding and for personal awareness.

Understanding Decision Taking Processes by Dynamic Knowledge Data Bases

There is a saying that you can only step into the same river once. This applies to learning processes, too. But the fact that the POLE teams are using video conferencing systems for their
design process, allows for fostering the consciousness among students of the team dynamics in
retrospect when they watch the recorded team sessions again. It not only helps them to get
more aware of their individual blind spots but also to evaluate their way of interaction in their
team. This feature is eminently important when students from different cultures and different
disciplinary backgrounds are brought together in one team to work together in a constructive
way, which means not to split the task into disciplinary slices but actually finding a common vocabulary, reducing prejudices, explaining his/her own professional view and (often) proceeding
by using an amalgamation of methodologies that often is different from what one had learnt to
like. It is this aspect of POLE projects that creates a different mind-set in graduates, making
them better prepared to bring about more sustainable solutions since they integrate more facets
- technically, economically, ecologically as well as socially.
In addition and for academia even more important the recorded video sessions allow a subsequent analysis of the decision making process. And it is these many bifurcations in a process
that are often more valuable than the final product; in other words, the final circuit diagram of a
product does not show the many decisions that were necessary and crucial for the final result.
But its these decisions that bear important information for later re-design or new product innovation. (Wood, 2004; Smith, 2004). This said, it is obvious that no one can watch hundreds of
hours of video recordings to hopefully find a discourse on a specific topic of interest. Therefore, POLE's research group established a tool that allows not only to synchronize the video
recordings with the slides shown and to add annotations to augment the content, but passes the
audio track through a speech recognition software that creates a text string which can then be
searched through for segments where special key words appear more frequently and, thus creating a higher probability to finding useful information on a given topic. The access to the data
base on which all the mentioned information is stored is done over a web application. At the
present time the accuracy of recognition of non-english native speakers is the challenge to continue working on. It is anticipated that an adaptive system that can be trained and fed by the
participating team members way of talking will improve this obstacle in the near future. Figure 3
shows the technical set-up of the methodology described above which is called Libraries for
Advanced Knowledge Environments (LAKE) as a working title. In the farther future these dynamic libraries shall also be made accessible for non-academic partners in practice; but problems of personal data protection need to be cautiously addressed before this step.


Figure 3. Structure of Knowledge Data Base: A Web Application allows access to Data Base.

Strategic Partnerships between Industry and Academia

Todays challenges are complex in nature. Meaningful solutions can only be found by bringing
all the necessary team players together, i.e. the different disciplines at universities and the partners in industrial enterprises and/or in the public sector. The methodology of trans-disciplinary
co-operation practiced in POLE has the following five core strategic focuses: a) bringing together international academic partners to share their methodological knowledge, b) establishing an
atmosphere of trust between universities and industry, c) bringing a user-orientation to academic projects, d) breaking down disciplinary blinders and reducing prejudices, e) tackling real-world
problems and, thus, making sustainable contributions to todays global challenges. In summary:
to create a new broader minded type of graduates. In addition to this vital contribution to education POLEs methodology has been explicitly appreciated by internationally active partner companies such as Nestl, CEMEX, elica, Volkswagen, Continental and others due to its know-how
in the co-operation of globally distributed partners a field in which the companies often fail.
E.g. CEMEX has initiated virtual sub-companies in their consortium using the team-building
method and co-operation strategies experienced in POLE. The following statement by elicas
product manager, Fabrizio Bigatti, may illustrate this finding: The collaboration between elica
and POLE has been a great and complete success. Not only because during the AIR project
the teams have developed new product concepts and prepared physical as well as functional
prototypes, but also because the students with their working attitude reminded us how important
it is to work and think as a whole team with all heading in the same direction. All of them had the
challenging task in mind and then worked with passion, devotion and determination to achieve
it. Elica is currently working to refine the ideas received during the project to let some of them
become real products. Elica thanks once again POLE teachers and students for their strong
commitment and initiative - underlining, how the collaboration between business companies and
the academic world is essential and crucial for coping with the new challenges and to touching
the future. In short: Trans-disciplinary co-operation combined with design thinking can be a
powerful fuel for innovation.
When asked to summarize the weaknesses and strengths of POLE projects carried out with
culturally distributed and multi-disciplinary teams from an academic point of view, the following
aspects are the prevailing ones: During the thirteen years of its existence, POLE has created a
network of partner universities with a core crew of faculty members who are committed to transdisciplinary design thinking; it is also them who select the most qualified students at the local
campuses. This guarantees a highly motivated group of students to participate. Nevertheless, it
is always an immense challenge to bridge the disciplines by developing a shared vocabulary.
This latter process takes a considerable amount of time and often irritates students (especially


from the engineering disciplines) who wish to start "doing something" rather than taking ambiguity as an opportunity to explore a broader spectrum of options. Another challenge arises when
the team members were taught different methodologies at their home universities to tackle a
problem. The pros and cons have to be discussed and a selection or compromise have to be
found; this process forces the students to clearly formulate and defend "their method" and by
doing so becoming more aware of its relativity and own idiosyncrasies. A further important aspect is the a-synchronous mode of working due to time zone differences. This forces students to
formulate their ideas and contributions in writing rather than discussing them real time with the
other team members. This situation necessitates a much clearer formulation of ones own
thoughts - especially when team colleagues from another discipline must understand the contribution. What might have been self-explanatory in one's own discipline, needs a more detailed
description in a multi-disciplinary context in which the respect for and the integration of the other
profession is a key for success. It is POLE's belief that in particular this aspect - despite of often
being considered an irritation and extra work - reflects the real life co-operation scenarios in
design studios and engineering firms in which the graduates will be employed in the future - or,
as it has been the case, that POLE graduates establish start-up companies across cultural and
disciplinary borders.

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Project-based Design Education, Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design
ICED 2005, Melbourne.
Eris, O. (2006). Insisting on Truth at the Expense of Conceptualization: Can Engineering Portfolios
Help?, International Journal of Engineering Education, Volume 22, No. 3, 551-559.
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Garvey Publishers.
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Frodeman, J. Thompson Klein, and C. Mitcham, Editors, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 15-30.
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Design, D. Clausing and R. Andrade (editors.), Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
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Wood, W. H. (2004). Decision-Based Design: A Vehicle for Curriculum Integration, International Journal
of Engineering Education, Vol. 20, No. 3, 433-439.

Christoph Holliger
Professor of physics with research activities in the medical sciences; has been engaged in educational
research at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland over the past 20 years.
Roberto Iiguez Flores
Director de la Divisin de Arquitectura y Diseo, Tecnolgico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey,
Campus Guadalajara, Mexico.
Juan Claudio Monterrubio Soto
Director de Investigacin y Desarrollo Tecnolgico, Tecnolgico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey,
Campus Guadalajara, Mexico.


Corresponding author:
Dr. Christoph Holliger
Professor of Physics (and by courtesy of the Arts)
University of Applied Sciences and Arts North Western Switzerland
Klosterzelgstrasse 2, CH-5210 Windisch, Switzerland
Phone: 0041 56 202 7335


Investigating the Changing Relation Between Consumer

and Designer in Post-Industrial Design
Guido Hermans, Ume Institute of Design, Ume University
Anna Valtonen, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University

This paper focuses on the post-industrial society and the changing object of design. Postindustrial design will be realized through the digitalization of the physical world and the
advent of digital fabrication tools such as 3D printing that bridge the gap between digital
design and physical goods. In post-industrial design professional designers will be
concerned with designing toolkits and incomplete designs rather than fully determined
products. The consumer will be adapting the incomplete design to his or her needs and
desires in some way or another. This adaptation could be done with minimal involvement
as well as by intensive participation.
The aim of this paper is to investigate the changing relation between consumer and
designer in a post-industrial society by examining the object of design. We exemplify the
new object of design by examining several consumer products that possess some
property of post-industrial design. Based on our research we propose four ways, or tactics,
for designers to deal with heterogeneous consumer needs and preferences, two of which
are unique to post-industrial design. We end this paper by briefly discussing the
implications to design practice and design education.

Post-Industrial Society; Democratization; Design Practice; Object of Design; Prosumer;
3D Printing
The industrial designer was born out of the industrial revolution and the designers aim is
to design products that can be produced in mass and target a mass market. The
interaction designer was born out of the advent of computers and the digitalization of
information and communication. The rise of smart devices and the Internet lead to a new
professional practice focusing on human-computer interaction. Throughout the years
design as a field and professional practice has changed due to technological
advancements, social and environmental changes, and therefore the object of design has
changed. In the 20th century it has evolved from designing mass-produced products, to
product interactions, to product experiences to product service systems.
The post-industrial society (Bell, 1976; Hunt, 2005) will have its affects on the object of
design and what designers design will change compared to what they designed in the
industrial society. Post-industrial design will be realized through the digitalization of the
physical world (Gershenfeld, 2005) and the advent of digital fabrication tools that bridge
the gap between digital design and physical goods. The development of digitalization of
information leads to easy distribution and sharing of information. Products have become
data and are thus as easy to share as a text document. 3D printing is emerging for
producing end-use products through increased performance and accessibility and this
leads to on-demand production of individualized products. Flexible manufacturing
technologies allow distributed manufacturing of products and an increased possibility to
adapt to local needs. Furthermore, new design tools in the form of software enable a
larger audience to engage in digital design.
The aim of this paper is to investigate the changing relation between consumer and
designer in a post-industrial society by examining the object of design. We exemplify the
new object of design and based on our research we propose four ways, or tactics, to


mediate between consumer and designer, two of which are unique to post-industrial
design. These tactics will guide us in discussing the implications to design practice and
design education. In this paper we will use designer to indicate the professional designer
and consumer and layperson to refer to the person who is not trained or experienced as a
designer, but engages in design activities.
This paper is structured as follows; first we will look how the role of the industrial designer
has developed in the industrial society and discuss the characteristics of post-industrial
design. We analyze examples of a new object of design from todays design practice
where the designer has adopted a new role. We present a model that depicts the relation
between consumer and designer in post-industrial design based on designers versus
consumers influence and value to the consumer. We end this paper by discussing the
implications to the role of the professional designer and give an outlook on the future of
design practice as well as design education.

From Industrial to Post-Industrial Design

Industrial Design and the Industrial Society
The object of design has changed over time. The design practice has its roots in crafts,
and in pre-industrial time the same craftsman that produced the object also designed it.
With the arrival of industrialization, design became a necessity as a separate activity in
production once a single craftsman ceased to be responsible for every stage of
manufacture from conception to sale (Forty, 1986, pp.29).
Even within the context of industrial production, the role of the designers has changed
over time. From merely giving a shape to an industrially produced product, industrial
design has broadened to encompass also the entire companies product portfolio, to
thinking about its brand, to design the end-users experience, to design interactions and
services for them, and to manage the entire design process as part of the companies
strategy (Valtonen, 2007).
Industrial design has never been done alone, or merely on the whim of the designer, but
within the industrial context where many other professional practices have participated in
the process. These have included the engineers who have designed the production
process and the tools to produce the products with and the marketing and sales
professionals, just to mention a few. What is common to these is that they are all
professionals within their own field, and collectively work together as specialist on part of
the process.
What is changing now is the role of the people who are not professionals of product
development, but rather laymen, end-users and customers. Historically, the consumer
involvement was limited to their purchasing power; they chose what to buy from the
offering that was given them. The classical example of this approach is Henry Ford, where
Ford allegedly said that the end-users could have the T-Ford in any colour they wanted,
as long as it was black.
Despite this attitude of very limited involvement of the consumer it soon became
commonplace to offer the end-user a set of options that they could choose between. In
the seventies and eighties the use of focus groups, which were end-users who said in
advance what they would prefer, increased heavily. New production technologies also
made it possible to include more variations in the product options and this eventually lead
to mass customization. Mass customization (Davis, 1987; Franke & Piller, 2002; Tseng &
Jiao, 2001) is a strategy that allows consumers to adapt a product to their preferences
with a near-mass production efficiency in manufacturing. A shift has taken place from no
consumer involvement to limited forms of involvement to active participation of the
consumer through co-design approaches.


Post-Industrial Design: From Anticipation to Adaptation

In industrial design the distinction is clear between consumer and designer and well
documented in their respective names, the consumer consumes what the designer has
designed. This distinction gets opaque in post-industrial design where the distinction
between consumer and designer is not obvious. It could be seen as a continuum with
many forms in between, from the passive consumer, to user, to power user, to designer,
to meta-designer (Fischer & Scharff, 2000, p.403). The way society sees consumers, their
passive role, as well as their own mindset has to change in order to go from a
consumptive to a creative role of the consumer (Sanders, 2006). In the industrial age the
way to mediate between consumer and designer is either by using choice or
customization. When using choice the consumer and designer relate to each other in a
way where the designer proposes several options and the consumer either accepts or
rejects these proposed solutions.
Post-industrial design in contrast to industrial design relies on the principle of adaptation
(Hunt, 2005). Adaptation is also a fundamental characteristic of the biological world and
forms the basis for natural selection of species. The ability to adapt to a changing
environment is crucial for any organism to survive. In the man-made world, on the other
hand, prediction and planning are valued and used to exert control. Adaptation in postindustrial design is used in this paper as in adaptation to local needs and individual
preferences and consequently adaptation of the production volume and point of time of
production. Different scholars have acknowledged adaptation as an important aspect of
design. Fisher and Scharff talk about adaptation during design and use time (Fischer &
Scharff, 2000). Adaptation during design time can be interpreted as the layperson
designing his or her part of the design before manufacturing or assembly, for example by
using modules that can be combined to form a product. The use of a product is difficult to
predict if not impossible and therefore Moran argues that designs should be able to be
adapted during use time (Moran, 2002). Moran refers to interactive software systems, but
a similar case can be made for physical products that should be adapted by its users for
their individual use. Wakkary and Maestri argue that adaptation is something that happens
all the time in the real world where people adapt products to their needs and activities.
This form of design also referred to as everyday design (Wakkary & Maestri, 2008), states
that use should not be meticulously defined in advance, but people should be able to
appropriate it (ibid).
Adaptation can be poured into different conceptual moulds. Fisher and Scharff use the
notion of meta-design, which enables consumers to engage in the design of new media in
a way that is meaningful to them. Meta-design is defined as empowering humans (albeit
not all of them, not at all times, not in all contexts) to be and act as designers (Fischer &
Scharff, 2000, p.403). They argue that problems cannot be fully solved at design time, but
that they best can be solved during use time when the users know the context (Fischer &
Scharff, 2000, p.398). Garud et. al. argue in a similar way, stating that there is no longer a
clear boundary between what is being designed and for what context it is designed since
there is continual change (Garud, Jain, & Tuertscher, 2008). They introduce a pragmatic
design approach, which is based on continually evolving and essentially incomplete (ibid,
p.367). In new media, the content created by the user in a system that allows them to do
is also referred to as user-generated content (Cruickshank & Evans, 2008). Von Hippel
uses the notion of toolkits for user innovation to depict the unfinished design (Von Hippel,
2001). A toolkit should enable laymen to complete a design developed by a professional
Post-industrial design is characterized by adaptability; therefore we will examine examples
of adaptability from todays design practice to gain a better understanding of this newly
acquired concept.


Examining the New Object of Design

By examining the object of design, we will learn about the relation between consumer and
designer. In the analysis we will describe examples from design practice, the
manufacturing techniques used and discuss the interplay between layperson and designer.

Adaptability, Code and Digital Fabrication

To discuss the new object of design we examine four examples from design practice that
exemplifies post-industrial design. The object of design is intentionally incomplete and
typically includes adaptability, the use of code as design material and the use of digital
fabrication technologies (Hunt, 2005). Adaptability is the main characteristic of postindustrial design and concerns designs that are adaptable to a specific context, a users
individual need or preference. Context-dependency is a concept used in architecture
(Kalay, 1999), but seldom applied in product design. Typically, massproduced products
are designed for a particular use situation but these situations are generalized. In postindustrial design, the individual consumer could adapt a design to their personal situation.
Code can be seen as a material to design with and with the advent of digital fabrication
technologies this can also be done for the physical world. Objects can be designed by
computation and the use of algorithms rather than being represented digitally by using
computer-aided design software. Digital fabrication technologies such as laser cutting,
CNC milling and 3D printing, are flexible manufacturing technologies that use a digital file
as input. The main advantage is that they can produce on-demand and that each design
can be different from the previous one.

Examples of the New Object of Design in Design Practice

We selected four examples of consumer products (Figure 1) that possess some property
of post-industrial design. Even though these might not be perfect examples of what the
object of design ought to be; they point in the direction and guide us in formulating and
discussing the new object of design.
The Breeding Tables1 is a design of a table which has a set of legs generated by an
algorithm. The designers have developed an algorithm and thereby constrained the
possible outcomes. Within these set boundaries the system can generate many instances
and produce aesthetic variation. Computation is used as a means to generate variety on a
specified theme. The tables are produced by cutting sheet metal into the desired form.
There is no interplay between consumer and designer, but the consumer can choose from
a large variety of table designs that differ aesthetically from each other.
Suuz2 is a company that offers made-to-order personalized jewellery. The website allows
consumers to customize jewellery through an easy to use interface and it offers a range of
template designs and materials. The designs are produced by 3D printing and the
production of the jewellery is completely postponed till after consumer involvement. The
designer determines the function and aesthetics and leaves room for the consumer to
make the piece of jewellery personal by allowing one to add text.
SketchChair allows consumers to design their own piece of furniture (Saul, Lau, Mitani, &
Igarashi, 2011). The software allows one to draw a two dimensional shape of a chair and
the systems generates a 3D structure that is producible on a laser cutter. There is a clear
division of tasks between user and system in order to support laymen to be able to use it.
This division enables the user to be part of the design, although limited, but at the same
time, the designers intent it maintained and present in each design. The designs can be
produced on a laser cutter from sheet material and it has to be assembled afterwards.
The Lampadina Mutanta lampshade from the Future Factories project (Dean & Atkinson,
2003) consists of a bulb shape on which tentacles are placed. The size, number and
1 Breeding Tables by Kram/Weisshaar,
2 Suuz,


positioning of these tentacles randomly vary and therefore the final shape emerges from
the computer-generated process. This process is developed by the professional designer
and to an extent controlled by the designer without any consumer involvement. These
lampshades are then produced by 3D printing.
Each example that we have discussed exemplifies post-industrial design in some way or
another. The images of the designs (1a, 2, 3 and 4) only depict one instance of the design,
but as one can see in Figure 1b there are many instances. This pluralism is characteristic
of post-industrial design and therefore depicting a post-industrial design in a single image
is not representative of the many possibilities it consists of.

Figure 1 Breeding Table no.68 (1a) and multiple instances (1b), Suuz 3D printed ring (2),
SketchChair (3) and Lampadina Mutanta lamp (4)

Consumer-Design Relation in Post-Industrial Design

The analysis of design projects leads us to propose and specify several relations between
the consumer and the professional designer. We introduce the notion of tactics, and
propose four tactics and discuss each of them relating to the analysis of design projects
as well as the literature study. Hereafter, we present a model that positions the different
tactics in relation to the influence of the designer and the consumer on a design.

Defining Tactics
Tactics is used in this paper as ways for designers to deal with heterogeneous consumer
needs and preferences. The consumer is involved, from committing to a choice to active
participation, and tactics deal with the tension between consumer and designer. The
relationship between the consumer and designer is a service relationship; typically the
designer is in service by developing meaningful products for the consumer whereas the
consumer is being served (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012, p.41). The products that are
developed are meaningful to the consumer and they have value, therefore they are willing
to purchase and use them. In post-industrial design, the consumer is no longer just being
served, but acts as an active participant in the design process. From our research, we see
that the role of the consumer can be fulfilled in different ways and therefore we propose
four tactics, namely choice, customization, appropriation and emergence.


Tactic Choice
Choice is the tactic that forms the basis of industrial design and mass consumption and it
appeals to the consumer by providing alternatives. The designer aims to satisfy a variety
of consumers and therefore a variety of consumer needs and preferences while
maintaining full control over the designed objects. In the industrial society a consumer has
the choice between a black, white or blue toaster. Each design has been fully defined and
even produced and the consumer can simply accept or reject the solutions. A certain
amount of choice is meaningful to the consumer; one can choose a more preferred
solution over a less preferred solution, for instance in terms of aesthetics or functionality.
Too little choice might not be satisfactory to a group of consumers while offering too much
choice could have a range of negative effects such as postponing purchasing decisions
and confusion (Schwartz, 2004).
In post-industrial design the tactic choice is still a viable way to satisfy the consumer as
can be seen from the example of the Breeding Tables. The uniqueness of the tables is
however created in a different way than would be done in industrial design. There is
certain randomness in the designs and the use of an algorithm allows the designer to
generate many instances within the same design family. The designer is able to create
many instances so that each single consumer can have a different table in terms of
aesthetics. An advantage for the manufacturer is that the tables can be produced ondemand, which means that they can be produced according to real markets needs rather
than based on anticipated sales. The tactic choice puts the designer in the driving seat
and the consumer is the passive receiver of a design. This relation works to a certain
extent and especially for certain product categories such as standardized components.
However, when we look at more personal and expressive products the higher involvement
of the consumer might be beneficial for consumer, designer and manufacturer.

Tactic Customization
Customization is concerned with differentiating a product from a generic group of products
(Tsigkas & Papantoniou, 2009). This tactic requires an increasing involvement of the
consumer and allows the consumer to alter proposed solutions to fit his or her preferences.
The designer retains most of the control over the solution and the possibility for
customization, however, the consumer becomes involved and thereby creating something
more valuable to them. The tactic customization creates value in the industrial society
since differentiation is difficult to establish in the industrial manufacturing system. Apart
from hand-made luxury products, the automotive industry where a consumer can choose
engine type, colour, fabric colour and pattern and so on is a example of customization on
a large scale. Customization is deterministic and often deals with the configuration of
prefabricated modules or the arrangement of predetermined options.
Post-industrial design makes customization almost effortless to realize due to the use of
digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing. Companies that offer custom 3D
printed products such as jewellery are widely available by now. Customization invites the
consumer into the design process and gives room for the consumer to express, often
aesthetic, preferences. Customization is based on the idea that a unique product is more
valuable to a consumer than a standardized product. Industrial manufacturing systems are
designed to deliver high volumes of the same products while digital fabrication
technologies enable one-off production and this could make customization a commodity.

Tactic Appropriation
The tactic appropriation is concerned with contextualizing a design to a particular context,
user situation or desire. The involvement of the consumer is more substantial compared to
customization and the outcome is less determined on forehand by a designer. The
concept of appropriation has been used in architecture where the designer appropriates a
building to a specific site with contextual needs and demands. The context informs the


function as well as the form of a design (Kalay, 1999). An example of appropriation in

architecture is the Endesa solar pavilion (Figure 2), which has been designed for a
specific location and the faade with solar panels has been optimized towards the path of
the sun for that specific geographical location. (IaaC & Rodrigo Rubio Architect, 2012). In
this way, the faade catches the most sun throughout the year while at the same time
satisfying the criteria of minimal direct sunlight inside the pavilion and a certain amount of
window area.
In post-industrial product design appropriation would be concerned with owning the
design that one creates and is characterized by increasing participation of the consumer
and decreasing the influence of the designer. A product should be designed for a
particular context and each individual consumer has his or her context and usage of a
product, which cannot be determined completely by a designer in advance. In this way,
the design is personified rather than configured from pre-determined modules (Tsigkas &
Papantoniou, 2009). The SketchChair toolkit hints towards appropriation since it enables
the user to appropriate the function of the furniture. One could for instance design a
regular chair, a rocking chair or a stool depending on how one would use it in a certain
situation. The tactic appropriation is a new way to think about the relation between
consumer and designer in post-industrial design. It opens up for new possibilities where
products not only become differentiated from the homogenous group, but where they
become contextualized and individual to a particular consumer.

Figure 2 Endesa solar pavilion (IaaC, Barcelona, Spain, 2011)

Tactic Emergence
The tactic emergence can be seen as an explorative process that has a direction, but not
a determined end point. A designer would define a set of rules or conditions and the
design becomes known3 from the context. The consumer could be involved and steer
the emergence in one way or another. Emergence is present in the natural world where
organisms grow, evolve and adapt over time to a particular environment. In the man-made
world, algorithms can have emergent qualities where they describe a set of rules and the
process of applying these rules will lead to an outcome. A example of emergence is the
use of databases in web design where information can be retrieved for each visitor
thereby creating a unique experience depending on ones input or situation.
Emergence can also be found in the analogue world and it could be seen as form finding
rather than form giving. Form finding is not an entirely new concept; the craftsperson was
already concerned with finding the form within a material. The structure of natural
materials, such as wood, dictate to an extent what a craftsperson makes from it. In the
post-industrial society the focus shifts from the designer as form giver to the designer
enabling form finding. The form emerges rather than being given in advance. In the post3 Merriam-Webster dictionary,


industrial process, the form emerges like it does when a craftsperson is working, however,
the difference is in the way it is achieved. Post-industrial design finds form through
computation and code whereas the craftsperson works by hand. The post-industrial
designer does not define a final shape of a product, but one formulates rules that generate
a final shape. This process can take place with or without consumer involvement.
The project Future Factories could have emergent qualities when the Lampadina Mutanta
(Figure 1-4) would focus on adapting the tentacles to the usage, environment or another
external influence. In this way, a lampshade could be generated that fits a consumers
context, preferences and usage in a way that is both surprising as well as appropriate,
without a designer determining it completely in advance. The tactic emergence inclines
towards a more natural rather than mechanical way of designing objects. It opens up to
notions of ambiguity such as randomness and mutation compared to strict control of the
whole object by the designer.

Designers versus Consumers Influence

In Figure 3 we present a model that positions the four tactics in a diagram with the tension
between consumer and designer on the horizontal axis and the value of a design to the
consumer on the vertical axis. The tension between consumer and designer when working
together on a design consists of the influence of the professional designer on a design
versus the influence of the consumer.
The designer has a design intent and authority, which is created by expertise, knowledge
and experience in developing products. By empowering the consumer, the designer faces
a decreasing design intent compared to the way it used to be in industrial design. This
means the designer will be less concerned with defining the details of a particular design
and more concerned with developing rules that are able to generate many design
instances. The other side of the tension is the consumer who has to commit, spent time
and effort when being part of the design process. The increasing influence a consumer
can have on the design of products requires skill and competence. The value of a product
to the consumer is established through empowerment and it includes not only economic
value -willingness to pay-, but also emotional value when the consumer bonds with the
object due to their involvement.
This model is based on the assumption that the value of a design to a consumer will
increase when a design is less determined by a designer in advance. It does not assume
however, that more consumer participation will necessarily lead to a higher value.
Furthermore, the tactics appropriation and emergence are positioned in the schema next
to each other because it is not entirely clear at this point how much commitment they
require from the consumer and how much value they create to the consumer. This
schema brings forth the issue of co-existence of tactics, which means that a consumer
can engage with more than one tactic. For example, one can appropriate a bicycle to
ones usage and preferences and choose a toaster from a standard selection of toasters.
A consumer can engage in different ways in designing the physical world for different
products depending on what products are important to the consumer.
In post-industrial design appropriation and emergence are two new ways to see the
relation between the consumer and designer. Furthermore, choice and customization are
tactics that were also identified based on the research presented in this paper, but they as
such are not new.


Figure 3 Tactics mediating consumer and designer in post-industrial design

Discussion and Implications

In this paper we have analyzed the object of design in post-industrial design based on
adaptability, the use of computation and digital fabrication. By analyzing examples of the
new object of design we were informed about the relation between consumer and
designer. We introduced the notion of tactic to describe different ways in which designers
can deal with a large variety of consumer needs and preferences. We identified four
tactics, two of which -appropriation and emergence- are new to design.
In post-industrial design professional designers will be concerned with designing toolkits
and incomplete designs rather than fully determined products. The layperson will be
adapting the incomplete design to his or her needs in some way or another. This could be
done with minimal involvement by using the tactic choice as well as by intensive
participation. Post-industrial design is from the designers perspective concerned with
indeterminacy whereas from the consumers point of view it brings freedom and requires
Appropriation and emergence are post-industrial tactics whereas choice and
customization are also present in todays industrial society. The tactic choice and
customization might be understood and applied in a different way in a post-industrial
setting, but the dynamics in the relation are still the same. In the example of Breeding
Tables the consumer is able to choose form many different table designs, that are
computer-generated variations on a theme, but their basic interaction with the designs is
still to choose from a set of determined options. Appropriation and emergence on the
other hand bring in a new dynamic in the relation between consumer and designer and it
also leads to a certain ambiguity. The four tactics that we identified based on our research
might not be the only ways to mediate the relation between consumer and designer in
post-industrial design.
Where customization is typically associated with aesthetic choices and even styling, the
intention is that through appropriation and emergence a higher level of adaptation is
reached, a form of adaptation that goes beyond merely aesthetics. This creates true value
to consumers when being an active participant in the design of everyday products.
Previously we have taught our designers that they are in charge of the full product
creation process, or product experience, ranging from the initial understanding of the enduser needs to the finalized product. Now this full control is disappearing, and the skills
needed from designers are changing. Designers and their work now need to mediate with
the consumers in a meaningful way. Designers also need skills to create toolkits and


decision-making material for the consumers that will ensure that the consumers can feel a
higher level of participation but still create products of professional quality. This is a big
change from the current designer-centric thinking, and one that will require immense
changes for how we educate designers for the future. Are we ready for it?

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Guido Hermans
Guido Hermans is a PhD student in industrial design at Ume Institute of Design and he
has a background in industrial design from Delft University of Technology. His research
focuses on 3D printing, mass customization and the implications on the role of the
professional designer. It investigates how involving the layman in the design of everyday
products will change the role of the designer and in his research he aims to develop new
methods and tools for designers to be able to design for adaptability. Areas that are of
interest are computational design, toolkits, democratization of technology and 3D printing.

Anna Valtonen
Professor Anna Valtonen in currently Dean of Aalto University School of Arts, Design and
Architecture in Finland. Her research interests are in design & society, its history and
future, and on the role of designers within. Previously Valtonen has been the Rector of
Ume Institute of Design (UID), Ume University, in Sweden. She has also worked
extensively within industry, and holds many positions of trust within universities,
organizations and corporations.


Co-created Facilitation and Perspective Plurality to

Foster Mutual Understandings of Risk
Robb Mitchell, University of Southern Denmark

This paper identifies a key mechanism and its constituent qualities, for facilitating mutual
understandings of risk. The focus of participatory workshops has expanded towards
addressing broader questions of strategy, business models and other organizational and
inter-organisational issues. To develop effective partnerships across the boundaries
separating companies, it is necessary for those involved to gain mutual understandings
despite the challenging paradoxical, abstract and sensitive aspects of discussing risks.
A richer understanding of design facilitation practice is offered through drawing together
the following experimentation with industrialists in innovation workshops and interactive
interventions in artistic cultural venues: 1) a large revolving door sculpture Blender. 2) a
series of interventions utilising audiovisual transmissions to enable one person to act as a
proxy for absent others, 4) a table top tool kits for discussing business relationship issues
and 5) a number of bespoke interactive sculpture-like artifacts for provoking insights
concerning business dilemmas.
Analysis of the cases reveals an underlying theme of breakdowns or ruptures as central to
facilitating mutual understandings of risk. Such breakdowns are shown to be made of, and
valuable due to two main qualities: co-created facilitation and perspective plurality.

Risk; Facilitation; Participatory Design; Participatory Innovation

Challenges of understanding risk

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are
known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns there are things we do not know we dont
know. (Rumsfeld, 2002)
The former US Defense Secretary's memorable epistemological taxonomy was postulated
to herald unspecifiable violent threats. However, it also captures aspects of the challenge
facing Participatory Design (PD) facilitators as their practice expands to include wider
topics of innovation in broader organisational and inter-organisational contexts. Although
typically less deadly in outcome than the dilemmas apparently faced by Rumsfelds
administration, the prospect of risk, i.e. "situations in which it is possible but not certain
that some undesirable situation will occur" (Hansson, 1996:1) is an important, but difficult
issue for innovators to address. To do something different or new is to risk failure; to stand
still in a fast changing world carries risks of its own. Risks for innovation are increasing
due to globalisation, and the fast pace of technological change in an increasingly


interconnected world. Collaboration can offer a route to reduce uncertainties, but requires
a mutual understanding of risk as perceived by all parties involved. Risk, though, is
difficult to discuss owing to its paradoxical, abstract and fluid nature and the potential
vulnerability both commercial and personal involved in disclosing stances towards
These uncertainties concerning undesirables are difficult to address and discuss precisely
for the same reason that Rumsfeld's formulation was lampooned - they concern a
paradoxical need to know about not knowing what is not known: When there is a risk,
there must be something that is unknown or has an unknown outcome. Therefore,
knowledge about risk is knowledge about lack of knowledge. (Hannson 2012).

Everyday meaning of risk

Despite these complications, risk has been hailed by some as vital to the advancement of
civilisation. Bernstein argues that instruments such as statistical sampling enabled the
development of institutions and policies that in turn enabled people to improve in an often
hostile and chaotic world (1996). Today, in industries such as engineering, insurance, and
food safety, where risk is typically assigned a numerical value, risks quality of a
knowledge lack is not so apparent formulating a mathematical probability for an
undesirable outcome does provide at least an approximate knowledge of what is likely to
happen over time.
However, the concern here is with the less technical meanings of the word risk.
Developing new products or services brings something new to the world that has possible
outcomes far from those reducible to a technical expression of probability that is
meaningful for those involved. Moreover, the human agency involved is in line with
Hanssons emphasis upon particularly important aspects of situations of risk, being that
we do not know how future developments will be affected by the choice that we make
amongst the options that are available to us. (ibid: 2)

Risk and design

A common characterisation of design is the art of making choices (Spolsky, 2001:19),
based upon incomplete information. Design, as Frens & Hengeveld put it, operates in a
continuous tension field between the necessity to make design decisions to progress and
the inherent lack of information to do so. (2013:2) Given this, surprisingly little
connections have been made between the field of design and the literature on risk. Such a
lack of potentially fruitful overlap was identified by Robert Jerrard (Jerrard et al. 2008). In
their study of just five small, UK-based creative companies, 70 (seventy) specific risks
associated with developing new products were reported by interviewees. There were only
four specific risks relating directly to design. Furthermore, most of the specific risks
reported were common to less than two of the surveyed companies. Such diversity of
risks reported from the small sample size suggests that even employees from relatively
similar companies view risks rather differently. As we shall see, recent developments
arising from the field of Participatory Design provide additional impetus for further
exploring the relationship between design and the paradoxical topic of risk.


Paradoxical and abstract challenges for Participatory Design

Participatory Design's emphasis on mutual learning between users and designers (Bdker
& Grnbk, 1991; Bguin, 2003) points to how one strength of the approach has been in
enabling exchanges of knowledge both explicit and tacit, in terms of bodily skills . By
contrast, an expansion of Participatory Design (PD) facilitators' practice into the arena of
fostering business innovation is much less straightforward, epistemologically
speaking. Exploring risks for innovation appears rather removed from the much less
abstract, more embodied and situated challenges that PD has developed a great range of
tools and techniques to address. A recent landmark textbook for PD even positions the
approach as avoiding formal models and abstract representations" (Simonsen and
Robertson, 2012:13) - so embracing paradoxes seems yet further removed.
PD has, however, previously faced challenges concerned with making representations of
the abstract and arcane. In some respects, this was a major driver of the field from the
mid 1970s. The difference between the visible manifestation of an innovation and its near
inevitable risks, can be likened to the challenge that the malleability of computer code
posed to involving non-computing experts in development of information technologies. As
Bratteteig et al. put it: "The program does not resemble the final product that users will
experience." (2012:118) This challenge was a major impetus behind developing
techniques such as mock-ups (Simonsen and Robertson, 2012:6) and participatory
prototyping (Bowers and Pycock, 1994). Enabling workers to handle and discuss low-fi
physical models, such as a simple cardboard box approximation of a computer, provided
a means for workers with little computing expertise to contribute rich insights towards
product development processes, and also for the workers to learn more about potential
capabilities of information technology (Ehn and Kyng, 1991).

Participatory Innovation
Building upon the field of Participatory Design, one approach to innovation that appears to
requiree particular attention to risk is that of Participatory Innovation (Buur & Matthews,
2008). As a research field, Participatory Innovation (PI) strives to bring together a marketorientated combination of Design Anthropology and Participatory Design (ibid). However,
as an innovation practice, the most salient aspect of PI is the staging of multi-stakeholder
workshops that bring representatives of more than one organisation, and usually different
departments and disciplines from larger organisations, together with customers, users and
other interested parties (Buur and Larsen, 2010). Even PI projects with a strongly
ethnographic component can be seen as gathering material for some form of multistakeholder project workshop (Jaffari, 2012; Boer, 2012). The etymology of stakeholder one with a stake marks vividly how all such participants in a PI project can be seen as
being defined by what they have to gain or lose through their involvement. One could get
carried away and also point to how a constellation of people holding sharp pointy stakes
are all armed, thus given the capability of harming one or more fellow participants or
possibly even themselves. Loading such colourful meanings onto and through objects is
an important quality that Participatory Innovation has drawn from Participatory Design's
use of props and other "things to think" with (Brandt & Grunnet, 2000). However, PI can
be characterised as being distinct from PD through its implicit emphasis on the risks of
innovation, as opposed to the rewards. Facilitating users in design development can be


extremely rewarding in terms of generating proposals for improvements to products,

services or other aspects of people's lives. The broader approach of PI however also
considers how the fruits of such creative collaboration can or should be implemented and
thus has to consider the wider organisational and business landscape, which brings many
more potentially undesirable uncertainties.
As risk is a fundamental challenge facing, or even and especially as some might say
driving innovation, it is important that rich mutual understandings of risks can be
achieved. Even if the emphasis within PI upon multi-stakeholder collaboration can be
seen, partially, as an attempt to spread or reduce the risks of innovation, it is necessary
for participants to be able to articulate, compare, query and even sense their own and
each others perceptions of risk, or in other words, there is a need to "know thy enemy".
The common enemy amongst different participating stakeholders can be seen by them as
uncertainty concerning undesirable outcomes, but specific perceptions concerning their
likelihood and severity are likely to vary greatly from participant to participant, and both
between and within different forms of collaboration and project direction.
Participatory Innovation requires the coming together of diverse perspectives on risk from
both experts and non-experts from different organisations and backgrounds. This
challenge can also be seen as akin to the difficulties of building shared interdisciplinary
and interorganisational understandings identified much earlier by Lanzara: "Much work of
the designer is [...] concerned with [...] defining collectively what is the relevant problem,
how to see it." (Lanzara, 1983) . Participatory Innovation, by involving more diverse
stakeholders, increases the likelihood and occurrence of different "frames" concerning

Acknowledging risk is admitting vulnerability

Risk has been under addressed by facilitators, perhaps partly because discussion of
undesirable uncertainties in professional contexts can bring both individual and
organisational vulnerability. Shining a direct spotlight upon what participating
professionals are uncertain about can undermine their self-worth and projections of
professionalism that they wish to convey to others. Managers and other professionals are
loath to admit their levels of ignorance (May, 1998). Sharing a perspective on risk is a
form of knowledge sharing, albeit of knowledge about a lack of knowledge. How to
increase knowledge sharing is the subject of much attention in management (Wang and
Noe, 2010). In an eponymous paper, Riegge (2005) lists Three-dozen knowledge-sharing
barriers to address. Although his concern is with knowledge sharing within organisations,
nearly all the barriers identified at the individual level are likely to apply to discussing risks
- particularly a concern for jeopardising personal standings and a fear that others may
misuse knowledge. (Riege, 2005:23)
At an organisational level, sharing detailed perceptions concerning undesirable outcomes
can be considered commercially sensitive knowledge (although this is more relevant to
some stakeholders than others). Therefore, there is a need to develop the means to
discuss risks less directly, in forms which encourage people to open up to others


concerning mutual perceptions of risk without self disclosure of precise financial


Dynamics of risk
A further difficulty in facilitating mutual understanding of risk is its fluid, ever-changing
nature. Perspectives of risk vary from moment to moment in a single participant, as both
they and the world change. A collaborative endeavor is particularly dynamic in this regard,
especially if one accepts the proposition that it is less accurate to use the noun form in
discussing organisational relationships. According to Stacey's theory of complex process
of relating, all professional relationships are fluid in nature - it is through unfolding
collaborative processes of relating that they are formed and maintained (2001). Innovation
projects involving multiple stakeholders require, and often initiate, such fluidity. This is not
only amongst participants meeting face-to-face in a workshop but also a vast web of
dynamic relations with and among colleagues and other stakeholders, and possibly even
competitors that are not present.

Trust and Risk

The dynamics of risk are made harder to untangle by its symbiotic relationship with trust.
Trust can be characterised as "a risky reliance on another person" (Nickel 2006) and
mutual trust is very much seen as essential quality for PD encounters (Robertson and
Wagner 2012) whereas risk is generally not. Boholm and Corvellec argue that people use
both risk and trust as strategies to cope with worries brought by an unpredictable world as
both offer means of "managing the uncertainty of the future" (2011). Risk brings a need for
trust - this is as true for Participatory Innovation as it is for personal relationships.

Social interventions and innovation workshop materials

Figure 1. Blender in action a giant revolving door intended as a social catalyst.

Responses to Blender a large, revolving door-like artifact which appeared to increase
the physical instability and social fluidity of the cultural venue in which it was installed


(figure 1) are described in (Mitchell 2009). The emergent properties of this interactive
installation fostered situations of interdependency and indeterminacy amongst participants,
many of whom chose to take physical risks for themselves and impose risks upon other
participants through boisterous behaviour. This hazardous exuberance was but one
example of how participants appropriated the contraption for playful and communicative
purposes unforeseen by the author.
In (Mitchell, et al 2011) we present how a situation of high interdependency was
engendered by deploying audiovisual transmission equipment to allow a human proxy or
cyranoid to relay the words of an absent controller (figure 2).
In (Heinemann et. al 2009) we describe a technique of using a bricolage toolkit to enable
workshop participants to make a static three-dimensional map of relationships in an
abstract business landscape or value network. (Allee 2000). From a provided collection
of diverse objects, participants choose various items as nodes and connectors to
represent inter and intra organisational relationships. Analysis shows how physical
objects come to be assigned with more abstract labels through processes of proposing,
negotiating and eventually agreeing or disagreeing on a representation. Paradoxically, the
moments when participants most risk misunderstanding or even causing offence are
found to result in more detailed explications, and richer exchanges of perspectives.
Further analysis in (Buur et. al 2013) demonstrates how the success of this toolkit is
based on how it encourages participants to explore and exchange perspectives
concerning business concepts, by providing a common helicopter view to participants.

Figure 2: Signals are transmitted by the cameras and microphones on the hat of the cyranoid (left
centre) to allow participants in a remote control room to participate in social occasions via this

In contrast, the different positions in space taken up by participants in an embodied

business landscape mapping activity leads to experimentation with different roles of, and
relations, between stakeholders (figure 4). This facilitates new mutual understandings
with participants having literally different physical viewpoints on representations of
business landscape (Buur et al. 2013)


Figure 3: Industrials share a joke whilst making a tangible map of organisational relations.

Figure 4: Workshop participants act out spatial relations of the different actors in and
around an online booking system
In (Mitchell et al. 2013) we argue that unpredictable physical materials are particularly
suitable for fostering a hard to grasp, abstract aspect of innovation related risks - the
if/then causalities of business. Surprise and uncertainty evoked by the use of what we
term kinetic materials in workshops are shown to facilitate fresh exchanges of
perspectives which appear particularly suitable in relation to the fluid and unstable nature
of business collaborations. The most influential example of a kinetic tool kit is our pinball
ramp which provokes discussion of how different actions may influence customers'
choices (figure 5). Marbles rolling down a ramp represents customers. They ricochet off
adjustable obstacles on their route towards different receptacles representing e.g.


customers that buy and customers that don't. The set allows participants to quickly
evaluate different strategies and it sparks animated discussions, thanks to the partly
unpredictable behavior of the rolling marbles (Mitchell & Buur 2010).

Figure 5. Pinball business an example of an unpredictable workshop material

Welcoming Breakdowns
Based upon a cross comparison of the workshop cases with the social contraptions, we
show below that various forms of breakdown are central to facilitating shared
understandings of risk. The underlying influence of breakdown or ruptures in the
alignment between participants found in the empirical material is in line with many other
design research approaches. However, this paper identifies a particularly valuable set of
qualities, namely: active breakdowns, co-created experiences and plurality of perspectives.
These qualities are valuable both as possible tactics for provoking breakdowns, but they
also each bring other benefits for facilitating shared understandings of risk.

Breakdowns in Alignment
From one perspective, the examined activities can all be seen as concerned with
attempting to create alignment between participants, whether this be synchronising their
movements in space as with the physical Blender, synchronising conversational channels,
as with the cyranoids or aligning understandings of innovation landscapes and business


dilemmas in the workshop activities. However, closer inspection reveals that breakdowns
in alignment create fertile conditions for shared sense-making and co-creation concerning
These ruptures occur in a wide variety of forms and degrees of severity, The most explicit
examples being with the kinetic materials since we argue that Oops! moments lead to
new concepts and stronger shared experiences. In the table top mapping innovation
workshops analysis, we showed disalignment leads to richer discussions: participants only
take the time to explicate to each other what a particular object might communicate in
situations when there is disagreement.
The embodied staging of business landscapes show how a breaking of workshop
participant togetherness through becoming physically isolated within an activity provokes
reconsideration of a business direction. Deploying Cyranoids was seen to create a
breakdown in how people consider human agency and identity: the thoughts of one
person being uttered by another played with the separation of people, minds and bodies.
This quality can be seen as particularly apt for provoking exchange concerning risks,
because a wish to avoid breakdowns or disruptions of various kinds can be seen as an
aspect of many risk-related decisions in the world of design and business. Breakdowns
are central for facilitating shared understandings of risk because they cause a shift in
participants' attention away from the known and towards the uncertain. The common
experience of uncertainty serves to legitimise risk as a topic given that it provokes or
highlights aspects of risk that are present in the facilitation situation itself.

Reflection via breakdowns in design

Highlighting the pertinence of breakdowns is not novel in itself, but adds to the domain of
risk, offering confirmation of the value of breakdown situations that have been hailed by a
number of design related researchers as a means for provoking reflection and discussion.
For example, Bdker points out how users encountering difficulties with an unfamiliar
product can lead to the conceptualisation of unconscious task performance details that
may otherwise be inaccessible to both user and observer (Bdker, 1991: 27). In her
landmark work on situated action, Suchman also argues that breakdowns have value in
revealing important aspects of situations that otherwise "often are not articulated, but are
discoverable only in the breach" (Suchman, 1987: 163). This is echoed by how, in a more
digital age, the reach of software has stretched so that it is often only noticeable when it
functions badly (Kitchin 2011).
Important to many Critical Design approaches is creating a rupture of expectations a
breakdown of normal patterns of how a product or system is considered (Dunne & Raby,
2001; Boer, 2012). Examining aesthetics at the larger scale of a city, Kaminska provides a
novel viewpoint whereby the places that are typically celebrated in urban environments
should be considered as breakdowns in the continuity of the cityscapes: "consider
monuments, public squares, or other architectural landmarks as abnormalities, gaps and
ruptures of coherence (and therefore discontinuities)" (2008:178).


The Oops! moments ruptures in our kinetic material workshops have become, in a sense,
monumentalised (to a very modest degree) by that paper's highlighting them as the standout, brief seconds of many activities. The social catalyst effects of the Blender can also
be considered as abnormalities and ruptures of typical gallery behaviour; in other words, a
breakdown of the individual inclinations and social norms that inhibit social interaction.

Breakdowns of and into cooperative actions

How the workshop and contraptions differ from all the examples in the literature is in how
they draw particular value from being disruptions of what may broadly be considered
collaborative behaviours, rather than individual perceptions and conceptions. Thus their
beneficial effects go beyond the revelations of Suchman, the conceptualisations of Bdker,
the urban aesthetics of Kaminska and the debates claimed to be provoked by much
Critical Design. The social contraptions in particular clearly spur the effects of the
breakdown beyond reflection and into action. For example, art gallery visitors
encountering the Blender often had their intended movements disrupted by other gallery
goers who wished to push the revolving door-like artifact in a contrary direction. Such
breakdowns typically resulted in some very rapid co-operative behaviour. This shows that
facilitating shared understandings of risk can draw upon not only verbal interactions, but
full-bodied joint actions.

Co-created Facilitation
Another promising quality for facilitating shared understandings of risk is how breakdowns
in the presented papers often occur in what can be described as participant co-created
situations. The less control a facilitator exerts (if indeed there is a human facilitator)
appears to alter the character of breakdowns so that they are more unexpected.
Although not seen as creative output in the traditional sense, the Blender revolving (or not)
as the result of participant actions means the movement of the sculpture can be seen as
co-created in that it emerges from the actions and/or active passivity of multiple
participants. The utterances of the Cyranoids are a provoking form of co-constructed
dialogue, involving the unusual combination of one persons' words with prosody, body
language and other nonverbal communication of their proxy. Given the attention that an
obvious Cyranoid attracts in a group situation, one could argue that, in providing a focal
point, a Cyranoid is almost akin to being a co-created facilitator. Our analysis of workshop
tangible mapping activities showed how workshop participants progressively co-construct
their shared representations of current and possible business landscapes. This is in
contrast to more kinetic material where the insightful improvised responses to the
unplanned breakdowns of a shared collaborative creative activity are largely the result of
an individual participant's wit.
An element of co-creation of the situation is also beneficial, for it distributes responsibility
for facilitating the sensitive topic. Here, we view responsibility not so much in the sense
of blame avoidance, even though this is an aspect of risk management strategies worthy
of special attention in facilitation rather, responsibility is viewed in the sense of
harnessing the attention of participants themselves to their fellow participants' sensitivities
and vulnerabilities concerning risks.


Within Design Research, one of the most influential proponents of co-creation is Liz
Sanders. She argues how using tangible design materials helps understanding users
since these materials allow exploring what participants do, say, and make (2002).
Comparing the artistic contraptions with the innovation workshop analysis allows for
proposing an extension to Sanders model. Namely that for facilitating shared
understandings of risk, it is valuable to see what participants make for each other and do
to each other.
The great utility this has for facilitating shared understandings of risk can be explained
through reference to Boholm and Corvellec's 'relational theory of risk' (2011). They argue
that risk should be considered as being comprised of three elements: 1) an object 'at risk'
(by object they mean in the most general sense - material or immaterial, cultural or
behavioural, someone or something) ; 2) a 'risk object' (again in the most general sense of
object) that poses a possible harm and; 3) a perceived linkage between these elements.
Risks then can be considered relationally as:"linking two objects, a risk object and an risk
object at risk, in a causal and contingent way so that the risk object is considered, in some
way and under certain circumstances, to threaten the valued object at risk" (ibid: 176).
This explication of risk as a network of relations shows how any single phenomenon can
simultaneously be regarded as a risk object, as an object at risk, or as having nothing to
do with risk, by observers operating under different assumptions" (ibid: 181-2).
A workshop situation where roles and influences are blurred can bring home to
participants how, on various levels, they can all potentially regard themselves and every
fellow participant as both at risk from, and posing risks to one and all. On the individual
level, every participant may potentially pose some form of modestly scaled social,
emotional or reputational risk to one another; participants and their actions can all
themselves be viewed as being at risk, risk objects or unconnected to risk. This has useful
parallels with the different perceptions present when diverse stakeholders come together
in Participatory Innovation workshops.
Co-created facilitation experiences have value also in that they can provoke participants
to act and view from a plurality of perspectives, as in rotating roles between facilitator and
facilitated. This valuable quality of experiencing multiple viewpoints manifests itself in
other ways. This brings other benefits for facilitating shared understandings of risk as
discussed below.

Plurality of Perspectives
Prompting participants to experience a multiplicity of differing perspectives makes a
situation more prone to breakdowns, as it increases self and mutual uncertainty
concerning roles in the immediate here and now, but also considering a situation from
many vantage points can reveal inconsistencies in how a situation is viewed. This quality
also offers the additional benefits for facilitating shared understandings of risk provoking
mutual engagement and new insights in a manner that supports facilitating shared
understandings of risk.


A tangible mapping activity provides at least one, and often many different vantage points
on organisational landscapes. The value of this multiplicity of viewpoints is echoed by how
participants seemingly most comfortable and most adept at manipulating the Blender were
those who spent some time observing the interactions of others with and through the
sculpture, as well as experimenting themselves. The cyranoids also draw value from
affording a combination of inside-outside views of a different sort, through a very literal
exchange of vantage points enabled by the cyranoids audiovisual equipment.
The impossibility of a single participant independently gaining a complete picture of what
is happening is also valuable for building mutual engagement between participants - a
quality characterised by Wenger as drawing upon both "what we know, what we do, as
well as our ability to connect meaningfully to what we don't know and don't do... the
contributions and knowledge of others" (Wenger, 1998:76).
Even activities such as Pinball, that seemingly provided a common helicopter view to all
participants, can also provoke mutual engagement directly concerning different
perspectives of that tangible tool kit's behaviour. Complex rapid movement such as
ricocheting marbles, participants without prompting exchange their incomplete
observations concerning the effects of particular obstacles on the routes of the balls.
The tangible tool kits can be seen not only as enabling a helicopter view, but in their
general ease of making adjustments to representations of business landscapes might be
considered more properly as affording a god's eye view. The value of experiencing such
a combination of diverse viewpoints and making activities has been strongly argued in
educational theory:
perspective-taking and object construction go hand in hand. The ability to decenter,
by taking on another person's view coexists with the construction of a "god's eye
view". It is the dance between the two that spurs growth. Playing other and
playing god are equally useful to deepen our own connection with the
world.(Ackermann, 1996:30)
Experiencing multiple positions within a shared encounter can offer a means to support
emergent understandings of almost any facilitation related setting. As Klein said of
transdisciplinary working: "shared meanings, diagnoses, and objectives emerge where
individual interests and views are seen in different perspectives" (Klein 2004:251).
Combining these sorts of experience appear particularly relevant in connection to the topic
of risk as they help foster shared understandings of different facets of the phenomenon.
For instance, experiencing different first person perspectives can help bring an insight into
how an interlocutor may perceive how they might be harmed by a particular course of
action. Whereas more detached helicopter-like views help with generating insights on the
chances of an undesirable outcome.

Risk and Rank

The value of fostering personal and interpersonal growth through an experientiallyorientated and perspective-swapping approach to risk facilitation can be further argued
through referring to how Hansson makes a distinction between the risks of a military
campaign as viewed by a general, safe in their headquarters and that of a soldier on the
front line. A general might have good intelligence that a venture is not risky in terms of


probable number of personnel killed to achieve an objective. However, this venture can
still be high risk from the perspective of individual soldiers directly involved, in the line of
fire (Hansson 1996). Participatory Innovation can be seen as an attempt to usefully bring
together the perspectives from various front lines, whether of use or design, with more
strategic perspectives (Buur & Matthews 2008). Risk is a factor at all of these levels, and
in connecting or relating between levels. Complex collaborative experiences in workshops
offer a route to build understandings of such different levels, but more importantly enable
movement between them.
Looking to Hansson's military metaphor is particularly apt when considered in light of an
analysis of how innovation workshop participants narrate tangible representations of their
business landscapes. In (Heinemann et al. 2014) we showed how, despite offering a wide
variety of material, and irrespective of which tool kits were deployed, the overwhelming
metaphors that arose from the examined sessions were those concerned with domination
and physical power. This finding initially disappointed us as workshop organisers, as it
appears that these table-top tool kits of static materials led to much more predictable
results than we had hitherto realised or intended.
Bringing people together for novel embodied experiences, however, appears to increase
uncertainties, both individually and collectively, as there are so many more possible
actions for people to take. This is therefore highly appropriate for facilitating shared
understandings in relation to the uncertain topic of risk.

This paper has explained the need for design and innovation workshop organisers to
more explicitly address, and in a sense, exploit the phenomena of risk. Presenting
experimentation in Interactive Arts alongside that of Participatory Design and Participatory
Innovation reveals the central role that breakdowns can play in facilitating shared
understandings of risk. The breakdown qualities of enabling co-created experiences and
provoking a plurality of perspectives were identified as particularly appropriate for this

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Robb Mitchell
Robb Mitchell fell into the cauldron of helping launch the Ministry of Sound at an
impressionable age. This sparked a longstanding interest in developing new connections
between social interaction, creativity and technology. Projects have included organising
festivals, deploying large scale mechanical contraptions for provoking cooperation
between strangers, a series of collaborations with psychologists exploring how
personalities can be "swapped" using radio transmitters, extreme interpersonal skills
training, facilitating art-tech and science communication discussion events and exploring
how interactive sculptures and other toolkits can inspire shared sense-making and fresh
perspectives for high-tech industrialists.


Beyond methods:
Co-creation from a practice-oriented perspective
Elisa Ruhl, Christian-Albrechts-Universitt, Department of Media Education/ Educational
Computer Sciences, Kiel
Christoph Richter, Christian-Albrechts-Universitt, Department of Media Education/
Educational Computer Sciences, Kiel
Julia Lembke, Christian-Albrechts-Universitt, Department of Media Education /
Educational Computer Sciences, Kiel
Heidrun Allert, Christian-Albrechts-Universitt, Department of Media Education /
Educational Computer Sciences, Kiel

The co-experiences are booming. The trend of complex interdisciplinary projects makes
co-creation a more and more common way of working, but also changes the conditions for
co-creation. How these co-creation processes are structured and conceived is a longstanding debate in the field of design with a main focus on the chosen methods or the
underlying mind-set. However, co-creation could also be approached from a practiceoriented perspective, a view already hinted for in the existing literature.
To motivate a practice-oriented perspective on co-creation and to spot the added value of
it, critical-incidents of an on-going R&D-project are described and discussed against the
conceptual framework of practice theory. The analysis results in an understanding of cocreation as a texture of local and dynamic practices, which evolve independently from
methods, but depend on shared interpretative schemes and constant negotiations. A
practice-oriented perspective opens up a useful view for the analysis of the new cocreation processes and its problems. The results provide practitioners with good starting
points for the understanding and support of co-creation beyond defined methods, roles
and sessions.

Practice; co-creation; participatory design; methods; mind-set

The approach and need to involve users or stakeholders into the design process and
collective decision-making date back to 1960s public consultations and workshops in
community planning - and 1970s with participatory design in system development. Since
that time, the number of projects using participatory approaches in design, later called cocreation, grew and co-creation has become a common way of working for example in
design education, management and marketing, public services, as well as in
interdisciplinary research and development projects. While these projects follow the
overall definition of co-creation as any act of collective creativity that is experienced
jointly by two or more people (Sanders & Simons, 2009, p. 1), the circumstances and
conditions under which co-creation is applied have changed. For example, international


research and development projects are often challenged by large teams with different
disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, shifting roles and personnel, as well as the
distribution of work across space and time. This growth of scope, scale, and complexity in
co-creative processes does not only call for new tools and methods (cf. Sanders &
Stappers, 2008) but also raises questions about the conception of co-creation as such.
So far co-creation most often has been conceptualized either in terms of tools, techniques
and methods or as a particular mind-seta. In the first case, co-creation is basically
approached from an instrumental perspective in the sense that respective tools and
methods are understood as means at the designers disposal. The main intent hence is to
provide practitioners with a guiding toolkit. Respective practitioners guides (e.g. Muller et
al., 1993; Wilson, Beckker, Johnson & Johnson, 1997) often focus on overall, normative
frameworks, which support the practitioners in planning their processes with hints for
generative ways of involvements. In the second case, it has been suggested that
participation and co-creation are better to be understood as a mind-set and an attitude
about people (Sanders, 2002, p.1). Here it is assumed that a respective mind-set is more
fundamental and important than a set of methods or methodologies in that it provides an
overall compass for those engaged in co-creation (cf. Sanders & Simons, 2009).
However, while both perspectives shed light on important aspects of co-creation, as such
both of them do not lend themselves to a deeper understanding of co-creation as they
essentially render notions of method and mind-set unproblematic. If co-creation is
understood in terms of tools and methods, the question of how these methods are
introduced, collective interpreted and enacted becomes subordinate. Similarly, if cocreation is preconditioned by a particular mind-set, it is difficult to see how mind-sets
actually evolve and are challenged.
Against this background, the aim of this paper is to illustrate how a practice-oriented
perspective on collective activity, provides a more integrative account of co-creative
efforts, a perspective particular suited to depict the dynamics inherent in these processes.
The perspective we aim to develop is in line with calls for studies to explore in detail what
happens among the participants during collaborate session (Vaajakallio, 2009, p.1) and
echoes concerns about reductive accounts of methods (e.g. Fenwick, 2012). Additionally,
it mirrors a basic concern for the concept practice recurrently referred to but rarely
explicated by a variety of authors on co-creation such as Kuijer (2009), Muller et al. (1993),
Belotti, Shum, MacLean & Hammond (1995), or Sanders (2002, 2008, 2011).
To follow this trace of practice theory, the authors present a conceptual framework of a
practice-oriented view. To illustrate this framework, it is adapted to the R&D-project the
authors are participating in, which is aiming to develop an interactive learning environment
within a co-creative process. The case is analysed with the help of critical incidents. The
contextualized and interrelated incidents provide a design narrative of the history and
evolution of the co-creative process over time. Clusters of critical incidents are explained
with exemplary events and then discussed against the practice-oriented perspective. The
conclusions then sums up the added value of practice-oriented perspective and its
relations to the mind-set- and method-perspective and gives an outlook on practical

A practice-oriented perspective
Conceptual framework
Practices can be understood as all those actions (individual and collective) in and through
which humans appropriate and transform the historically given conditions they find
themselves in (cf. Hrning, 2004). Assuming this, [] practice is an analytic concept that


enables interpretation of how people achieve active being-in-the-world (Gherardi, 2009, b,

p. 536). The knowledge, which is activated by the practitioners to achieve this active
being-in-the-world is often described as implicit or latent. While for example a design team
may be sure about how to behave in the situation of experimenting with prototypes, they
may not be able to explain it to someone, who is new in the team. So practices are not
only implicit to their practitioners, but are also highly situative and local: The new
colleague might have used prototypes as a source of inspiration so far, while in the new
situation prototypes are used only as a test-product for costumers.
So practices depend on situative circumstances the situated and ongoing
interrelationships of context (time and place), activity stream, agency (intentions, actions),
and structure (normative, authoritative, and interpretive) (Orlikowsky, 2002, p. 255).
A crucial concept to understand for example possible mismatches of different locale
practices are epistemic frames, which represent a kind of knowing where to begin looking
and asking questions, knowing what constitutes appropriate evidence to consider or
information to assess, knowing how to go about gathering that evidence, and knowing
when to draw a conclusion and/or move on to a different issue (Shaffer 2006, p. 228).
The epistemic frame includes knowing that, how and with (cf. Broady, 1977) and are part
of the interpretative schemes humans employ to makes sense of the situations they are
facing (cf. Hrning, 2001). Following this, practices are seen as a kind of space, in which
knowledge and insights are created and in which the cultural repertoires of interpretation
and meaning are worked out (cf. Hrning, 2004).
A practice-oriented perspective assumes that knowing is not a static embedded
capability or stable disposition of actors, but rather an on-going social accomplishment,
constituted and reconstituted as actors engage the world in practice (Orlikowksy 2002, p.
250). So as a key concern of the concept of social practices is to understand the
structures, the practitioners cope with, not as given, but as a product of interacting with
the world. In seeing practice both as a way of repetition and renewal (cf. Hrning, 2004),
the practitioners decide in every repetition to stay with the common practice or to change
the interaction. So practices are highly dynamic and adaptable to new challenges and
circumstances. The connections, which are done within practices connections with other
persons, practices or artefacts are seen as connections-in-action (Gherardi, 2009 a,
p.115). Within this connections, not the substances of the structures, but the relations
within matter from a practice-oriented perspective. Practices are not thought as single
intentional actions, but as textures of different practices.
So in a whole, practices can be understood as a kind of play close to Ehns idea of
design games (cf. Ehn, 2008), in which the rules for interactions, interpretations are
negotiated more or less implicitly. In action, the social actors negotiate the shared criteria
of fitting and unfitting interactions. While being in interaction, the involved people
experience promptly, if their interactions are appropriate by the reactions of the other
participants (cf. Hrning, 2004).
For the field of design, a practice-oriented approach is not only familiar with Ehns design
games, but also with Schns idea of a reflective practitioner (cf. Schn, 1983).
Going back to the conceptual frame of social practices, this paper is driven by different
research questions concerning the power of social practices for co-creative work: In
checking the added value of taking a practice-oriented perspective on co-creation in our
case, this paper pursues following sub-research questions: Which (co-creative) practices
are realized? How do these practices evolve? How are challenges (of the postdesign
projects) faced? Which role do mind-set and method play in practicing co-creation?


Research design
To ground/illustrate the practice-oriented perspective, we trace the moves and interactions
of an interdisciplinary team throughout the initial stages of the international R&D project
Idea Garden. We, as authors have been actively involved in this project and hence take
an inside perspective for this case study. The following description is therefore
necessarily fragmentary and subjective in the sense that we did not take part in all
discussions between partners. However, we think that an active inside perspective
provides into the way co-creation is enacted but also experienced (cf. Gherardi 2009 a,
The sources of data derive from participant observation (e.g. Kawulich, 2005) as well as
documents created and circulated among the partners in the project. Data sources
included minutes and memos from meetings, the formal and informal communications like
skype meetings and email exchange as well as the artefacts created. This data was taken
to reconstruct the chronology of events (see figure 1).
In the multitude of the sequential events, critical incidents (CI) were identified. The critical
incident technique is a retrospective method, which allows to learn about participants
feelings, experience or stance towards special events and developments within in a
process and marks incidents or processes with their related context (c.f. Chell, 2004). For
our case, events were selected which became crucial (positively or negatively) for the
further development of the designed product or the co-designerly teamwork in the eyes of
one or more partners. So, these CI are for example incidents, the participants often
referred to in conversation and meetings or ideas/ artefacts, to which happened a reuptake during the process.
The CIs were assorted into the co-design chronology. By connecting the critical incidents
with their overall context and setting of the project, and focusing on the interrelations
between the CI, a design narrative (DN) of the general shape of the project process
evolves, which covers the history and evolution of the design over time. It does not stick to
detailed information, but tries to communicate compactly and effectively how a design
came into being (Hoadley 2002, p. 454). The DN is seen as a chance to make explicit
some oft he implicit knowledge (Hoadley 2002, p. 454) the participants used to
encourage the process and therefore differs from the official story depicted in figure 1
and enriches the main events with the trigger points for the evolution of the design (see
figure 2).
In analysing the main commonalities and differences between the incidents in their
relationship to the overall DNs plot, five different routes through the process evolved.
These routes or clusters of CI are illustrated with specific examples. These examples are
then discussed in light of the conceptual framework introduced before.

Co-Creation in Idea Garden

The described case Idea Garden is an R&D project, funded by the European seventh
framework program, which is working on an interactive learning environment for
collaborative creative work. In the duration of three years, the projects aim is the
development of demonstrators, which are supposed to support creative people in their
everyday work.
The team consists of two research partners (researchers and designers with experience in
design research, design pedagogy and learning sciences), three technical partners
(researchers and developers with experience in human computer interfaces, interactive


surfaces and natural user interfaces, information systems and semantic technologies) and
three practical partners (interface and product designer in an educational setting, a
company and a small agency). In the description of work, the designers are introduced in
the role of the potential user. They are mainly involved as experts for the everyday
practices, e.g. asked to come up with visions of possible future scenarios, and act as test
beds for evaluating the demonstrators in the practical use at their local work settings. The
project partners work in five different European countries, so to guarantee a close
relationship to the test beds, the research partners work in tandem constellations with
each one of the test beds.
For the workflow, all partners are envisaged as active partners for the development
process, taking the lead for various work packages based on their specified experience,
skills and interest. Additional to the design objective to come up with a demonstrator for
the environment, the partners pursue different research questions like the evolution of
work practices or the use of special interaction material.
The work process is structured by a series of consortium meetings, accompanied by
several virtual meetings as well as phone and email-correspondence. Because of the
distributed workplaces, the teams and tandems work mainly asynchronously. Figure 1
shows the milestones (Cultural probes, Future Workshop, Design Workshop and a
prototyping phase) and the overall directions taken to come up with the projects objective
of the implementation of a first prototype in the first year. This schematic illustration should
rather be understood as an overall orienting diagram through the significant phases than a
one-to-one rendering of the process.
As you can see in fig. 1, the considered project phase, which will be discussed in this
paper, is mainly concerned with co-discovering and co-defining tasks at the fuzzy frontend
and co-developing issues for the first prototype. For the following two years, two iterations
are planned, in which two further demonstrators will be evaluated.

Figure 1: Main steps and aims in the Co-design process of Idea Garden, based on the
double diamond in the co-design process by Pierri, 2012.


Paths through co-creation

Figure 2: Design narrative, adding the chronology of events with critical incidents.
The design narrative depicts the different critical incidents like comments on ones own
role, statements to methods, ideas about pushing the process, comments on others work
as well as surprising proactive behaviour, which question and/ or extend the schematic
illustration of figure 1. Analysing the sequences and relations of the CI, five clusters positioning (yellow), co-creative methods (red), cross-fertilizes methods (dark blue) as well
as actions beyond the plan (green) and daily work (blue) are seen as relevant for the
evolution of the co-creative process, and will be explained in the following part.
1: Explicit Positioning
Before the participants really went into collective creativity interactions, they checked
mutually the respective positions of methods and mind-sets on the R&D-map. While the
application document for example was traversed with locale terms of co-creative
processes and methods as hints for the upcoming process, the partners made also
explicit statements to their self-perception for the upcoming process in the initial phase:
When in the first meeting, everyone stated to be a designer (interaction designer, software
designer, strategic designer etc.).
When the process went on, the statements to the self-perception of the partners came up
again and again. Dependent from the state of the process and the planned tasks, they
claimed later on not to be designers, but just users or changed from being designers to
being human guinea pigs.


2: Co-creation methods
For fostering the co-creative process, some methodical milestones like a future workshop,
collective mock-up sessions or cultural probes were planned. While e.g. working with
insight cards, collective model making or the collective discussion of usage scenarios in
preparation or during the future workshop stayed unquestioned and leaded to the
anticipated effects like elaborating a common sense, the conduction of other methods like
for example cultural probes for understanding the partners working practices, were
accompanied with some discussions and misunderstandings.
Effected by the initial statements to the self-perception of the partners (we are all
designers), cultural probes were planned to be done by everyone. When the cultural
probe kit was announced in the kick-off meeting, some partners asked, if this kind of
method would really gather information. They wondered, why not doing a questionnaire.
When the kit was sent out to all partners, some of them assumed to fill in a creativity test.
Also in the evaluation of the probes, which was planned to be done collectively with the
help of an exhibition of all sent data, misunderstandings on the roles and the meaning of
the method appeared: The participation was quite reserved, until a partner asked the
psychologist within the team to explain the right answers. The conducting team denied
this question, as they understood the cultural probes as kind of inspirational springboard
with no right answers.
3: Cross-fertilized methods
Beside co-creative methods, also rather classical research methods, the partners were
familiar with like interviews and field studies, accompanied the process. In some cases,
just proceeding methods were questioned with the suggestion of other methods, e.g.
interviews instead of application scenarios, or a planned body storming session was
replaced by conversations in an unspoken manner.
Not only as a spontaneous reaction, also planned cross-fertilized methods enriched the
course of possible actions. In this case, a field-study was conducted to have a closer look
on the practices at the practitioners site. This approach belongs most likely to a user-assubject mind-set, but over time, some interactions turned this method into a user-aspartner-approach: In the beginning of the project the practitioners made jokes about their
role as a test-bed in the sense of we are human guinea pigs. When the field-study
started, the researchers faced this understanding of the practitioners role with statement,
that they wanted to learn from the field. During the nonparticipant study, the test-bed and
the researchers got to used to each other. In this growing phase of trust, the practitioners
invited the researchers to give a workshop at their site. As a response to this invitation,
the researchers invited the students to evaluate and complete their presented research
insights. After reading the report of the field-study, the practitioner asked for further
discussions on that, to use the insights for his practical work.
4: Day-to-day business
Beside all these methodical approaches, which were mainly related to face-to-face
meetings, the day-to-day work was most present at the partners site. In this daily,
asynchronous workflow the ideas from the sessions are transformed and developed. For
ensuring that the progress of ideas stays transparent and the idea still refers to the
common ground, over time also day-to-day business like emailing, skyping and writing
word-documents were transformed or used to bring the user and the others on board. For
example, writing on deliverables has accompanied by a sequential workflow: When writing
of deliverables came closer, the leading partner often presented a draft outline in an open
word-document format to the others weeks before writing. Also during the writing process


and mainly before delivering, the partners often added comments and renewed the
version on the sharing platform. When writing about the practitioners workflows, the
practitioners always had to crosscheck the meaning.
But also failure of communication in everyday work influenced the process, e.g. when the
co-existence of three concurrency concepts were not discussed at all and all partners
went on with their work without an explicit decision.
5: Beyond the plan
While the approaches of co-creative day-to-day business slowed down but preserved the
co-creative motion, there also existed phases of no exchange and shared events. In our
case, especially the semester holiday time in spring and summer traversed by
asynchronous holidays, stop of the field studies and no duty of deliverables was
characterized by individual work and almost no exchange between the partners. Although
this situation led to a status of confusion sometimes, it finally provoked surprising, mainly
informal interactions.
In the design workshop, an idea had elaborated, which was fascinating for one of the
partners. This partners did not know in which way the idea would go into the concept for
the prototype, so this partner decided to develop this idea as a side project in his
institution. He asked selected persons to be involved in this side project, whose insights
were planned to be brought into the consortium again.
In the same phase, one of the practical partners submitted spontaneously a prototype for
the surrounding furniture of the planned environment. They transferred a prototype of a
current project to this project and tried to check the resonance within the consortium.

The previous design narrative summed up selected collective moves and interactions in
the evolution of the design, which will now be discussed against the conceptual framework.
In general, it can be said, that the findings at large all describe a kind of collective
dialogue about the individual rules of co-creation. It can be seen as a collective search
and negotiation process on what is when, how and for what productive in the co-creative

a) Term dropping for orientation

To start into the project, the partners seem to give themselves a kind of orientation for the
upcoming co-creative process as they point out how they see themselves within the
project as well with which terms of co-creation they are concerned (see Cluster (cl.) 1). As
we can see in the further development, their self-perception changes over time and is
partly not coherent to how they interact. Nevertheless, from a practice-oriented
perspective it seems to be very important to the partners to make this kind of term
dropping in the initial phase to have any basis for getting into work. With the termdropping, it is the first chance for any anticipation for what might be in further development
and by that the basis, they can orientate appropriate behaviour to.

b) First test moves

The partners come from different disciplines and have not worked together yet. As we can
see for example in the necessity for term dropping (a) or the continual discussions about
the value or roles of methods like the Cultural probes (cl. 2), the partners do not seem to
have shared practices yet. When they react, misunderstand or suggest new methods,


they refer to their local practices. Although the partners do not share a common ground of
appropriate behaviour in the beginning of the project, they have to start working with each
other. So the first moves can in a whole be understood as a way to jump into work and to
test, what appropriate behaviour in this new setting could be. Necessarily, the transfer of
local practices to new circumstances can lead to misunderstandings and mismatching.
The Cultural Probes are an example, how different methods, tasks and roles can be
understood against the background of ones own local practices: So for example, the open
and qualitative intention of the cultural probes was hard to understand from the
quantitative practices of the computer sciences discipline. Also misunderstandings of
methods, e.g. when the cultural probes were understood as creativity test or the
psychologist was expected to know the outcomes, the intention and roles within the
method were not shared.
So, to use a co-creative method seems to have a limited guarantee to really work cocreative. Although if the proceeding of the method as well as the relation to a co-creative
setting were quite clear to all participants, the value and respective roles within this
particular situation e.g. everyone is allowed to make sense of the data were not
shared against the background of a shared interpretative scheme.

c) Continual explicit and silent negotiations

As we could see in a) and b), the partners act on the knowledge of their local practices
with the respective interpretative scheme and on first ideas of possible ways of practicing
co-creation deriving from single sayings and first misunderstandings resp. commonalities
in doing like model making for developing concept sketches (see cl. 2). Shared practices
are still evolving, and although some corner points have been negotiated like for example
that interviews and conversation seem to a preferred working style (see cl. 2 and 3), the
partners stay in negotiations for proper co-creation sessions and processes. These
negotiations of e.g. the roles were in some examples carried out explicitly - stating ones
opinion of roles (see cl. 1, 2, 3). But others can be understood as silent agreements on
productive workflows e.g. the unconfined participation in a meeting or method like model
making (see cl. 2). A very good example for negotiations over time is also the field study
(see cl. 3), in which the observed partners started sceptically, but in response to the way
the research partners practiced the field study they opened up their mind and invited them
to come closer.
Sometimes also negative incidents influence the following practices silently, e.g. in the
design workshop, when a partners concept was ignored by the consortium, other partners
were not willing to spent time into work, which could be possibly ignored afterwards. Also
when the partners kept on working without a collective decision about the concurrency of
three concepts (see cl. 4), in not stating it as a problem they gave their silent agreement to
behave like this.

d) All areas
If you assume from a practice-oriented perspective, that co-creation will become what you
actually do and which is decided to be appropriate co-creative behaviour from the group,
then it becomes clearer, why also cross-fertilized methods, everyday work or interactions
beyond the plan are parts of the co-creative process.
When the introduction of a side-project or the transfer of environmental furniture from
another project to Idea Garden (see cl. 5) were welcomed and included into the project,
these interactions were not anymore asked to be appropriate co-creative behaviour, but
had become a part of how Idea Garden conducts co-creation. Also when the crossfertilized methods like interviews were allowed to be done instead of typical co-creative
methods or the field-study became a success and help for both tandem partners (see cl.


4), the preliminary rule was set, that bringing in these methods can be a part of how Idea
Garden does co-creative research.

e) Dynamics
In understanding, that the proceeding in co-creation is negotiable matter, the dynamic
character of practices becomes visible. An example for the existence of dissonant resp.
dynamic practices, which provide a productive texture, are the different realized levels of
participation (Wright et al., 2008) in our project.
While the future-workshop for example was highly participative in the sense of codetermination till decisive power over the shared vision, the retranslating-tasks within the
deliverables were more stabilizing and used in the sense of involvement, consultation or
information. Sending the deliverable to the partners one day before submission would
refer to an informative approach, while asking the participants for feedback to the overall
outline weeks before, could be rather seen as an involvement approach (see cl. 4). The
highest level can be seen in the proactive behaviour within phases of big confusion and
lost motion or contact. Here, the partners were not only involved or asked, but they offered
their knowledge or skills actively.
Although these interactions follow different approaches and may be complementary, for
Idea Garden they stayed for so long unquestioned side to side and build a texture of coexisting, alternating and complementary ways to work together in a co-design project.

The preceding discussion depicted co-creation as a process enacted in a texture of sociomaterial practices, which entail a shared practical knowledge including knowledge about
roles, process, methods, decision- and meaning-making. Co-creation from this
perspective is not a set of methods or a certain mind-set, but a situated network of
connections-in-action, which evolve through joint interactions and collaborative moves.
From this perspective, methods and mind-set can be understood as a kind of resource,
which are interwoven with the enacted practices and whose meaning is just
understandable and made in the relation to the enacted practice.
With the practice-oriented perspective, the challenges of new generation of co-creation
projects, which were discussed in the introduction, could be identified and specified for our
case. In our project, the challenges of different cultures, new team partners, changing
roles and its depending misunderstandings could be explained with the co-occurrence of
different locale and dynamic practices with respective interpretative schemes. From a
practice-oriented view, the challenges of larger views across time and space (Sanders,
2008, p.13) were seen as trigger points for developing new practices to face them, e.g.
proactive interactions beyond the plan or participatory intercourse in working on
deliverables in daily work.
In comparing the findings with the mind-set and method perspective, the practice-oriented
perspective provided us with a widened view. This view allowed us to take more
interactions into account for the process of co-creation and detected co-creative behaviour
in unexpected areas. According to Vaajakallio (2009), it could be analysed what actually
happened among the participants during the [] sessions (Vaajakallio, 2009, p.1) and
between the sessions. In contrast to the method-driven perspective with its statement that
participation must be face-to-face (Sanders & Simons, 2009, p.1), our findings depict a
picture of co-creation as a whole process, also discussed by Gulari et al. (2011) and Luck,
who considers the human dimension of participatory design, which requires, that
participatory design is more than a collection of design methods (Luck, 2003, p.1).


Regarding the mind-set perspective, the findings in our case suggest, that having the
appropriate mind-set about co-creation (Sanders & Simons, 2009, p.1) to be successful
in co-creation should be rather restated, that enacting the appropriate mind-set is most
important. Only when mind-set and its implicit knowledge become visible, e.g. in
interactions, they are negotiable. These negotiations are seen as a big chance to find a
shared mind-set, which can act as a directing resource for practices.
The findings can be seen as encouragement for practitioners, to foster co-creation in
emerging situations without methodical frame or classical designer-user relationship. Its
also encouraging, that a strong participatory mind-set seems to be opportunistic, cutting
its way through participatory settings and non-participatory phases of a project. A
challenge for future co-creation is to widen the focus on just the users current and future
practices (e.g. with MakeTools) to the practices of all partners as an approach to a
processual understanding of co-creation, which accommodates the hybrid skills, blurring
roles and the overall we-paradigm of co-creation.

This research has been carried out in the IdeaGarden Project funded by the European
Unions Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2011 under grant agreement n

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Elisa Ruhl
Elisa Ruhl has a master degree in Design. She is a researcher at the Department of
Media Education/Educational Computer Sciences at the Christian-Albrechts-Universitt zu
Kiel and a part-time lecturer at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts in Kiel. Her current
research interest is on the intersection of scientific and artistic research with a special
focus on collaborative interdisciplinary design practices, e.g. co-creation and participatory
design. Since 2009, she was part of different co-creative camps and workshops in the
field of design, art and urban development.

Christoph Richter
Christoph Richter holds a Diploma in Psychology. He is a researcher at the Department of
Media Education/Educational Computer Sciences at the Christian-Albrechts-Universitt zu
Kiel and a part-time lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. His
research focuses on the design-based research, (computer-supported) collaborative
learning and knowledge practices. His current research interest is on the genesis of
creative practices in design teams. Since 2002 he has been involved in a number of
national and international projects in the areas of technology-enhanced learning and
knowledge work.

Julia Lembke
Julia Lembke holds a Diploma in Pedagogy. She is a researcher at the Department of
Media Education/Educational Computer Science at the Christian-Albrechts-Universitt zu
Kiel. Her current research interest is on the genesis of learning practices in educational
settings. Furthermore she designs technology-enhanced learning scenarios to foster
cooperative and collaborative learning practices in the area of university education.

Heidrun Allert
Heidrun Allert is a full professor and the head of the department of Media
Education/Educational Computer Sciences at the Christian-Albrechts-Universitt zu Kiel.
Her current research interest is on the inquiry and support of knowledge practices as well
as the role of epistemic artefacts. Since 2000, she has been involved in a number of
national and international projects in the areas of technology-enhanced learning and
knowledge work. From 2004 to 2010 she was head of the department for "Engineering for
Computer-Based Learning and Communication and Knowledge Media at the FH
Obersterreich in Hagenberg/Austria.


Privilege and Oppression: Towards a Feminist Speculative

Luiza Prado de O. Martins, Universitt der Knste Berlin

Though critical and speculative design have been increasingly relevant in discussing the social
and cultural role of design, there has been a distinct lack of both theory and praxis aimed at
questioning gender oppression. Departing from an intersectional feminist analysis of the
influences and origins of speculative and critical design, this essay questions the underlying
privilege that has been hindering the discussion on gender within the discipline and its role in
propagating oppression; it then goes on to propose the concept of a feminist speculative
design as an approach aimed at questioning the complex relationships between gender,
technology and social and cultural oppression.

speculative design; gender studies; feminism; intersectionality
During the past few decades there has been a fundamental shift in the way we understand
design and its cultural relevance. From Ipads to smartphones, from automatic hoovers to
intelligent fridges, we now have increasingly complex objects governing essential parts of our
lives. In this world, where objects mediate most of our experiences, design has been gaining
increasing significance - highlighting the necessity for research on the roles that designed
objects have within society.
This increased interest in the sociological and cultural aspects of design has been a
fundamental catalyst for the development of design research and its many related fields - from
research through, for or about design (Frankel and Racine 2010) to constructive design
research (Koskinen et al. 2011). Prominent among these ever-evolving fields are speculative
and critical design, two closely related approaches to design practice (Auger 2013) that, usually
departing from prosaic observations of our everyday interactions with technology, aim to
provoke insightful analyses of the profound impact that designed objects have on our lives
(Dunne 1999; Dunne and Raby 2001). This essay focuses specifically on these two
approaches, questioning their shortcomings from an intersectional feminist perspective; it
challenges speculative and critical designs aspirations to sociological critique within the larger
framework of diverse oppressions in capitalist, heteronormative, sexist, racist and classist
societies. Though a deeper understanding of how the politics of oppression influence human
relationships with technology is essential to the development of a field that aims to be critical,
projects mentioning these oppressions are astoundingly rare. This flaw may be associated with
the fact that speculative and critical design have been, up until now, practiced and theorised
largely within the privileged walls of costly universities in developed countries (Prado de O.
Martins and Vieira de Oliveira 2014).
The primary focus of this essay is how gender is portrayed and approached in speculative and
critical design practices - an analysis that cannot be disengaged from the portrayals of other
forms of oppression. Thus, the previously mentioned intersectional feminist perspective
advocated here stems from two key beliefs: that taking up an apolitical position means
complying with and contributing to the status quo, and that oppressions (of gender, race or
class, among others) cannot be understood separately. Hence the importance of not only a
feminist perspective, but a feminist perspective firmly grounded in the idea of intersectionality
(Crenshaw 1989): as a strategy for understanding how oppression cannot be reduced to one


fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice. (Collins 2000 p.
18). The essay thus proposes the idea of a feminist speculative design as a strategic approach
to addressing issues of systemic gender violence and discrimination within speculative and
critical design practices.

On semantics and SCD

Designs peculiar, fluid position as a discipline capable of benefiting from both humanistic and
scientific knowledge has long been one of its most distinctive traits. This innate ability for
combining distinct fields of knowledge has recently led to increased interest in developing
theoretical discourse that supports design as a method of research in its own right. As part of
this, speculative and critical design - the two approaches to design research and practice this
text takes interest on - design have been gaining momentum as strategies to think critically
about the essential role of objects within society. Anthony Dunne, who first coined the term
critical design defines it as an approach to design practice that uses speculative design
proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products
play in everyday life (Dunne and Raby 2008, p.265). By challenging pre-established ideas,
critical design works in the unstable, murky territory that is the intersection of politics and
culture; Dunne and Raby (2008, p.265) go on to state that [s]ome relatives are: activism,
cautionary tales, conceptual design, contestable futures, design fictions, interrogative design,
radical design, satire, social fiction, speculative design. Auger (2013, p.11) discusses the
semantics of some of these relatives, highlighting that [t]here is much overlap between these
practices, the differences are subtle and based primarily on geographical or contextual usage.
He goes on to argue that most of these terms are detrimental, acting to dislocate the object
from everyday life, exposing their fictional or academic status (ibid, p.12). As such, he writes
that the choice of speculative is preferable as it suggests a direct correlation between here
and now and existence of the design concept (ibid). Though Augers argument is sound, this
essay uses the term speculative and critical design for the sake of drawing a clear parallel
between critical theory and speculative design as a starting point for discussing the problematic
stance of a discipline that aims to be critical and yet ignores essential facets of our relationship
with designed objects. For the sake of practicality and style the term will be referred to as SCD.

Critical theory and critical design

Critical theory, a western school of thought first originated in the early 20th century, has had a
profound impact in contemporary knowledge. In its initial proposition, critical theory was aimed
at emancipation and enlightenment, at making agents aware of hidden coercion, thereby
freeing them from that coercion and putting them in a position to determine where their true
interests lie (Geuss 1981, p.55-56); it asserts that the world should be understood, not by
accepting unthinkingly the teachings of authorities such as the Church, but through individual
reasoning. (Sengers et al.) Critical theory argues for critique as both part of the fabric of the
world and an agent of change capable of altering the weave of this very fabric; as such, its
influence in a wide range of fields in contemporary thought - from queer theory (Turner 2000) to
critical architecture (Fraser 2005) - comes as no surprise. SCD is no exception to critical
theorys wide-ranging impact: Dunnes original formulation seems to be profoundly influenced by
the work developed at the Frankfurt School (the birthplace of critical theory), mentioned directly
and indirectly (by referencing its main theorists) in several instances throughout Hertzian Tales
(Dunne [1999] 2008, p. 36; 83; 94; 96; 98). Dunne argues for designed objects as means of
inciting a critical perception - sociological, psychological, cultural or otherwise - of the manmade world. The parallel to critical theory is quite clear: objects are designed as embodied
critical discourse - and their very existence has the potential to change the world they are part
of. Curiously, Dunne and Raby (2010) have tried to distance themselves from the Frankfurt
School and from critical theory; Bardzell and Bardzell (2013, p.02), however, point out:
[T]heir formulation of critical design has unmistakable affinities with [critical theory] Their


language illusion of choice, passivity, reinforces the status quo, easy pleasure and
conformist values, and fuelled by the capitalist system bear the unmistakable stamp of the
Frankfurt view of ideology.
The relationship between critical theory and SCD is further explored by Bardzell et al. (2012)
and Bowen (2010). By borrowing critical theorys approach to social and cultural change,
however, SCD risks to incur in the very same mistakes for which critical theory has already been
criticised: promoting elitist views of a better world that society should aspire towards (Bowen
2010, p.04). This tendency to elitism, well documented in the writings of critical theorists such as
Horkheimer and Adorno 1, seems to affect Dunnes ([1999] 2008, p.94, my emphasis) work as
[...] this approach falls foul of a central contradiction of radical work, as Adorno demonstrated in
his contrasting of modern classical music and popular jazz. Because a mainstream film has to
be immediately graspable by a broad audience, the fact of achieving this diminishes its critical
Granted, any author undertaking the task of offering a critical view of the world incurs in the risk
of sounding and acting in a patronizing, classist manner. Ignoring issues of race, class or
gender when looking from a place of privilege is surprisingly easy, for that is the case with
privilege: it is privilege precisely because the very processes that confer privilege to one group
and not another group are often invisible to those on whom that privilege is conferred (Kimmel
2003, p.04). Geuss (1981, p. 82) writes that most criticism on the Frankfurt School was aimed at
the fact that it proposed a critical perspective on society "not because of the suffering it imposes
on some oppressed group but because it fails to satisfy the neurasthenic sensibilities of a
cultural elite. Pointedly, Bowen (2010, p.04) asks of both SCD and critical theory a better
world according to who? (sic).
Dunnes elitist views seem to be shared by colleagues in the field, as demonstrated in a
comment thread on MoMAs website for the Design and Violence exhibition2 . The blog post,
written by John Thackara, starts with a discussion on Burton Nittas project Republic of
Salivation. 3 The discussion in the comment section rapidly evolved to a criticism of SCDs selfcentered, privileged understanding of the world - a criticism promptly responded by designer
James Auger with the question What is this obsession with class systems? The UK may have
its financial problems but most of us stopped obsessing about these divides in the distant past. 4
This patronising, classist and self-centered attitude within SCD may be explained by its history
as a discipline theorised within the safe confines of developed, european countries and
practiced largely by a privileged and mostly white, male, middle class crowd. Exceptions to
SCDs narrow understanding of privilege politics are rather rare, though notable. Superflux, a
studio founded by designer Anab Jain is one such exception, undertaking a string of admirable
collaborative projects with small communities in Jains native India5 . The bottom-up
empowerment of communities seems to be one of the trademarks of Superfluxs projects, in
1 [...]

under the conditions of later capitalism and the impotence of the workers before the authoritarian state's
apparatus of oppression, truth has sought refuge among small groups of admirable men. (Horkheimer [1937] 1972,
pp. 237-238)
1 The consumers are the workers and employees, the farmers and lower middle class. Capitalist production so
confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless victims to what is offered them. (Adorno and Horkheimer 1997,
1the general intellectual level of the great masses is rapidly declining. (Horkheimer [1937] 1972, p.238)



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stark contrast to the paternalist stance so common in SCD. Royal College of Art alum Sputniko
is one of the few practitioners in SCD who overtly tackles issues of gender, though sometimes
still under a definitely questionable perspective, as evidenced by her Menstruation Machine
project6. Sputniko describes the projects video as featuring
a Japanese transvestite boy Takashi, who one day chooses to wear 'Menstruation' in an
attempt to biologically dress up as a female, being unsatisfied by just aesthetically appearing
Though the project might have promoted the discussion of a few issues related to gender, its
very description shows the lack of a basic understanding of gender and queer theory. Mistakes
such as the use of a derogatory term - transvestite - to refer to the character Takashi7 8 ; the
uncritical use of the concept of biologically dressing up as a gender - an affirmation that
unwittingly hints to the heated discussions on biological essentialism versus anti-essentialism
that have since decades divided theorists and activists in the feminist movement (Stone 2004);
or the very portrayal of a gender-nonconforming person (by a cissexual woman, nonetheless)
for shock value highlight the projects problematic approach to gender identity.
Though many discussions on the future of SCD have appeared recently, many of them seem to
ignore these problems entirely (Antonelli 2011, Stevenson-Keating 2011); resistance to SCDs
privileged ways is, however, bubbling: in February 2014 the aforementioned discussion on
MoMAs Design and Violence website spawned several response articles (Prado de O. Martins
and Vieira de Oliveira 2014; Revell 2014; Kiem 2014). Though SCDs future seems to be mostly
that of white, european, cissexual, heterosexual people, this reality might be rapidly changing a change of attitude that might just help build a more equal future.

Intersectional feminism and speculative design

This section of the essay introduces a central concept to its proposed discussion: intersectional
feminism. The term intersectionality is generally considered to have been first coined by
Kimberl Crenshaw (1989) though the concept was not new - having already been advanced by
others (McCall 2005). Intersectionality refers to the manner in which several different types of
oppression can intersect and interact, defining ones social position. A european transgender
woman is, for instance, the subject of different types of oppression in comparison to a latin
american disabled woman. The objective of taking these distinct forms of oppression into
account is not to compare them; comparing the sufferings that individuals derive from the
oppressions to which they are subjected is as useless as it is sordid, for the manner in which we
experience oppression can be as subjective as it can be factual. Rather, taking the
intersectional character of oppression into account is necessary in order to develop a better
understanding of the way one navigates the world through the way in which these oppressions
interact with each other.
Though much has been written about intersectionality, it does not, as of 2014, constitute a
discipline in a by itself; rather, it is considered a theoretical stance, an approach to feminist
activism: most researchers use the term intersectional approach to refer to the research
application of these concepts (Berger and Guidroz 2009, p.01). Its importance to the
development of a solid and inclusive academic discourse in the analysis of inequality is
unquestionable; McCall (2005) claims that [o]ne could even say that intersectionality is the
most important theoretical contribution that womens studies, in conjunction with related fields,
has made so far.
As mentioned in the previous section, SCD has long suffered from a blindly patronising and
privileged perspective on technology. This is not exclusive to SCD either: design, as a product of

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a patriarchal, classist and racist society, is a discipline where the contribution of women has
seldom been recognized throughout its history. Buckley (1999, p.109) writes:
[...] the few women who make it into the literature of design are accounted for within the
framework of patriarchy: they are either defined by their gender as designers or users of
feminine products, or they are subsumed under the name of their husband, lover, father or
This historical silencing of women in design does not limit itself to its women practitioners either:
Buckley (ibid.) goes on to state that womens needs as consumers/users often remain
unaddressed. In the past few years this stance seems, fortunately, to be changing, with design
taking a keen interest in the needs of minorities. Efforts in this direction have been made by
Buchmller (2013) in design research, Bardzell in HCI (Bardzell and Bardzell 2001; Bardzell
2010) and Rothschild in design and architecture history (1999), for instance. The creation of the
International Gender Design Network by Uta Brandes and Simone Douglas 9; the development
of new fields such as inclusive design (Imrie and Hall 2001; Clarkson et al. 2003), of projects
like Tom Bielings Mobile Lorm Glove at the Design Research Lab10 or Marcelo and Andra
Jdices work at Vila Rosrio (Koskinen et al. pp.70-73) are all testimonies to a newfound
understanding of designs role in propagating and counteracting oppression. SCD, however,
remains a field where such initiatives still seem to remain few and far between.
Understanding privilege is essential in order to build a theoretical discourse capable of truly
overcoming injustice. The problem lies in how difficult it is for the privileged to understand their
own privilege, for privilege exists precisely because it is invisible to those who benefit from it. A
white, heterosexual man will never know the hardships through which others have to go
through. He will never be afraid of being raped while walking home alone at night; he will never
be afraid of not being hired for a job because of his skin color, he will never be afraid to
introduce a same-sex partner to his family. These privileges work silently for the benefit of those
who fit into the narrow standards of an excludent society, and to the disadvantage of those who
do not. When SCD ignores these issues it complies with oppression and works for a future of
The recent wave of unnecessarily gendered products - such as the Bic for Her Pen11, the
Powerful Yogurt12 or the new, gender-segregated Kinder Surprise13 - doesnt help design culture
either. The misguided marketing strategies behind these products are fueled by packaging and
product designers eager to associate genders to colors, shapes and stereotypes. Dunne and
Raby (2001, p.58) claim that [...] all design is ideological, the design process is informed by
values based on a specific world view, or way of seeing and understanding reality. If all design
is ideological, what kind of ideology are we, as designers, propagating to the world when we
participate in the development of such products? By designing a world for exclusion and
discrimination [t]he systems and artefacts produced by technoscience are able to provide the
material foundations for gender inequality (Kirkup 2000, p.XIII).
As much as design can be a tool for oppression, it can also be an effective agent for social
change. SCD, as previously mentioned, tries to do this by using artefacts in order to incite
critical thought; the full accomplishment of this goal, however, seems to be hindered by the
issues of privilege previously discussed on this essay. Curiously, while SCDs roots in critical
theory may be a reason for its virtually nonexistent concern for issues such as gender or class
(Fraser 1985; Fleming 1989), both feminist theory and intersectionality also take inspiration from

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critical theory. These disciplines have, however, gone a step further by building their own
inclusive paradigms based on the initial propositions of critical theory, like queer theory (Turner
2000) or critical race theory (Collins 2000).
Intersectional feminism aims to to empower those that are subjected to discrimination by
understanding oppression as a highly individualized, unique experience; similarly SCD
questions traditional notions of the user as a mere average number and as a mere receptacle to
the actions defined by the designer, in a clear hierarchy of power. Instead, SCD proposes the
notion of [...] user as protagonist by embodying unusual psychological needs and desires [...].
Addressing issues of gender discrimination through an intersectional perspective is, thus, an
essential strategy to further develop SCDs original project.

Feminist Speculative Design: Methodologies and Discussion

As part of an ongoing PhD on body extensions and the politics of designed artefacts, this essay
aims to propose an intersectional feminist approach to SCD; it intends to point out the
problematic position of a discipline that, despite its very valid aspiration to question our
relationships with designed objects, focuses this critique on a purely aesthetic level. This essay
therefore proposes the concept of a feminist speculative design as a potential strategy that
might help addressing these questions. Feminist speculative design would be, first and
foremost, an approach to SCD aimed at inciting critical thought on how electronic objects might
propagate gender oppression under an intersectional perspective. Though it may seem at first a
broad term, the word feminist is herein used as a bold political statement as to feminist
speculative designs goals, proudly aligning this approach with those that have been derided,
silenced and dismissed throughout history. This feminist approach to speculative design would
allow for a better understanding of the interaction between the various facets of oppression
related to the use of designed objects as part of our - in Cross (1982) unsurprising choice of
words - man-made world.
Whereas the beneficial influence that an intersectional feminist perspective could have on SCD
is clear, the profitable contributions that SCD could bring to the further development of
intersectional feminist discourse need to be equally discussed. Being disciplines rooted mainly
in the humanities, with strong ties to sociology, philosophy and political sciences, feminist and
womens studies have a long tradition of textual research outcomes. This confines most of the
production of knowledge in the field within the academic realm of books, papers and journals.
The issues at hand are, however, much more tangible than this would suggest; oppression is a
real, daily experience, capable of provoking serious consequences on the lives of those it
affects. Although this is not to say that the academic production of knowledge in the field is not
relevant to the lives of those affected by discrimination, rendering ideas of intersectionality and
feminism inaccessible or difficult to understand defeats the very purpose of these approaches.
Collins (2000, VII) writes in the introduction to Black Feminist Thought:
I could not write a book about Black womens ideas that the vast majority of African-American
women could not read and understand. Theory of all types is often presented as being so
abstract that it can be appreciated only by a select few.
A book written in an accessible manner, free of unnecessary academicisms or extravagant
wordiness might be a good start, but there are certainly other strategies that could help develop
intersectional feminist discourse. McCall (2005) claims that there has been little discussion of
how to study intersectionality, that is, of its methodology. Intersectionality is a difficult subject,
for it sets out to analyse the issue of oppression by taking into account the several axes that
compose ones identity instead of compartmentalising these axes into separate groups. This
leads to a complex net of possible paths for research that could only possibly be managed
through an interdisciplinary approach to the problems at hand. McCall goes on to argue that [t]
he pressing issue then is to overcome the disciplinary boundaries based on the use of different
methods in order to embrace multiple approaches to the study of intersectionality. Feminist
critical design could thus represent a very beneficial approach to intersectional feminist
research: technology, artefacts and the man-made world with which design occupies itself are,


after all, both results and propagators of matrixes of domination (Collins 2000, p.18). The
study of systemic inequalities cannot ignore the profound influence that the new behaviors and
rituals created or modified by the ubiquity of electronic artefacts have in gender roles. From
revenge-porn websites that publish unauthorized nudes complete with the victims home
addresses14 to hackers who install malicious programs on womens computers in order to spy
on them through their webcams15, the concerns that women have to face when using
technology are entirely different from those of men16 . Though a few scholars have been
developing research on how technology intersects with gender oppression (Kirkup 2000; Du
Preez 2009; Balsamo 1995), most of the outcome has been purely textual: there is a distinct
lack of tangible, non-theoretical perspectives in the field.
Feminist speculative design would focus on using artefacts to provoke reflection on the
privileges that give undue advantage to one part of the population while oppressing another.
Recently, the swiss womens organization Zrcher Frauenzentrale created a media campaign in
order to raise awareness to the issue of wage gap where men using an ATM received 20% less
than their desired sum17 that could be used as an interesting inspiration for feminist speculative
design projects. Objects discussing issues of gender-related internet privacy, questioning
meritocracy, addressing gender-based violence or deconstructing the male gaze (Mulvey 1997)
might also be some of the many possible paths for feminist speculative design projects. The
spontaneously dystopian nature of SCD is particularly suited for approaching such issues:
feminist speculative design could focus on questioning the already dystopian nature of the
present for minorities, and ask how their futures would be like; through the poetic, subjective
and abstract dimensions of the designed artefact, it would challenge observers to question their
own roles in maintaining social injustice.
Overcoming the academic nature of feminist theory and the elitism of SCD poses a challenge
that is inextricably associated with whether design can truly provoke social change. Embodying
critique in a physical artefact may indeed be an interesting strategy from the perspective of
feminist theory; the question as to how these objects are presented, however, remains. In order
to remain faithful to the essential premises of feminist speculative design, it would be essential
to avoid presenting these artefacts merely within academic settings, galleries or museums.
Feminist speculative design projects would, ideally, take up a life of their own; they would need
to be shared, commented upon, questioned and criticised in order to be culturally relevant.
Representation, another highly problematic issue in SCD, would also need to be carefully
addressed through an intersectional perspective: if a video or a photo series on a future
scenario only depicts white, european, middle class people, what does that say about the future
of minorities?
Granted, changing a society is not an easy nor brief task, for structures of oppression are
deeply ingrained into everything that surrounds us - from language to architecture. Departing
from the premise that a designed object can be capable of generating resounding and
immediate change within society would be naive at best. Change does, however, come in small
steps; it happens first in our insular realities to only later become palpable. Design alone is not
capable of changing society; nonetheless, as both a product and a producer of societal values it
could trigger visible cultural shifts when approached with an interdisciplinary and critical stance.
Artefacts that question oppression are able to produce small waves of change; it is these small

your-house (Accessed November 5th 2013)


(Accessed November 5th 2013)


November 8th 2013)



center_n_3060740.html (Accessed November 5th 2013)


changes that feminist speculative design would concern itself with, for they are what could later
grow into a tangible shifts in society.
While feminist speculative design would certainly not be the only possible path into developing a
truly critical discourse within design, it has the potential to be an effective one. Whereas words
might be difficult to assimilate - especially words that incite us to leave our comfort zones -,
experiences are far more effective tools for provoking estrangement, discomfort and, ultimately,
reflection. The mediation of electronic objects on our daily interactions with other individuals is
built around a skeleton of complex hierarchies of power; it is the bone structure under the
attractive and glossy skin of technology that feminist speculative design could expose, reflect
upon and, hopefully, alter.

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Luiza Prado de O. Martins


Is a brazilian design researcher focusing on gender and speculative design. Her ongoing
doctoral research on gendered body extensions at the University of the Arts in Berlin is funded
by the brazilian Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento (CNPq).


Agency, Context and Meaning:

The Humanities and Design
Mads Nygaard Folkmann, University of Southern Denmark

The paper is a meta-discursive contribution to the discussion of how design can be
understood as a medium of meaning formation and the questioning of meaning. Further,
the paper makes a plea for the role of the humanities in formulating relevant questions in
design through a conceptualization of the nature and scope of design. Three fundamental
approaches to understanding design from the perspective of the humanities will be
proposed: 1) The question of agency in design, i.e. what the role and agency of design
can be conceived as in human life, which can be addressed in the historical perspective of
design history, 2) the question of context in and of design, i.e. which contexts give
meaning to design, a question that calls for interpretive models of cultural analysis of the
circuit of design that acknowledge the phases and aspects of production, mediation and
consumption, and 3) the question of meaning constituents in design, where the paper
points to design philosophy as a framework for interests in aesthetic, ontological and
phenomenological concerns in design. In the methodology of the paper, approaches from
the humanities offer frameworks for understanding the role and nature of design in terms
of meaning formulation and cultural contexts and, thus, for contesting the what, how and
why of design.

The humanities, cultural context, design history, design philosophy, meaning constituents

Approaches to design from the humanities and from design practice often operate in
different theoretical and institutional settings. Design historians in university contexts may
claim design history as a discipline in its own right, a de-tooled instrumental use in a
practice-oriented educational setting (Fallan 2013). From the practice perspective, the
humanist concerns in questions of history, culture and meaning may seem abstract and
detached from the immediate matters of design practice and practice-based design
education, as the humanities often operate with a hermeneutical model of interpretation
where the topic of investigation is formulated and created as an analytical object,
detached from immediate concerns or questions of actuality.
In this paper I will make a plea for the role of humanities in relation to understanding
design as a medium of meaning formation and thus as a medium that questions meaning
and proposes models for engaging with the world. Some 20 years ago, Richard Buchanan
made an important statement about design in a humanist perspective as a liberal art of
technological culture, where design should point forward to a new attitude about the
appearance of products [...] and carry a deeper, integrative argument about the nature of
the artificial in human experience (Buchanan, 1992, p. 20). Buchanans aim was to claim
design as a field in its own right and not as an appendix to art or technology. Buchanan
spoke of design as a specific and contemporary human enterprise. Here, my approach is


to ask what we can learn from a humanist approach in relation to design. Thus, in an
overview, I will lay out different tracks along which questions in relation to design are
raised by the humanist investigation within design. My claim is not that knowledge from
the humanities will deliver or promote a comprehensive theory of contemporary design or
provide direct answers to urgent or emergent questions in design (e.g. how to create
better design in terms of ethics or sustainability or, even better, both in combination),
although that may happen, but rather that a humanist approach allows us to propose
relevant and appropriate frameworks for questioning and debating design.

The humanities as a framework for understanding design

The humanities cover a variety of different foci and interests and may be difficult to
circumscribe as a homogeneous entity. Below, I will point to different fields of investigation
but also attempt to establish a comprehensible framework.
In my view, the humanities can be seen as defined by (i) institutional settings (e.g.
university faculties), (ii) various kinds of general scientific approaches, and (iii) specific
disciplines and subject matters, e.g. disciplines in language, rhetoric, philosophy, culture
and history. I will not go into the question of the institutional setting, besides pointing to my
own affiliation with a humanities department that is focused on research and education
aimed at analyzing and understanding design as a phenomenon of modern culture.
Regarding the general scientific approaches, as prime foundations of the humanities I will
point to hermeneutics (focusing on understanding and/or non-understanding in pluralities
of meaning, cf. Gadamer, 1960; Ricur, 1975; Hrisch, 1998; 2009), phenomenology
(investigating the structure of experience and dealing with the intricate constituents of
human experience in the balance of subject and object, e.g. Merleau-Ponty, 1945) and
semiotics (looking at the overall question of what meaning is and how it can described).
Further, rhetoric has proved relevant in analyzing the design process and the strategies of
persuasion of design objects (see Buchanan, 1995; Joost & Scheuermann, 2008).
Of course, these central paradigms have been criticized and challenged by developments
in cultural theory and philosophy, but despite trends such as post-structuralism, antihermeneutics and deconstruction, the questions of interpretation, experience, and
meaning remain constituent and central, also for contemporary investigations into human
culture. The framework of the humanities, however, needs, to be met and modified to
match the relevant field of inquiry. In the context of design, I will point to three general
questions that may be raised in relation to the framework of the humanities. My proposal
and thus the thesis of this paper is that the humanist approach in relation to design can
be distributed along three questions:
1. The question of agency in design, or rather what the role and agency of design
can be conceived as in human life. This question, which allows for different models
of conceiving human experience, can be addressed in the interpretive perspective
of design history.
2. The question of context in and of design, that is, which contexts give meaning to
design, and how design is experienced by people. This calls for interpretive
models of cultural analysis of the circuit of design in phases and aspects of
production, mediation and consumption.
3. The question of meaning constituents in design, where I will point to the recent
discipline of design philosophy as a way of engaging in a matter that was formerly
an exercise in semiotics.


In the following, I discuss these three entries to design which I consider central for a
humanist investigation of design; design history, cultural analysis of the circuit of design,
and the question of meaning. They all, in different ways, convey and employ methods of
interpretation, framing of experience and investigation of meaning. Further, in combining
these, we may raise a number of questions regarding the formative powers of design as
illustrated in a model that frames the big questions of the what, how and why of design
(figure 1). This model may be seen as the interpretive output of the article.

Figure 1: Model of formative factors of and questions in design.

Design history: asking for agency in design

As a discipline, design history has come a long way from beginnings in affiliation with art
history to recent interests in context and culture influenced by e.g. Actor-Network Theory,
Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Theory (see e.g. Fallan 2010). In its ever
new variations, the implicit question of design history is to ask which formative factors of
design can be regarded as important to emphasize in design.
Looking at the development of design history in broad terms, it is possible to discern three
different positions. (i) First, design history has been dominated by an interest in masters
and their masterpieces; Pevsners 1936 celebration of Pioneers of Modern Invention
(Pevsner, 1991) is a paradigmatic example of this in its use of devices from classic art and
literary history in claiming superior authorship for singular persons. In this kind of
conception, the design derives its importance from its origin in the mind of a singular
individual. In opposition to this metaphysics of the creative origin, (ii) later approaches
have attempted to valorize realism and truth in analyzing and acknowledging the
operations of design practice as complex activity taking place in a specific context with the
contribution of many actors (see e.g. Dilnot, 1984; Fry, 1988; Margolin, 1995). Here,
design objects are seen in relation to and as an outcome of a dynamic practice of
designers and designing. Thus, the origin of meaning is de-centered; it cannot be located
in one specific point but has a variety of contributors. (iii) Finally, there is a position in
design history where design history is embedded in the context of cultural analysis, and
there is less emphasis on the origin of the design and more interest in its effects in relation
to use and consumption and its role in culture, even if the interest in the acts of production
remains present within the overall framework. This position, which has been dominant
since John A. Walkers Design History and the History of Design (1989), is characterized
by an interest in the cultural circuit that circumscribes the process of attributing meaning
and value to design objects in all phases, from the conditions of production to the
possibilities of consumption, e.g. in the so-called PCM paradigm, ProductionConsumption-Mediation (cf. Lees-Maffei, 2009), which examines how design develops not


only in phases of production but also in the mediation in user manuals, magazines and
The design historian Kjetil Fallan has asked design historians, To What Purpose and for
Whom Do We Write? (Fallan, 2013) as part of a discussion where he claims that design
history is often regarded as a secondary tool in the education of practitioners. Instead, so
the argument of Fallan, the discipline of design history should be de-tooled, abandoning
its Stockholm syndrome tendency to identify with the hostage takers. Fallan initiates a
central discussion about the purpose of writing design history, and part of his answer
derives from his habitus as a professional historian: A central element in writing design
history is the methodological reflection of the aims, means, and models of design history,
and this dimension may be lost if the discipline is not allowed to develop on its own terms
but is instead a servant to another purpose.
I wish to point the discussion of design history in another direction. Whether design history
is tooled or de-tooled, its perspective enables a deeper understanding of both design and
the wider contexts of design, as seen in a variety of historical settings. First of all, the
historical perspective allows for the basic understanding that design has changed in scope,
materials and shape; design has come a long way, from the early designs of the industrial
revolution to contemporary design developments in relation to digital technology, branding
and conceptual-immaterial solutions. Further, to be aware of design history is also to
acknowledge that we cannot simply project the present into the future (Rooden et al.,
2011) but instead rely on a much longer tradition.
Next, reflecting design history in terms of historiography, that is, in terms of different
models for conceiving and writing design history, may inform the emphasis of agency in
design, both in the context of design history and in the context of design itself. Design
history is itself a product of ways of looking at design, as stated so precisely by Richard
Buchanan: The history of design is not merely a history of objects. It is a history of the
changing views of subject matter [...]. One could go further and say that the history of
design history is a record of the design historians views regarding what they conceive to
be the subject matter of design (Buchanan, 1992, p. 19). Thus, design history has
changed from an emphasis on creative geniuses, as in the Pevserian conception, to a
focus on objects and their contexts (e.g. as objects of desire as proposed by Forty, 2005)
and on design as an agent in the social construction of meaning. Increasingly, the
complex context of design has come into view, and the debates have revolved around
questions of production, mediation, and consumption, as stated above.
In this way, much recent design history looks at the agency of design in terms of a
dialectics of design objects and their context; exemplary in this context is Gert Selles brief
design history Design im Alltag. Vom Thonetstuhl zum Mikrochip (2007), where Selle,
based on a selection of concrete design objects (highly profiled as well as more
anonymous examples), looks at design as a phenomenon of both visible and invisible
properties of agency and cultural meaning which must be comprehended:
Out of objects long only debated within the perspective of art history, comes a
problem of perception, research and interpretation in cultural studies. The gaze
that is originally focused on the visible will today have to comprehend the complex
structure of the invisible conditions, ends and effects of a form (Selle, 2007, p. 11).
For example, Selle demonstrates how an anonymous design, a white sheet of paper, is
material but also contains invisible, immaterial design aspects, ranging from its conception
to its ways of structuring its own use and of introducing and educating a culture of literacy.
The agency of design no longer hinges only on the object but also on its evocation of
meaning and effect.


Interestingly, it often seems difficult for the discipline of design history to go beyond the
concrete objects, that is, to incorporate newer design types such as interaction design,
corporate design, branding, service design, and conceptual design. It may seem that
some of the art history heritage, reflected in the drive to detect some kind of (stylistic)
development in the objects, continues to affect design history: If one has to go beyond the
object, the stricter discipline of design history must be left behind and perhaps reframed
and renamed, e.g. as Design Culture (cf. Julier 2008). Nevertheless, what remains as an
important heritage of design history is its ability to reflect design: to look not only at
changing agencies but also at the different conceptions of agency in design.

Cultural analysis: asking about relevant contexts

As complexity (or, rather, the perceived complexity) in design has increased, a series of
attempts have been made to describe design analytically in its relation to and dialogue
with its surroundings. In a tentative, non-unifying way, I propose cultural analysis as a
label for this interest in the context of design; however, it should be noted that this entry to
investigating and understanding design has many origins and methodological approaches.
First, much cultural analysis does not have design as its prime subject but is instead
interested in broad cultural phenomena such as subculture, mass-consumption and
cultural representation (cf. Hall, 1997; Hebdige, 1979). Much cultural analysis speaks
primarily about products and objects, while the topic of design as a specific mode of
objects is addressed as a secondary topic of interest.
Further, much cultural analysis derives from various sociologically informed traditions
such as the British discipline of Cultural Studies (Hall and Hebdige) or studies in Material
Culture as ways of looking at how social meaning evolves, not only in discourse but also
through objects and peoples engagement with them (cf. Attfield, 2000; Dant, 1999; Miller,
1987). Regardless of origin and scope, these cultural approaches are relevant for a
humanist, interpretive engagement with design. They either are or may, in a further
reflection, be made reflective of design, what design is, and the contexts of design.
Examples are legion; I will point to three different but overlapping approaches: Dick
Hebdiges investigation of parameters of production, mediation, and consumption in
relation to the Italian motor scooter, Paul du Gay et al.s analysis of the Sony Walkman,
and Guy Juliers concept of design culture. They can all be related to a tradition of social
sciences (which they also see themselves in relation to), as they investigate elements of
the social world. However, I will also embed them in the context of the humanities due to
their central element of interpretation in an attempt to grasp the various contexts of design.
1) The cornerstone in Dick Hebdiges investigation of the Italian motor scooter is the
ambition to create a comprehensive cultural analysis of specific objects (which, in addition,
have a relation to subculture). His question is how we can hope to provide a
comprehensive and unified account of all the multiple values and meanings which
accumulate around a single object over time, the different symbolic and instrumental
functions it can serve for different groups of users separated by geographical, temporal
and cultural location (Hebdige, 1988, p. 80). His answer is that it can be done by
separating out different moment of the analysis in production, mediation, and consumption.
In Hebdiges view, these three moments have cultural significance (p. 81) in relation to
use, meaning, and valuation of the objects in focus. In this analysis, Hebdige is not
interested in design as such, but he continuously reflects on the role that the actual design
of the objects play in the various contexts of production, mediation, and consumption that
affect the object.


2) While Hebdige proposes a framework for understanding a concrete phenomenon in

Western societies (specifically why the sub-cultural group the Mods used Italian scooters
in their sub-cultural positioning what was the meaning potential in the objects that the
Mods were able to relate to?), the methodological case study Doing Cultural Studies. The
Story of the Sony Walkman (du Gay et al., 1997), takes the ambition of cultural analysis
further. It introduces the notion of a whole circuit of culture of production, consumption,
representation, identity, and regulation, each affecting the other, and all of them
contributing to the overall production of cultural meaning. A basic assumption is that
products in themselves do not contain a meaning, but that meaning is being created
through the interaction and intersection of the different elements of the cultural circuit and
thus, in this process, attributed to the product. By being inserted into the circuit of culture
and investigated through its elements the product becomes a medium of modern
culture and a cultural artefact (p. 2) with symbolic meaning. Thus, in the scope of this
analysis, which deals mainly with cultural meaning and addresses design as a secondary
topic, to design is to inscribe products with cultural meaning:
So, in addition to creating artefacts with a specific function, designers are also in
the game of making those artefacts meaningful. In other words, design produces
meaning through encoding artefacts with symbolic significance; it gives functional
artefacts a symbolic form (p. 62).
The question of cultural meaning in products is not just relevant in relation to consumption
(where people can inscribe new meanings in things and relate them to their various social
contexts), but even more in relation to production, where the big question is how to design
products with a high or specific degree of encoded, cultural meaning based on the
constituents of the cultural processes that surround and attribute meaning to design.
3) Design and the culture in and of design constitute the prime focus of Guy Juliers
approach in The Culture of Design (Julier, 2008). Here, he introduces the concept of
design culture, both as an object for study and as a discipline (written with capitals,
Design Culture). In a recent formulation, Design Culture is seen as the study of how
design functions in all its manifestations economically, politically, socially and culturally
(Julier, 2013). In the cultural formulation of design, Julier looks, on the one hand, at the
actual design and its objects, spaces, and images, while considering, on the other
hand, contextual factors such as production, designer, and consumption. Thus, he
states that it is the interaction and intersection of these domains and their interactions
with designed artefacts that is of prime interest to the study of design culture (Julier, 2008,
p. 13). Interestingly, Julier sees the designer as a contextual factor of design; this is not
because the designer is not inherent to design, but because there is a series of ideologies
and value systems surrounding designers and design.
With his notion of design culture, Julier creates a dual framework of examining design and
its determining contexts and discourses. In sum, as an object of study, design culture
includes both the material and immaterial aspects of everyday life. On one level it is
articulated through images, words, forms and spaces. But at another it engages
discourses, actions, beliefs, structures and relationships (Julier, 2008, p. 7). In this dual
perspective lies a central interpretive task of defining meaningful contexts for design while
also relating these contexts to actual objects of design.
So, the question that these approaches raise is, What are the relevant contexts for design,
how are they formulated and stated, and how do they affect the understanding and
investigation of actual design objects and design solutions? How is design created as
cultural objects or entities of meaning and how are they received and appropriated as
such? What role do production and designers play for consumption, and, vice versa, how
do processes of consumption affect production? A brief example may serve as illustration.


Figure 2: fritz-kola ad, 2013.

The German, Hamburg-based soft drink company fritz-kola may illustrate how cultural
meaning enters concerns of design, and how what is conceived as design is subject to
change (figure 2). On a fast-moving consumer good market with a high degree of
differentiation, the company aims at offering a product that defines itself through strong
values due to its high content of caffeine: for long nights (fr lange Nchte) in relation to
sexual situations, and stating that doing coke is so 80s (koksen ist achtziger). Further,
fritz-kola has aimed at a subversive branding strategy to become a counter-brand in
relation to the market-leading brands. In its market relations, fritz-kola aims not to reflect
an existing cultural practice but to create a new practice of being simultaneously cool and
subversive. Thus, the company seeks to define the cultural contexts that should
accompany its products (see Folkmann & Lorentzen 2014). Thus, a dual strategy evolves
in relation to the cultural contexts of the products: On the one hand, the company targets
existing groups on the market, and on the other hand, it seeks to create a new perception
of the market in a strategy of refining and controlling the flows and patterns of meaning
which pass from production to consumption (Julier, 2008, p. 73).
Ultimately, the frame of the cultural context is not given but constructed, and as such it
must be investigated through interpretive analysis.

Design philosophy: asking for meaning constituents

Design philosophy is a fairly new branch of design theory, even if philosophical
approaches to design have been a part of the field for some 20 years; here, the texts by
Richard Buchanan mark an important starting point. In my conception, design philosophy
deals with fundamental questions of what design is, what its constituents are, and what it
is for. Since the beginning of the 2000s, a variety of approaches have contributed to the
discussion about design; it has been raised through perspectives of analytical philosophy
(Galle, 2008, 2011), the philosophy of technology (Verbeek, 2005; Vermaas et al., 2009),
through a philosophical investigation of use and action in relation to design and material
culture (Dorschel, 2003; Preston, 2012), and through the theory of phenomenology
addressing questions of experience, where design is seen a vehicle for enabling, creating,
and mediating conditions of experience (Folkmann, 2013; Vial, 2010). Further, the
publication of the journal Design Philosophy Papers (2003-) may be seen in this context.


I will point out three parts of design philosophy that all raise important questions about
meaning constituents in design: aesthetics (as a question of sensual-conceptual meaning
components in design), ontology (what design is and what it is as agency), and
phenomenology (the question of design creates the constituents of human experience).
1) Aesthetics is an aspect of design that has long been claimed to constitute a central part
of design but which has not been fully theorized. Only recently have we seen the first full
treatment of design in the field of philosophical aesthetics with the release of the book
The Aesthetics of Design (Forsey, 2013). Roughly put, the question of aesthetics can be
addressed from two points of view: philosophy and design. Forseys book is an example
of the first approach; philosophers have made the move from a general concept of
philosophical aesthetics towards the field of design, which has been seen as a quasiartistic medium employing artistic means but also as a medium different from art, e.g. in
its basic element of functionality (see Steinbrenner & Nida-Rmelin, 2010). The second
approach has been more tentative, perhaps due to the differences in discourse between
the field of design (and design practice) and philosophical aesthetics. But with a glance to
newer aesthetic theory (Bhme, 2001 & 2013; Shusterman, 2000; Seel, 2000 & 2007), I
will point to the aspect of sensual and conceptual meaning components in design as
central for a design aesthetics that may illuminate the sensually effective elements of
design (the Greek aisthet meaning that which can be sensed), how design objects
relate to their idea or meaning content (which is a theme in art-oriented aesthetic theory,
e.g. Adorno, 1970), and, ultimately, how sensual and conceptual meaning content relate
to one another (cf. Folkmann, 2010).
2) Next, in relation to the question of the ontology of design, I will point primarily to the
wide scope of the question, which goes to the core of what design is. The question may
address the role of design (as method, objects, and phenomenon) in the modern world.
On this point, the role of the artificial has played a prominent role in the debate, from
Herbert Simons statements about design as the science of the artificial (Simon, 1996) to
Buchanans labeling of design as a liberal art of technological culture that creates new
modes of the artificial in human experience (see above) or Bruno Latours claim that
being is design. In Latours argument, design is nothing foundational, and in fact, it is
quite the opposite: Design changes and remediates what exists, which also enables it to
enter the inner definitions of things and make them open to improvement and change
(Latour, 2008). To follow Latour, design gives shape to human existence through
environments and artificiality in everything from chairs to climates; thus his Heideggerian
phrase in German, Dasein ist design, being is design. At the same time, to him, design is
less a matter of fact than a matter of concern, where the objects of design are open to
interpretation and open in meaning and, hence, open to new potential directions of
meaning. With this, Latour points to an apparent paradox: Design is a medium for an
immanent transcendence in the sense that it can be a medium of and a search for change
and the transcending element of the possible without leaving the immanent sphere of
Hence, a reflection of design ontology does not just address question of objects or things
or the fundamental question of what design is; it also examines how design constitutes a
mode of reality that is capable of affecting reality and changing our perception of it.
3) Finally, design phenomenology may designate an approach to design with the focus on
how design, in its many types appearance and its creation of the tactile and visual
surfaces of the modern world, affects and structures experience. In relation to this, a
versatile interest in the role of objects has emerged in the recent years; Actor-Network
Theory has claimed objects to possess active agency in networks with humans, e.g. in
guiding behavior (cf. Latour, 2005), and Material Culture Studies have pointed to the
steering role of the material environment with regard to the development of social forms


(Dant 1999, p. 12). These positions see themselves as part of the social sciences; in my
view, the question of the nature of experience plays a pivotal role for the humanities,
regardless which scientific traditions is providing the answers. Further, in a reversal of the
interest in the human subject in classic phenomenology, the philosopher Peter-Paul
Verbeek speaks of post-phenomenology as a way of pointing to and acknowledging the
role of the object in shaping the conditions of experience: Things and in our current
culture especially technological artifacts mediate how human beings are present in their
world and how the world is present to them [] (Verbeek, 2005, p. 235).
Still, we can look at the impact of design on the conditions of experience: We can look at
how we design things, and how we are designed by the things we design. This dual
perspective is suggested by Prasad Boradkar when he states that the title of his book
Designing Things refers to a reciprocity of agency and an ambiguity of designs locus of
action. People and things configure each other (Boradkar, 2010, p. 4). Further, the
philosopher Stphane Vial has proposed that we examine the effects of design in the
context of experience and thus look at design as more of an event than a being, more of
an impact than a thing, and more of an incidence than a property (Vial, 2010, p. 55-56).
The effects of design contribute to the creation of the space of experience, which is
mediated and structured by the actual objects of design. In his recent book Ltre et
lcran, being and the screen, Vial looks at the changes in our structures of perception
due to new digital media that, e.g., offer spaces of virtual perception (Vial, 2013).
To apply a phenomenological approach to design is to focus at the dual question of how
design, as a medium of meaning formation, both relates to and possibly changes the
constituents of experience.

To be informed about the questions in design and the debates that may arise from these
questions also implies knowing how these questions can be framed. In this paper, the
proposal has been that we can benefit from the framework of the humanities as we
formulate questions regarding agency, contexts, and meaning constituents and thus ask
questions about the what, how, and why of design.
In addition, an interpretive framework such as this one may be employed in design
criticism with the ambition of looking at the aims and scope of design. Often, design is
regarded optimistically as a device of progression for the common good; on this point,
Herbert Simon lurks in the background with his notion of design as a means of devising
courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones (Simon 1996,
111). This view of design is, however, not non-biased but ultimately reflects a Modernist
ideology of progression. On this point, approaches from the humanities offer tools for
casting a critical perspective on design, also on the Modernist ideology of progression.
Thus, our focus should not be only to ask what the questions of design might be; instead
we should also critically reflect the foundational ground of the questions that it seems
urgent to search for formulations for in our present time and, ultimately, to find possible
answers for.

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Mads Nygaard Folkmann

Associate Professor in Design Culture, Design Theory and Design History at the
Department of Design and Communication, The University of Southern Denmark in
Kolding, Denmark. His main field of research is aesthetics, design theory, cultural analysis
of design, and the role of imagination and the imaginary in design. He holds a PhD in
Comparative Literature and has published on topics in design, culture and literature.


Design and the Projecting of the New

Mads Nygaard Folkmann, University of Southern Denmark

The paper is a theoretical contribution to the discussion of projection in design and is,
beyond the paper, a part of a larger discussion of meaning creation in design. The paper
discusses the paradoxical situation in projecting the new and unknown as all projection
necessarily is bound to a starting point in the given. Nevertheless, design offers a series
of methods for projecting. The paper proposes five models in design that have attempted
at organizing experience in a new way and aimed at offering a projection into a future with
a concrete starting point and an abstract intention of carrying out an open exploration of
the possible. These are selected due to their potential for evoking something previously
unknown: (1) an exploration of design with artistic means, (2) an investigation of the
potential of form, (3) the possibilities of experimentation, (4) the role of scenarios, and (5)
the challenge of digital technology. In the discussion, a series of dichotomies are
employed, known versus unknown and closure versus openness, and related to questions
of linearity of prediction/anticipation on the one hand and the question of disrupting the
linearity on the other hand. In connecting the real and the speculative, design is a central
medium for future-oriented projection.

Projection; design history; scenarios; experimentation; digital technology

Design is often seen in a progressive perspective as a means of imagining some kind of
future state, e.g. in the image of something to be preferred (cf. Simon, 1996). Foremost,
however, the question is how an act of projection towards a future and towards the new
can be made. We may ask not only how design enables possibility (and thus unfolds a
wide field of meaning), but also how design can be attributed with a direction, a logic of
projection in the balance with the act of making possible.
This paper is an excerpt of a larger work (Folkmann, 2013) but looks in this context into
the dynamics of projecting toward the new and on concrete strategies in design doing this.
First, I will discuss how to project and provide the projection with a direction when all kinds
of projections base on the paradox that we cannot find the new and unknown on the basis
of something known. Next, I will discuss a variety of strategies in design to engage with
the unknown, (1) artistic exploration, (2) the potential of form, (3) experimentation, (4) the
use of scenarios, and (5) digital technology.

The Direction of the New

Conceiving of the future in an act of projection does imply an inherent paradox. How can
we think of the new in the future in radical new terms if our starting point is the
prerequisites of the given? That is also the paradox of imagination: How can we imagine
something new if the process of imagination is bound to empirical material? And,


conversely, if we seek the radically new, as in a transfiguration of the given, how can we
then think of a direction or a trajectory without being able to anticipate a destination?
(Grosz, 1999, p. 19).
Design, however, often aims at anticipating a destination (e.g., by offering a solution to a
problem), but the problem may be an element of fixation, as pointed out, for example, by
Cross (2007), if the goal becomes too deterministic. Thus, we must avoid determinism
and can aim at direction without destination, movement without prediction (Grosz 1999,
19), but we can also ask how we may keep the mind open to the entirely new, unexpected,
and unpredicted without losing our sense of direction. Hence the challenge is to do both:
keep the possible open and maintain a direction.
On this point it is vital to differentiate projection from prescription. Whereas prescription is
normative in goal and process, projection may contain direction but is open-ended in its
search for expression. On this point, Victor Margolin (2007) has made an important
distinction between predictive and prescriptive future scenarios where a predictive
scenario is based on what could happen and involved in gathering data and organizing it
into patterns that make reflection on future possibilities more plausible; in contrast,
prescriptive scenarios embody strongly articulated visions of what should happen (p. 5
6). In his discussion of how design may contribute to the construction of its audience, Carl
DiSalvo sets Margolins concept of prediction in relation to a tactic of projection with
proficient use of design to express the range and complexity of possible consequences in
an accessible and compelling manner (2009, p. 53). We can point to two central
elements of the tactics of projection. First, it is not marked by closure in trying to predict
how things should be in the future. And, second, the open-ended search for the possible
in design is led by an activity of making apparent, plausible, and persuasive (p. 55) by
the ability of design to evoke concrete representations and suppositions of the possible.
But how can we program the direction if we do not know even what possibilities will arise
and where we should search for them? This is, consequently, a matter of formulating the
search for a direction in the realm of the known versus the unknown: The closer the
possible gets to the known, the easier it is to program the direction toward it (as when the
framework for the design process is clearly stated, for example, as the creation of a new
chair), and the more the possible reaches out to something not yet known, the more
contingent it becomes. Of course, the division between known and unknown is never
clear-cut, as it also is a matter of defining frameworks for what is known and what is not.
In most cases, elements of both the known and the unknown will be present, as will
strategies of programming and contingency.
Often certain properties will be known, for example, the category of the object or product
(e.g., furniture design or a toothbrush), and explorative strategies will be employed in
order to find what initially is outside the property of the known, that is, to try to formulate
progressive approaches for seeking the contingent and the possible findings it offers. That
may occur as a strategy for seeking the new in the experimental exploration of details or
in the active reframing of the problem spaces, where the frame of reference may be
displaced. For example, developing a new toothbrush may be not so much about
combining different materials in a new way but more about transposing to a framework for
posing questions, that is, asking new questions about the culture of mouth hygiene.


In her discussion of how to obtain the new and move beyond the paradox of searching for
something not yet known, Elisabeth Grosz, with inspiration from Henri Bergson and Gilles
Deleuze, proposes two different models for conceiving the new: that of the possible in
relation to the real and of the virtual in relation to the actual. For Grosz, the possible
stands in a position of identity and resemblance to the real, which in its act of realization
limits the sphere of the possible. According to this perspective, the possible is bound to
the real, and consequently, it cannot not produce anything new that transcends the given.
Where the possible is regarded as a mode of anticipatory resemblance of the real, by
contrast, the virtual never resembles the real that it actualizes (Grosz, 1999, p. 27).
Groszs statement is clear: While the concept of the possible doubles that of the real, the
virtual is the real of genuine production, innovation, and creativity. It is only actualization
that engenders the new (p. 27).
Grosz points to two different ways of conceiving the possible in relation to the given. The
first is given through the basic structural condition of possibility: that it relates to something,
the real, in the same manner that new design is always based on existing material. The
second way points to the pure transfiguring potential of the possible: It is a pure potential
of possibility that differs from the real but in principle can be actualized any time.
These two models need not be combined in a perfect synthesis, but together they point to
the paradox of formulating a logic of projecting: On the one hand, projecting should point
in the direction of something in order not to lose its direction, while on the other hand, it
should not be limited by the constraints of the existing in its search for the entirely new if
the goal is radical innovation. In the following, I will describe a series of approaches to
investigating how projecting might operate. I will reach back into design history in order to
find paradigmatic models of creating figurations through design.

Models of Projection
I will describe a series of models of design aimed at creating new paradigms of
experience, and they are selected due to their potential for evoking something previously
unknown even if they are not similar in extension or character. I move back into design
history and point out some exemplary turns and illustrative products that have all
attempted to organize experience in a new way and aimed at offering a projection into a
future with a concrete starting point and an abstract intention of carrying out an open
exploration of the possible. Here, projection has been engaged in its potential to point in
new directions and thus effect shifts of paradigm in experience. As a concluding element, I
point to digital technology which has proven to offer radical challenges to design.
I point to five models: (1) an exploration of design with artistic means, (2) an investigation
of the potential of form, (3) the possibilities of experimentation, (4) the role of scenarios,
and (5) the challenge of digital technology. The purpose of the following is not to offer an
alternative selection of the overwhelming material of design history, even if historical
studies will only gain in importance in the future, as historical material can offer a central
source of understanding how we arrived at the existing situation and, further, how we
project ourselves into the future. My aim is to employ a series of dichotomies, known
versus unknown and closure versus openness, and relate them to questions of linearity of
prediction/anticipation on the one hand and the question of disrupting the linearity on the
other hand. Thus, my goal is to outline several models of approaches to projection and the
conception of experience through design.


The Role of Artistic Means

Even in its early history, design was conceived as a discipline influenced by artistic
approaches; a good example of this is the English arts and crafts movement, which
reacted to the growing industrialization in the late nineteenth century and claimed the
importance of traditional handicraft and the skilled artist. But even more explicitly, the role
of the artistic came to expression and debate in the Bauhaus school in Germany (1919
1925 in Weimar, 19251932 in Dessau, 19321933 in Berlin). Bauhaus initiated a
modernist, progressive search for a new order of things with an implicit, linearly conceived
anticipation of a new state of being; the means and methods often employed by the staff
and students at Bauhaus were frequently characterized by a disruptive and often open
exploration of and by artistic means, for example, in the studies of color, forms, and
movement conducted by Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, and Lszl Moholy-Nagy,
among others. Hence, Bauhaus was situated in a paradox that was both productive (and
influential in terms of artistic exploration) and limiting (as the paradox could not be
resolved). Bauhaus, or at least a part of it, aimed at developing a new expression of form
that should both reflect contemporary industrial culture and, on a concrete level, be
realizable in industrial production, but the artistic base and bias of the exploration of this
new language of form was often in contrast and even in contradiction to the requirements
of modern industrial production.
One example of this is the lamp WG24, which Wilhelm Wagenfeld designed with Karl J.
Jucker in 1924. With its clear, geometrical forms, its use of the modern materials of glass
and steel, and its transparency of structure and assembly, it was conceived as a direct
reflection of industrial aesthetics. And through this tight connection of expression and
culture, the lamp was almost deliberately designed to be an iconic reflection of its time.
But from the outset, the lamp was impossible to manufacture industrially. It requires
handicraft and precision in the glasswork and in the assembly. The lamp reflects industrial
culture but does not match its means of production. In this respect, Bauhaus and the
WG24 express a central paradox of design that has been with us ever since: the paradox
of artistic ambition of form and expression on the one hand and the requirements of
industrial production and mass manufacturing on the other hand.
In relation to the discussion of direction, this represents a complication of means and goal.
Apparently the goal is known, although it is vaguely statedthe improvement of
contemporary and future culture by means of a new culture of designwhile the means,
in their artistic constitution as being under constant development, are situated in the realm
of the unknown. However, just as the means are blurry, the goal becomes blurry too.
There might be a stated formulation of vision and a sense of direction, but the vision may
move out of sight if the means are only barely capable of realizing the vision (in focusing
the unknown) and actualizing it. Thus, when the employment of artistic devices entails an
open exploration of previous unknown modes of expression, these may not be the
obedient servants of the desire to reach a goal; instead, they may lead the process astray
or even disrupt the expression of the goal. In this sense, the distance was too distant from
the formulation of the first Bauhaus manifesto in 1919 by Walter Gropius with its claim of
architecture as the end goal of all creative endeavor, resulting in the new building of the
future (Gropius, 1919), to the disparate workings of the school, until it was closed by the
Nazis in 1933.

The Potential of Form

Louis Sullivans credo of form following function has been a central dogma of design,
describing form as emerging from function as its pure and logical consequence. The credo
has often been understood as the submission of form under function, but in Sullivans


conception, the point was that function and form are organically interconnected and parts
of the same unit of expressing the spirit of the modern times. By contrast, matters of form
have also been articulated as relatively independent of the question of function. In
particular, this is expressed in the tendency toward styling in design, that is, when the
inner functional component of the product is considered a premise of the design, whereby
the product in question can differentiate itself from other products only by means of outer
appearance. This is indeed a factor for design objects that strive for visual appeal in a
competitive market. An early and essential example of this is the trend of American
streamlined design, which was propagated by Raymond Loewy among others. In the
design of logos and products for the world of growing consumption, such as toasters,
campers, and cars, the claim was the prerogative of sensuous, appealing form in a
combination of organic shapes and inspiration from the aesthetics of the industrial world,
for example, in the use of the principles of aerodynamics.
As a tendency, the dominance of form contains a clear statement of the means of design,
which are to increase their emphasis on parameters of beauty and appearance.
Likewise, the goal remains embedded in the same ambition of making things better at the
small scale of the product. With a keen awareness of the role of a catchy statement for
marketing purposes, Loewy said, for example, I can claim to have made the daily life of
the twentieth century more beautiful; and further, Design, vitalized and simplified, will
make the comforts of civilized life available to an ever-increasing number of Americans..
Thus, it may be that a design trend such as the streamlined design did not have a farreaching projection as in a concept of a utopia, but it did provide a clear sense of direction
in its exploration of the form language that reflected the modern age. On the level of form
and the concrete product, it thus explored the possibilities of experience based on the
conditions of modern life. Based on the concrete and properties of the known (e.g., a
toaster) and thus not the abstract of a vision residing in the unknown (e.g., a reversal of
consumer culture), it sought to employ form as a means of framing experience, that is, of
enabling new kinds of connection of sensual material (in the expression of form) and
conceptual meaning (in improving comfort and furthering the good life). Thus, working with
form can be a driver for direction; it takes its starting point in a steady line of anticipation
and prediction, as the desired solution is known in advance (e.g., an improved toaster);
however, it may suddenly prove to have an additional disruptive effect if the expression of
form radically challenges the customary appearance of things and, hence, their ability to fit
into the realm of experience. Working with the outer appearance of form can suddenly
lead in new directions and evoke new modes of experiencing the surroundings.

Experimental strategies in design play an important role in the development of design.
In this context, I mean experimental in the sense of design objects and design solutions
that are not primarily aimed at problem solution or seek to apply to a market but
investigate their own properties, that is, in what way they constitute design and what
design is. Among other examples, this approach is found in the critical design movement
and designers whose designs explore the ontology of design more than they aim at
problem solving. In design history, however, the employment of means of design in an
experimental setting reaches back to movements in the 1960s, such as the Italian
antidesign and radical design movements.
Consequently, experimental design is not necessarily in demand in industry, where the
focus is often on solving a problem and arriving at a solution that can be converted into a
product. Often, then, experiments take place outside industry: in schools or galleries and


in the work of independent designers. Reasonably, the question can also be asked why
design should be experimental in its setting and questioning of things, and whether it
should perhaps just stick to its heritage of being applied art, that is, a way of employing
artistic means for a certain purpose. Indeed, should design not just be employed as a
means of creating the best possible solutions to the problems we are able to find and
state? And, consequently, should we not leave it to art, that is, the nonapplied or
beautiful arts (as in the classical tradition of les beaux arts), to pose the essential
questions about the being of things? The case is, however, that not only is there an
interface between design and art in the multiple phenomena of designart or crossovers,
where the zones of the purposeful and the purposeless interact to produce new art objects
attributed with a function or new design objects that explore the means and form language
of design but which would hardly stand the test of use.
Even more important, the self-questioning of design in design experiments is vital for the
development of design: Design experiments posit that design is not only a means of
reaching a goal, that is, solving the properly stated problem. In fact, on a fundamental
level, design is a central interface with reality, which lets design structure experience and
provide access to some parts of reality while leaving some elements invisible. To illustrate,
a project like Daniel Rozins circle mirror project explores the materialization of immaterial
technology when a large number of small metal plates respond to the input of a digital
camera and image processing, thus producing an analog output with a rough pixelation
that marks the transition from one medium and form of technology to another (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Circles Mirror, 2006, by Daniel Rozin. Nine hundred laminated circle prints,
motors, video camera, control electronics, custom software, microcontroller. Photo: David
Another example is Thomas Thwaitess design school project of attempting to make a DIY
toaster (Figure 2). Thwaites tried to build a toaster from scratch, including finding the raw
material for all the different components. Thus, the process of designing the toaster both
investigated and displayed the complexity of production as it became clear that even a
seemingly simple product such as a toaster is composed of a large number of complex
materials. Thwaitess project shows that even a simple product like a toaster is impossible
to design without taking a whole series of cultural prerequisites (e.g., the history of refining
materials and technology) into account. In this way, the DIY toaster makes visible that a


toaster is not just an object of consumption but also the condensed expression of
development in culture and civilization.

Figure 2: DIY Toaster. Design: Thomas Thwaites. Photo: Daniel Alexander.

Hence, design experimentation reveals and enables reflection on the notion that design, in
terms of both the process of designing and the objects of design, is more than a
transparent device or medium that improves peoples interaction with the world, and that
in itself actually produces and reflects meaning. As design experimentation is explicit
about the level and production of symbolic meaning and the production of it in design, it
reflects how design can be employed in strategies of producing culture, creating meaning,
and schematizing experience: Design experimentation can visibly display the idea that
design objects are media of experience and cultural production. The exploration of design
as a medium in its own right may require the projection in design experimentation to stay
relatively close to the explored medium itself. The exploratory strategy may point to an
environmental or cultural effect (e.g., the electrical radiation or the visualization of
electricity in the Static! project where the wire glows according to the degree of electrical
power, Figure 3), but the experiments often remain limited in impact and bound to the
concrete design object. That is also an advantage of this approach. It begins in the object
(and the way in which it is designed and structured by design), not in an abstract vision. In
this sense, both the means and the goal of the design are open to an exploration into the
realm of the unknown; there is no clear goal setting or any prescribed means.


Figure 3: Energy as design material. The power aware cord lights up according to the
amount of energy surging through it. The cord is one of the results from the research
project Static! at the Interactive Institute in Sweden. Design: Sara Ilstedt Hjelm.
Consequently, design experimentation does not operate with prediction or anticipation but
with an open logic of searching, which can often produce disruptive results, as did the DIY
toaster. Design experimentation is about investigating the possible of design to the limits
of impossibility, challenging design by pushing it to its border, but doing this on the basis
of the objectas an emergence of possibilities explored in and through the concrete

The Role of Scenarios

A central means in design methodology is to create concrete visualizations of possible
futures. Here, practice-based tools are employed in investigating the emergence of a
becoming future, that is, in stating what the goal could be. In this manner, Rehearsing the
Future is the title of a book on the topic (Halse et al., 2010). A range of refined tools has
been developed, including design labs and design spaces, as places for a controlled
search for the possible or creative techniques for individual and group-based exploration
of possibilities. An example is the construction of scenarios for expressing in a concrete
form what a given number of possible futures might look like, as Ezio Manzini attempted
with his concept of design-oriented scenarios (DOS), in an effort to render visions
concrete, probable, and, hence, open to reflection and discussion (Manzini, 2003). Thus,
the scenario has strength of visualization, employing design as a tool of world construction
and a means of social engagement. The scenario is aimed at sparking debate and
engaging people when they encounter possible versions of a given condition or place.
Scenarios are, in the words of Wolfgang Jonas (2001), images of possible, probable, or
preferable futures or futures to be avoided, and sometimes comprise the steps to achieve
them (p. 76). In Groszs terms, however, this kind of approach could never foster new
knowledge, as it configures, constructs, and stipulates on the basis of known elements.
Still, it is an important tool for obtaining new versions of the real and, with Groszs
concepts, being driven further in the direction of achieving something entirely new.


In the historical inventory of approaches to design methods, Otl Aicher has challenged the
role and character of projection in trying to make its goal open to possibilities while at the
same time keeping the means concrete. In what I will call a progressive phenomenology,
Aicher sees design as a means whereby the human subject not only experiences the
world (hence, the classic theme of phenomenology) but also seeks to create the world, to
project, zu entwerfen. By designating a zone that is free from outside influences, the
human subject is defined as the starting point for creation through projective cognition.
Aicher speaks of creative making as an unfolding of the subject and as the extension of
the subject into the self-organized world (1991a, p. 190-191).
Aicher explores the potential of the interaction, that is, what happens when designing and
projecting are activated. Aicher balances on the cutting edge of accepting the world as it is
and assuming, with regard to the artificiality of the modern world, that the world that we
live in is the world as we made it (p. 185). Projecting means that the world is open to
intervention, which means taking responsibility for the way in which things function and
evolve. According to Aicher, design is a cultural and reflective activity that functions as a
medium for raising fundamental questions of human existence within the modern,
artificial world (1991b, p. 75).
Aichers projective tool is the model as a way to devise an openness toward the world, as
it provides access to reality through its constructive approach. To project is to open up
new spaces of thinking; to use the model is to focus the openness and give it direction
but still keep open the scope of possibility. The model states an open-ended hypothesis,
which is the opposite of asserting an idea of finalized truth and of stating scenarios with a
determinate extension. Thus, the model differs from the hypothesis based on presumption
as in the building of the scenario. Through the model and its projecting, a new space of
the possible comes into being; we transgress the limits of the given world in order to
reach new possibilities (Aicher 1991b, p. 29). This implies an experimental process,
where the feedback mechanism of trial and error is important. He points to design as a
process of constant comparisons and corrections, as projective thinking that throws
itself into the unknown (p. 28). Aicher prefers the concept of steering over planning as a
design methodology. Making plans means deploying an instrumental and abstract logic of
principles that misses the dynamics of reality; using a strategy of steering means using
thinking with feedback based on observant testing, sticking to the immediate (p. 138),
learning from feedback, and constituting a free space in the making. Furthermore, Aicher
notes that thinking in the sense of grasping (be-greifen) something is always a physical
act, where the hands are used as an active medium (p. 24). Aicher thus demonstrates
how the classic virtues of design, imagining through visualization, for example, in drawing
and shaping mock-ups, can be conceived within a larger framework of a philosophically
founded phenomenology of projecting through design.
Despite the historical bias of an optimist-modernist tendency, Aicher contributes to the
discussion of how to attribute direction to projection when the horizon of possibilities is to
be kept open all the way through the act of projecting.

Digital Technology
Modern technology has been a driver of design and, conversely, design has indicated new
directions for technology. Design and technology are inextricably interwoven, even to a
degree where design can be regarded as a contemporary art of technology (Buchanan
1992), that is, as a mediator and translator between culture and technology and, hence,
as a generator of a new culture of technology.


In this context, I focus on the microchip as a paradigmatic example of technology

influencing the conception of design, what can be made possible through design, and how
design objects make new solutions possible. Microchips are, in the words of Gert Selle,
the fundamental design of our age (2007, p. 215). The radical aspect of the microchip
lies primarily in its size. First, its digital technology has revolutionized the handling of
information; the limit has not yet been reached in terms of how much information (in the
form of bit streams) can be processed by a microchip. Second, the microchip, as reflected
in its name, has obtained this in a process of miniaturization; it marks the cultural fracture
of materiality and immateriality (p. 214). The chip has not yet disappeared, however; it
still has a physical extension, and there is of course a physical limit to the smallness of its
scale. But it has decreased in size to a point where microchips can be incorporated
virtually everywhere. As a result, more and more products employ electronic technology to
a degree where we can speak of ubiquitous computing. The microchip has played a
leading role in producing a new culture of design that is characterized by anonymous,
technical products (and thus producing the direct opposite of a culture of a cult of the
designer) and mysterious black box design, where the driver of development is
transposed from the outside (of form) to the inside (of capacity of information). Selle
claims that the microchip becomes the new thing of wonder that completely performs its
job in hiding. The potency of design that is attributed to it is defined by the changes of the
life world that it effectuates (p. 214). Of course, a microchip will always be only a small
component in a larger, more complex entity of design, but by enabling information
processing, it carries with it a tendency toward creating new possibilities and organizing
knowledge in new ways.
The means of the microchip is knownminiaturization and information processing at an
increasingly high speedbut the goal has been more unclear. On the one hand, the
development of the microchip has been driven by the ambition of incorporating it in new
versions of existing products; on the other hand, the employment of the microchip has
often been disruptive in terms of leading to new types of products and to unexpected uses
with far-reaching implications. For example, before 2003, it could hardly be imagined how
full-tone sound production could be made electronically possible in tiny electronic devices;
even the pocket computer in the form of smart phones was hard to imagine before the
introduction of the product type in 2007. In the same vein, the radiofrequency ID chip has
made possible incorporating information tags in many types of products (and even in
animals). As a model of projecting a new mode of experience, the microchip describes the
tendency of the seemingly small and insignificant detail with a huge impact.
The microchip is a central device in structuring the interfaces with which we meet the
world and which influence the conditions of experience. Thus, interface should be
understood not only in terms of designed surfaces (on screens, in computers, in 3D) for
our meeting with technology (i.e., the discipline of interface design which has, for example,
been described in research into human-compute interaction); interface is a much broader
term that designates the points of contact between us and our designed environment.
What happens is that the increasing use of digital technology in products submits their
scope and impact to a process of devisualization (what you get is far more than what you
see), which is, paradoxically, mediated by visual means (e.g., in a visual interface). This
type of product is in principle limitless in its inner extension.
Furthermore, the digitally operating object can evoke an act of unrealization: it is capable
of creating a new, imaginary model of reality at a distance from the world of physical
realities. Of course, as a product, the object functions within the world of realities; it can be


marketed as a consumer product like any other product. Conversely, however, this kind of
object has the potential to create new modes of representing and accessing reality. An
example might be the ways in which social relations are established and formulated (and
often purposely distorted) through social digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Of
course, material objects with a limited outer extension may also involve a complex
communication of imaginary meaning, but digital objects expand the dimension of
imaginary meaning by virtue and means of their inner potential of creating new models or
representations of reality. Still, the effects of digital objects are far from William Gibsons
dystopian vision of humans with technological implants that generate far-reaching
expansions of consciousness in integration with a wider network of consciousness, as
described in his 1984 breakthrough novel Neuromancer (where Gibson not only
anticipated the Internet but also invented the concept of cyberspace). But on a structural
level, the effect is similar: we meet a part of the world through digital technology, and with
its expanded internal extension, it has a vast influence on the way we meet the world, that
is, how experience is enabled, structured, and staged.

We cannot with any certainty predict or project the future but we can engage in design in
order look for ways of projecting and entering the future. In this regard, design is special,
not only for projecting the new but also for methodologies in doing this.
In its dynamic engagement in the real and the non-real, in the world of the realities and
the imaginary, in technology and the arts, in problem solving and in problem searching, in
bound contexts and in visual-tactile speculation, design is a central means of the modern
culture to search for a progressive engagement with the future, that brings with it the past,
takes its starting point in the present but ultimately searches for the not-yet-given of the

Aicher, O. (1991a). die welt als entwurf. Berlin: Ernst und Sohn.
Aicher, O. (1991b). analog und digital. Berlin: Ernst und Sohn.
Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues 8(2), 5-21.
Cross, N. (2007). Designerly Ways of Knowing. Basel: Birkhuser.
DiSalvo, C. (2009). Design and the Construction of Publics. Design Issues 25(1), 4863.
Folkmann, M.N. (2013). The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT
Gropius, W. (1919). Bauhaus Manifest, accessed August 15, 2011,


Grosz, E. (1999). Thinking the New: Futures Yet Unthought. In Grosz, E. (ed.),
Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory and Futures (pp.15-28). Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press.
Halse, J. et al. (eds). (2010). Rehearsing the Future. Copenhagen: Danish School of
Jonas, W. (2001). A Scenario for Design. Design Issues 17(2), 6480.
Manzini, E. (2003). Scenarios of Sustainable Wellbeing. Design Philosophy Papers 1.
Margolin, V. (2007) Design, the Future and the Human Spirit. Design Issues 23(3), 4-15.
Selle, G. (2007). Design im Alltag. Vom Thonetstuhl zum Mikrochip. Frankfurt am Main:
Simon, H. (1996). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mads Nygaard Folkmann

Associate Professor in Design Culture, Design Theory and Design History at the
Department of Design and Communication, The University of Southern Denmark in
Kolding, Denmark. His main field of research is aesthetics, design theory, cultural analysis
of design, and the role of imagination and the imaginary in design. He holds a PhD in
Comparative Literature and has published on topics in design, culture and literature.


Hacking delivery systems: exploring design tools for

user-led innovation in urban infrastructures
Lorenzo Davoli, Ume Institute of Design, Ume University
Johan Redstrm, Ume Institute of Design, Ume University
Ruben van der Vleuten, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design

There is an emerging set of needs in our post-industrial society that require a contextual
sensitivity and local flexibility that traditional industrial infrastructures seem to lack. As a
response, distributed small-scale forms of production and collaborative services are being
developed, providing the foundations for more resilient and responsive infrastructures.
Using urban freight delivery services as a case, this paper presents a possible approach
to accessing and expressing the back end functioning of a large formal industrial urban
infrastructure in order to make it accessible to bottom-up innovation. The postal service
has been used as a test bed for two small hacking experiments using consumer and do-ityourself (DIY) electronics: a GPS and micro cameras. Data visualization and videos have
been produced in order to materialize and share knowledge about the infrastructure and
its qualities. By tracing its underlying functionalities, we aim to reveal otherwise hidden
opportunities for design intervention that could become the starting point for participatory
design processes aimed at bottom-up innovation in the context of industrial infrastructures.
As such, this project aims at adding to the tools and materials available for such design

Infrastructures; Visualization; Co-Design; Service Design; Critical Practice

As societal needs change over time, the structure and infrastructure of our cities have to
evolve to serve new functions. Be it railroads, electricity grids, or mobile communication
networks, such changes in the infrastructure of a city leaves both visible and invisible
traces of the development of what living and working in this city is, and have been, like.
What is less visible in everyday city life, however, is how these changes in the
infrastructure took place and, importantly, what is now needed to evolve them to serve
new needs.
Prevalent processes for developing infrastructures based on policy making, top-down
approaches and standardization criteria evolved as a response to industrialization and the
shift to mass production and consumption. Today, our post-industrial society is developing
a very different set of needs that often require a contextual sensitivity and local flexibility
that traditional industrial infrastructures seem to lack (Bell 1973; Graham & Marvin, 2001;
Hunt, 2005). As a response, distributed small-scale forms of production and collaborative
services are emerging, providing the foundations for more resilient and responsive
infrastructures (Biggs, Ryan, & Wiseman, 2010; Manzini, 2013; Townsend, Maguire,
Liebhold, & Crawford, 2011).


Participatory design approaches focusing on working in the field, have developed new
competences and a variety of tools for how to design sustainable and inclusive systems of
product and services, as well as how to support their introduction (Binder et al., 2011;
Koskinen et al., 2011; Manzini et al., 2004). Further, besides designing such new
alternatives, designers have also started to think about how to overcome some of the
scalability and diffusion constraints exerted by the industrial regime they operate within
(Morelli 2007; Sanders & Stappers, 2008; Valtonen, 2010). New cross-fertilizations and
feedback mechanisms between top-down and bottom-up systems might be needed to
support their introduction to avoid systemic rebound effects and continued proliferation of
existing standards (Graham & Marvin, 2001; Johansson, Kisch, & Mirata, 2005; Meadows
& Wright, 2008; Norman, 2009).
To open up industrial infrastructures and make them receptive to bottom-up and social
innovation can be a way to leverage them towards more collaborative and adaptive forms
(Hill, 2012; Ratti & Townsend, 2011). Nevertheless, user-led innovation processes require
transparency a transparency that existing infrastructures typically do not have. Thus,
certain interventions might be necessary for this to become possible. For instance, there
are now examples of companies that provide people with the information needed to
understand how they work and the material necessary to be creative in order to open up
for co-creation of new concepts (Chesbrough, 2010). Except for interactions at the frontend and at predetermined access points, however, the ways urban infrastructures and
services operate are essentially invisible to most users. Their background functioning is
naturalized and taken for granted (Borgmann, 1987; Bowker & Star, 2000). Further, the
back-end information is privately held and deliberately not accessible for competition and
security reasons. These features make it difficult for people outside these systems to
understand and interpret them without some means to relate.
To open up such infrastructures for re-interpretation and design, we somehow need to
make them visible beyond the access points we currently interact with. To give
infrastructures a presence, to somehow make something expressing their functioning
available for design, is a necessary first step to allow judgment and participation (Dewey,
1954; Hallns & Redstrm, 2002; Nelson & Stolterman, 2003; Suchman, 2012). If we can
give them a more visible and tangible presence, the images of the infrastructure that
emerge can be turned into material for design, and appropriate tools and processes can
be crafted to allow designers and communities to understand existing configurations
(Boehner, Gaver, & Boucher, 2012; Mattelmki, 2005). Once the material and the tools
have been made present, we can stage participatory processes of experimentation and
fieldwork to understand, design and curate how to re-purpose infrastructures and
rehearse possible future solutions (Halse et al., 2010).
The purpose of this paper is to start looking into what a design practice addressing these
needs might be like. The aim is not to prove a concept or evaluate the quality of the
results, but to start to investigate the role of design in the democratization of large physical
infrastructures. The reason is simple yet important: essentially this is a kind of (industrial)
design current design practice is not really equipped for. In addition to the problematics of
being slightly at odds with our disciplines industrial roots and heritage, this is a kind of
design where we currently have no material to design with, where we face a diversity of
stakeholders far beyond simple dichotomies between producers and consumers, and
where the entire design process will have to happen in diverse societal contexts rather
than in the far more familiar design studio. The aim of these experiments is to explore the
first stage of this process, namely that of creating the material necessary for any kind of


design process to begin. Thus, we will look for ways of providing an experience of the
back-end functioning of a delivery service, of identifying what kind of material they can
provide and of evaluating their possible use as design probes in participatory design. As
such, the work reported is only a first step towards a more developed participatory design

Delivery Systems
Being one of the several freight distribution actors in the city, and probably one of the
most accessible, the postal service was selected as a target of our studies. In recent
years concerns about the social, environmental and economical impacts of urban freight
distribution have grown to expose the slow responsiveness to changes of current planning
methods (Lindholm & Behrends, 2012). Despite the higher level of efficiency offered by
single actors and services, their heterogeneity, conflicting and lack of data make shared
holistic solutions to city logistic hard to find and organize (Dablanc, 2007). The postal
infrastructure is part of the global logistic network and shares several features with other
logistic services. This makes it a good case study to understand how to open systems
explicitly set up for top-down control and in service for global economies, repurposing
them to serve the specific needs of cities and local communities.
With its internal innovation protocols and standardized supply services, the postal service
represents a typical example of an industrial infrastructure. As such, it shares many of the
evolution patterns and problems related to naturalization, reductionism, liberalization and
commoditization that have been extensively discussed in literature (Borgmann 1987;
Bowker & Star, 2000; Graham & Marvin, 2001). The derived demand, time and location
criteria at the base of its organization, are also at the root of many consequences of
logistic networks on the urban landscape, such as land consumption and traffic
congestions; splintering of communities and disembodiment of cities (Dablanc, 2007;
Graham & Marvin, 2001; Hesse & Rodrigue, 2004; Lyster, 2012)
Postal systems, like many other global logistic networks, are organized in more or less the
same way everywhere regardless of the city geography, regulations and social context
(Dablanc, 2007; Hesse 2002). Originally designed to serve and meet the primary needs of
supplying diverse communities at long distances, todays postal services have
incrementally developed more decentralized networks to provide more extensive pick-up
and distribution points to their customers. As part of this proximity strategy, tracking
services showing the different transitions at different delivery stages have been introduced,
e.g. showing when a package moves from a truck to a warehouse. Despite these
transaction points given by online services and front-end interactions, the entire back-end
of the delivery process and its performance are inaccessible from the external users

New mobile technologies and embedded systems could offer cities and companies new
possibilities for involvement and participation in the study and design of their services
(Schaffers, et al., 2012; Von Hippel, 2009. Hacking is not only a way to illegally obtain
information but also a source of innovation for companies. A famous example is Lego and
their Mindstorm. Once it was hacked, the company recognized the value of opening up
their innovation process as a general strategy to explore new market possibilities
(Chesbrough, 2010). Following this example, Ford is now inviting people to hack its cars


to develop new possible mobility applications (OpenXC, n.d.). The number of examples of
bottom-up and crowd-source services and initiatives involving users in the exploration of
cities through sensors and devices is continuously growing. For instance, participatory
sensing has been used a tool for design of collaborative services and distributed
infrastructures (Burke et al., 2006; Shilton et al., 2008). Augmentations of infrastructures
through small tracking devices have been used to understand the functioning of large
urban infrastructures like waste removal, by enabling the system to produce information it
couldnt otherwise provide (Offenhuber et al., 2012). Finally, GPS tracking has been used
in a participatory process to reveal the functioning of informal recycling cooperatives and
favour their interoperability with public and private institutions (Offenhuber & Lee, 2012).
In the context of such developments, we have carried out two experiments. The initial
question that triggered them was extremely simple: how to open up an existing system
and understand what happens to parcels from the moment they are shipped to the
moment they are delivered? Not having access to the postal services sorting procedures,
datasets about vehicles locations or final destinations of mails shipped, we combined two
methods to access and expose their back-end functioning: augmentation and the do-ityourself practice of hacking. This approach has been necessary to be able to follow and
retrieve data about paths and locations of envelopes and parcels from their origins to
destinations; information the system is not providing to end-users.
Augmentation consists in adding information processing and ability to generate data to
objects and systems unable to produce them, providing enhanced possibilities for
experiences and interaction with their users (Kuniavsky, 2010). Hacking can be defined as
a practice aimed at opening a system, accessing it and learning how to master its
functioning and structures (cf. von Busch, 2009). Although hackers sometimes operate
close to what is illegal or even past that border breaking into forbidden or private networks,
hacking can also be a positive, provocative act made in order to build new things, moved
by curiosity and a desire to amplify the interaction with the world, without destructive intent
(Mitchell, 2005). In our case we clearly aim for the latter: the purpose here is to obtain new
perspectives on the existing in order to uncover new design opportunities. For instance, it
was not in the projects interest to reveal any sensitive information meant to be secret and
secured, but rather to use a kind of hacking to make sense of something that is already
partially visible and available.
We applied this method to the postal service in two experiments that provides information
at two different scales. The first experiment, From A to B, used a micro camera to record
and provide an experience of how the sorting process take place within the services
buildings and vehicles from the parcel perspective. The second one, 4mails, use a GPS
tracker to follow, in real time, the delivery paths in the city to identify facilities, locations
and timetables of the infrastructure network. The two experiments took place in two
different European cities. Since it is not in our interest to reveal any data in any way
sensitive to the service provider, the exact locations of the experiments and name of the
service provider are withheld.

From A to B
The first intervention From A to B involved installing a small outward facing pinhole
camera inside a cardboard box of 200mm x 230mm x 90 mm. The camera was modified
by adding a high capacity battery and was controlled through the Arduino chip, an opensource hardware platform (Figure 1). The camera was programmed to take a three


second video snapshot including audio every minute. Additionally, tilt switches acting as
movement sensors had been connected to the camera, ensuring the camera would record
30-second videos any time movement was perceived (under the assumption that the
moments of movement were the most important and interesting of the mailing process).
Light sensors were used to prevent the system from draining battery power and saving
memory when it was not bright enough to record anything. The box was shipped four
times between April and June 2012 from a post office via ordinary mail. The first tree
attempts have been used to properly set up the device. Only the last attempt was
successful and able to record the entire trip and cover the entire door-to-door. This last
delivery took 24 hours

Figure 1: Arduino tilt triggered camera in the box

A first attempt at this intervention was made in November 2011. The device was based on
a regular GPS logger with an extra external power supply. However, this solution did not
provide the desired results due to the inability to maintain continuous connection with
satellites. A second test was done using a relatively cheap and off-shelf device, a Garmin
tracker GTU 10, attached to four envelopes. This device is a high-sensitivity GPS (Global
Positioning System) assisted by cell tower triangulation for approximate location (A-GPS).
This is an important feature since envelopes spend most of the time indoors. Finally the
device had a battery life of approximately three days at a position-logging rate of 5
minutes, enough to cover the entire delivery and a real time tracking service via mobile
and desktop computer.
The second experiment took place in February 2012. One by one, the envelopes were
shipped to four different addresses in neighbourhoods located at four cardinal points in
the city. This was done to cover as much as possible the city area and to make them
arrive in different distribution nodes. Mail 1 and 4 have been shipped from mail drop boxes
within the city centre using ordinary mail, while mail 2 and 3 from our university building
via ordinary mail. The GPS logged its location every 5 minutes, offering an accurate detail
of the paths taken by the envelopes and the distances they travelled. The mails have
been shipped one after another and they all arrived at destination with no particular
problem. All the deliveries took between eighteen to twenty-four hours to reach their final
destinations. The data from the logger was retrieved through the Garmin web service.


Unfortunately this service doesnt allow direct access to the GPS paths files. Once the
envelopes arrived at their destinations, their waypoints and time stamps had to be
transferred manually from the web service into an Excel file and then further into Google
Earth in order to visualize their path (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Data collection of the mails journeys.

To verify the accuracy of the data and paths taken during the deliveries, all waypoints,
distances and timing have been recalculated using Google maps. This procedure allowed
overcoming the discontinuity in signal transmission that affected the GPS devices. Even if
some of the waypoints were missing this procedure confirmed that the information
obtained from the tags was reliable and that the waypoints time stamps was coinciding
with the estimated travel time of Google. Finally, we calculated the shortest paths between
start and destination point and compared them with the actual travelled distances and
delivery time.

Collection and evaluation

The footage recorded in From A to B has been edited in a video. Similarly graphic
visualizations and a video of the GPS data have been produced for 4Mails. Once all the
visualizations had been made, all material was gathered, collectively discussed and
evaluated. We then compared and interpreted the two probes and their material according
the following criteria: the level of engagement they provide and if they provide interesting
content. Specifically, we looked for what kind of information they could provide; what we
could learn about a service back-end, its operation, and how these tools could trigger
reflection and creativity to possibly identify new purposes and services.
Importantly, the goal of the experiments was not to provide an accurate or scientific
analysis of the mail systems and distribution networks, neither was it to present a new
organizational model for this specific service. Rather, we wanted to use this approach to
create a kind of material that can be used in a design process. Indeed, rather than a


precise technical description, we want to explore how to expose the delivery process in a
different way and if such an increased transparency could support actors outside the
infrastructure to generate ideas for new applications and interactions among communities
and distribution networks.

The two experiments provided two different kinds of information. From A to B gave us an
insight of the internal mailing process, how it takes place and the work required to ship a
parcel. 4 Mails instead, provided us an idea of how the distribution network develops and
spread in the city, and its locations and timetables.

From A to B
Through the video, the different stages along the delivery process, from collection and
sorting to distribution, have been revealed to offer an account of how work gets done.
Organization and man-machine interaction becomes accessible, providing a way to
makes sense of a reality ignored by most. We identified twelve stages (Figure 3):
reception at post office (1); storage at the post office (2); transport at the main sorting
centre (3); reception at the sorting centre; sorting (5,6,7); collection (8); loading on truck
(9); distribution (10); transport mode change (11); final delivery. Only four out of these
twelve activities are perceivable by external users and only in two of them users had an
active role: at the beginning and the end.

Figure 3: Analysis of the video footage.

For each of these steps we analysed which activities are carried out by humans, which
ones are fully automated and which ones need both. From the video we could identify ten
people and where they are employed along the process. Six of them were directly
involved in in the delivery of the augmented parcel. Human activities are at the front hand
in the post office (1); in the ware house unloading incoming mail containers with the
assistance of a specific machine (4,5); at the beginning of sorting stage to scan verify the


readability of addresses and zip-codes (6) and during trucks load and distribution
(9,11,12). The sorting of the parcels before final mailing seems to be the only fully
automated stage (7,8). Interiors and space organization within the sorting centre follows
specific tasks. From the footage we could identify five different environments: post office
and its storage space; storage space at the main sorting centre; sorting area; collection
and loading area. Each space is designed and planned to accommodate a specific
functions within the process and the use of certain machines. Finally we reflected on what
information could be usable for external users or small businesses. Our attention fell on
the storage areas in the post office, at the main warehouse, and in delivery trucks. All
these spaces appear to have potential latent space available (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Latent capacity of delivery trucks and warehouses.

4 Mails
Through the GPS study we have been able to follow the envelopes in real time and to
map the systems decentralized network. Here again the spatial organization of the
system follows specific functions. Locations of main nodes and sorting facilities in the city
have been identified, offering an idea of how the network is organized, how it operates
and how much space it consumes. Large collection and sorting centres are connected to
industrial areas and main transport infrastructures, like airports and highways, while
smaller pick-up and distribution points are located in the main neighbourhoods (Figures 56).

Figure 5: Location of main nodes and roads used.


In the afternoon mails are collected and transported from the drop points to the main
sorting centre. Mail 2 and 3 were collected at 6:00 pm and reached the main sorting
centre 30 minutes later. Mail 1 and 4 were collected earlier in the morning at the university
and travelled all around the campus, presumably to collect all the other mails from
university, before reaching the same destination with an ad hoc service. Mail 1 reached
the main sorting centre at 3:25pm and mail 4 at 4:48 pm. Once sorted, they remain here
for 12-13 hours and then transported to secondary nodes and post terminals where they
are collected and distributed by postmen. All the deliveries took between eighteen and
twenty-four hours.

Figure 6: Main nodes size and reliance on other networks.

Data about of how many kilometres were travelled for each delivery and an indication of
what roads delivery vehicles use most frequently has also been provided (Figure 5; Table
1). Unfortunately, we havent been able to retrieve accurate measures of their speed.

Figure 7: A mail journey in detail.


For all the envelopes, the time spent in storage is on average way longer than the time
spent traveling; similarly, the distances travelled by each of them is usually much longer
than the actual distance from the drop location and final destination (Figure 7). In
particular, most of the time is spent in the main sorting centre, which operate according to
all the incoming and outgoing national and international parcels arriving by airplanes and
long distance trucks. An overview of all distances and travel times for each mail, including
a comparison with the shortest possible paths between start and destination point and
between the time traveling and time in storage, is available in the table below (Table 1).
The delivery time of the different envelopes differ independently of both the effective
distance between start and arrival point and in relation to the postman delivery plans and

Table 1: Times and distances.

Reflection on results
The two hacks offer material for some comments and methodological considerations.
Although these are early experiments, the results we got seem to indicate a series of
promising features . First, they offered two different engaging ways to reveal and
understand the functioning of large, otherwise ungraspable urban logistic networks,
helping us define problems and opportunities. Second, they provided us the material to
think about alternative uses and interactions with the infrastructure, identifying possible
points in its network to jack in and build upon. Some methodological limits are also evident.

Engaging explorations
Our first observation, and probably the most important, is that our probes made us
playfully explore and tinker with the infrastructure, understanding the system and its
features: what it does, what it does for others and what it could possibly do. These
characteristics are extremely relevant for participation tools and to enable communities
outside the infrastructure to understand and engage with it, identifying possibilities for
collaboration and service innovation. The GPS data visualizations and the video footage
made the back-end information of postal infrastructure observable and reportable, offering
a complete narrative of the mail distribution journey. Creating the tools, mining your own
data and visualizing them provide a completely different experience from, e.g. simply
watching a data visualization video animation. People without a whole view of the system
like us had the means to relate to it and interpret it. Several qualities of the infrastructure
have been exposed, making it possible to reanimate and materialize the figure and the
logic behind its design and therefore relate to it. In particular what emerged is the image of


an industrial infrastructure that is indeed efficient in performing its function, but designed
according to standardized location-activity criteria that might be out-dated in an age of
pervasive connectivity.

Openings and limits of representations

The combination of internal, From A to B, and spatial, 4Mails, information allowed us to
identify possibilities for new concepts of interactions between the service provider and
other actors in the city. From our observations and interpretation, for example, the latent
storage space in warehouses, post offices and delivery trucks captured in our footage are
possible sharable information and resources for other commercial activities (Fig. 4). As an
hypothesis, businesses and individuals with a need to move things locally, could use
these spaces when available, intensifying the use of existing available space when vacant
and not completely exploited by the infrastructure. Similarly, using existing trucks moving
in the city could be a strategy to better use existing capacity whenever possible. Such
information could eventually be made available through peer-to-peer platforms (Hodson,
2013) and meta-search engines specifically supporting delivery services. Such systems
could be useful, for example, to support emerging locally based production systems and
their new supply and distribution needs e.g. local farmers, fab labs and micro factory
studios; or the creation of local service ecologies.
However, this is not sufficient to prescribe action. To understand how to meaningfully
apply these ideas in a non-prescriptive manner, a deeper understanding of the context,
communities and their practices is necessary. A single interpretation of our visualizations
from a designers perspective is not sufficient to prescribe changes and inform the design
of new interactive systems. Thus, the methods and tools discussed here must be included
in an iterative design process and dialogue involving key stakeholders and delivery
operators. Multiple communities of practice inside and outside these systems will have
different interpretations of the infrastructure and its possible representations, as well as
different opinions about the impact of a certain technological solution or what degree of
transparency and flexibility would be suitable and acceptable in specific contexts. Our
tools do not provide any profound insight about these different perspectives, which are
fundamental for any final design implementation. But being aware of these limits, hacking
through probes, revealing and visualizing information can be used to develop the design
materials we need to initiate such processes and conversations by means of triggering
peoples creativity. As such, this is design with a critical intent: the primary purpose is not
to solve a practical problem but to create the material necessary to start a dialogue
between diverse groups of stakeholders.

Concluding Remarks
Although our visualizations do not lead to any final solutions per se, the act of hacking
creates a space for another set of considerations in relation to existing field and co-design
methods and processes. In current product and service design development, it is difficult
for users and designer to explicitly address the organization and principles behind the
design of the institutions and infrastructures that govern and constrain the industrial
context in which they operate. Participatory processes have been mainly focusing their
attention on the front end of infrastructures and at the profound understanding of existing
configurations as a starting point for design. Transparency is given to emergent and
informal systems so that they can be formalized (Offenhuber et al., 2012; Offenhuber &
Lee, 2012). New interactions and systems of product services are generated the front end
of infrastructures, filling gaps and fulfilling equity and sustainability needs
industrial systems are not able to meet. Although this can represent a good tactic to


research and promote alternative business models and socially sustainable solutions, it
might not represent a sustainable transition strategy in the long term.
By engaging users in the exploration of the underlying functioning of the infrastructure and
enabling their ability to think and prototype with it, experiments such as the ones
presented here could be part of a design approach intended to enact participation in the
design and evolution of large socio-technical systems. In our understanding, there are
significant opportunities and rich potential for design when it comes to materializing and
expressing the infra-structural. Working with making infrastructures more visible and into a
kind of material in the design process it might also be possible to generate ideas about
what strategies and tools would be required on behalf of industrial stakeholders in order to
become more sensitive to local needs and supportive to bottom up innovation.
This kind of hacking used here is not about destructive intrusions, but about learning, skill
development and empowerment. Still, they might also expose certain problems related to
prevalent modes of top-down control and restricted influence. Even simple hacks and
prototypes can illustrate how easy it to access aspects of a system not meant to be
publicly accessible in that way. This opens up a space for interesting speculative
questions: what more complicated hacks and design are possible, and can we even
imagine developing parasitic services that rely on existing networks without formal
agreements? In this scenario, service providers can either decide to keep their design and
innovation strategies internal, possibly putting even more effort on security and control, or
they could instead decide to take the lead in an open innovation process. Hacking and codesign approaches could then be encouraged through the release of specific toolkits and
platforms to harvest these ideas and understand how to innovate their business models
according to continuously evolving societal needs.

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Uncovering Design Competence: An Overview and a

Model of Design Skills
Ufuk Ulusan, Department of Industrial Design, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University

This paper reviews the assumption of design competence passing over a threshold and
eventually being equalized to come into being in every soul who gets exposed to
education offered by design institutions. Firstly, two distinct ways of viewing design as
areas of daily activities and expertise are discussed. Institutions role in design
competence is argued within the context of modern industrial view. Post-positivist
paradigm, philosophy of design and phenomenology are explored to lighten the
methodology used in this paper. Expertise both in a general way and in design is
explained. Finally to put back the skills that are diminished by the assumption stated
above, a model of design skills is suggested. Primary skills like systematic and conceptual
thinking which seem to occur in abstract mental channels are discussed as design
thinking abilities; while secondary skills like exposing, constructing and designating which
seem to occur in concrete physical channels are discussed as communicational abilities.

design competence; design expertise; design skills; philosophy of design; phenomenology
This paper focuses on design skills that constitute design competence. The subject (the
acting person) oriented approach of this paper while decomposing design competence
into design skills turns this paper into a study that also focuses on the designer. The
designer is the core of the design activity that discerns, targets, attends, highlights,
formulates, defines, tackles, solves the problem, manages the process and generates the
results. Consequently the designer, in this paper, is seen as the most important aspect of
design process. Without him, needlessly to say, there will be no results generated and no
design process managed, but in the first place there will be no problem to refer at all. Yet,
until there becomes a designer formulating a phenomenon as a design problem, the
problem will not come into being and eventually will stay implicit. Treating an implicit
phenomenon as a design problem results in the emerging of implicit skills in the designer
himself. At this point, progress that the designer experiences while developing design
skills gains importance. There seem to be two distinct states of design skill groups; the
first one in which these skills are seen as primal and immature, and the second in which
they are seen as advanced and mature. These two states match with two distinct ways of
viewing design, i.e. the ones that highlight professional or amateur design abilities.

Two Distinct Ways of Viewing Design

There is an important view in design research (Papanek, 1984) which reduces design to a
fundamental human activity level and consequently calls it as a group of daily routine
actions. Accordingly; activities like buying clothes, cleaning the house, organizing the
desktop and cooking all have simple mechanisms of decision making, hence can together
be referred as the lowest level in the path of acquiring competence. These kinds of skills
which are left unnoticed in the background patterns of daily lifes network push themselves
to the fore when people other than the subject the designer himself are taken as targets


of intended users. When skills like cooking delicious food, cleaning the curtains accurately,
having the gift of gab or riding the bicycle skillfully refer to social benefits more than the
subject himself; these skills get out of the daily context they are in and head for expertise
on different areas like cookery, dry cleaning, advocacy and juggling. For another area of
expertise, design, Cross (1990, p. 132) lists the core features of design ability as follows:
Resolving ill-defined problems, adopting solution-focusing strategies, employing
abductive/productive/appositional thinking and using non-verbal, graphic/spatial modeling
media. He also suggests a dualist structure for design skills: Nature and nurture of design
ability (Cross, 1990). The former refers to the innate skills while the latter implies the
group of skills that are to be developed during life.

Institutions Role Based on World Views

This disparity of skills is mainly generated by the values imposed by modern industrial
view. Cross (1990, p. 132) states that especially in non-industrial societies, there is often
no clear distinction between professional and amateur design abilities, the role of the
professional designer may not exist. Consequently there becomes no need for institutions
to undertake such a role. On the other hand, modern industrial view tries to set the
components of this disparity apart as much as it can. In this context, design institutions
aim to bring the innate skills down by accepting them as the level zero. They also try to
bring the nurtured skills up by adding a heavy outcome like competence to the education
they offer. Thus, they can fulfil their mission to act as a bridge in the space formed by
these two ends getting far from each other. The main basis for this is the competence
degree these institutions offer which is assumed to be equalized while design skills are
being developed. This approach prevents a deeper understanding of design competence
and therefore some design skills seem to be diminished. In this context, the critical
question which constitutes the main argument of this paper is as follows: Does reducing
various expertise levels (with different skills developed through vocational development
processes of unique individuals within the context of education that design institutions
offer) to an outcome of competence, result in losses of understanding and explaining
design ability? This argument, affirming this statement, suggests that design skills are
getting meaningless by being reduced to this outcome.
The main difference between this approach imposed by contemporary design institutions
and the new view that this paper aims to bring forth has its basis on two different world
views. This paper tries to correlate with the post-positivist paradigm to get a new point of
view in order to understand and explain design competence. Generally, positivist
paradigm sets a threshold and evaluates the subjects (the acting persons) from that frame
while post-positivist paradigm can reveal uniqueness by investing each subject with
unique values. Causing problems between humans and the world, the positivist paradigm
is having a downfall while the post-positivist paradigm is having a rise as rhetoric (Yldrm
& imek, 2011). Positivist paradigm tries to reach a singular truth by a mechanical and
materialist objectivity, measurability and relation of causality regarding phenomenon,
people, society, institutions and relations between them. The point emphasized here is
that this system is a mechanical one which humans cannot affect, change or attend to its
process. Design methods within this context are named as hard systems, while methods
relating to the new paradigm are called soft systems (Broadbent, 2000). Post-positivist
paradigm states that there is not only a single truth, thus huge theories and sovereign
approaches have left their places for subject oriented and pluralist approaches (Yldrm &
imek, 2011). For this new paradigm, objectivity is not the case, but different viewpoints


Phenomenological approach has its place in this new paradigm and also in this paper. As
Dorst (2003, p. 5) states, positivism and phenomenology differ quite strongly in the way
subject (the acting person) and object (the outside world) are related. () In
phenomenology the person is not static, but a dynamic, emotive social being with a history
and an environment which heavily influences the persons construction of reality. And the
subject is influenced (and in the end formed) by what he/she perceives. This paper,
instead of evaluating individuals from a threshold and reducing their uniqueness, tries to
break up design competence into separate design skills and thus bring forth a subject
oriented view. Because this paper takes competence as an existing but implicit, hidden
and reduced phenomenon, it will try to brighten its shaded sides. Consequently, this
implicit and worth to be known phenomenon will be tried to be exposed by the
phenomenological approach. Phenomenon is the antonym of the word implicit (Heidegger,
1926/2011). Phenomenology determines this papers approach by its relations with soft
systems and post-positivist paradigm.

Philosophy of Design
Even if phenomenology is usually seen as a philosophical movement, it is more likely a
philosophical method. When a philosophical method is associated within design, a new
cross disciplinary area called philosophy of design emerges. In philosophy of design, a
common method is to take design in a philosophical way, which means applying the
rational reasoning of philosophy to design. Galle (2002, p. 216) argues as follows:
What the themes reviewed above have in common, is that they are all aspects of
design, and insights about them were obtained by rational reflection rather than
empirical observation () I would suggest that, as a major raison detre, [the
philosophy of design] serves the end of helping, guiding, suggesting how the
[designer] comes to understand what he is doing, and not simply how he comes to do
what he is doing... This coming to understand what one is doing, rather than just
understanding how to do it is an insight about design of the kind I have been talking
about, and which I believe can only be pursued by philosophical means, as offered by
the philosophy of design.
This disparity of how to do and what to do serves the originality of this paper, because this
paper aims to explore the nature of design knowledge by searching for design skills that
constitute design competence. This means that it will not generate a method to show how
to design, rather, a model to make a contribution to design knowledge. In this way, it will
not only conform with this disparity of how/what but also match with the ninth level which
was indicated by Love (2000) as the epistemology of design theory in his paper
suggesting ten levels for both theory and practice. This level is the one which contains
those analyses and discussions about the critical study of the nature, grounds, limits and
criteria or validity of design knowledge (Love, 2000, p. 306). This paper does not stand
on an empirical observation because of several studies which have already done that, and
also because of a limited number of studies having a philosophical approach on this
subject as this one.


Phenomenological Approach
Phenomenological approach is not only argued within philosophy but also in informal
channels. Arguing about phenomenological epokhe 1, an example in Ekiszlk 2 is rather
explanatory. This example, which is written by a user with a nickname tadzio, can help us
to understand the phenomenological approach that guides this paper. It is as follows:
Lets say that you are to talk to a friend about an incident that happened a few days
ago. However, while talking, you sensed that something is wrong. You asked yourself
if you have made a mistake with what you have told. Then you gave a break. You
started to look over the things you have shared. You reviewed the relations between
your sentences and focused on the recourse of what you had experienced that day.
What had you done and what had happened to you then? Later, you noticed that
while you were speaking, somehow, probably due to absent mindedness, things you
have told relating to the things that had happened that day have entwined together
with some other things you had experienced long before as if they all had happened
at the same time. Thus, you apologized from your friend and started all over to tell the
essence of the matter. In this earthly example, there becomes a break phase followed
by a recourse one. Thanks to the recourse phase, you can obtain an appropriate
method to analyse and review your experiences. In order to adapt what is told here to
phenomenology, the break refers to phenomenological epokhe and recourse refers to
phenomenological reduction. Phenomenology firstly gives a break which weakens
the hegemony of the things we commend ourselves to. After the break, our attention
recourses from the experienced things to the one that experiences himself
So, in phenomenology, like experienced in this example, there generates an orientation to
the consciousness which enables to reach the core without any bias. As a result of finding
the existing arguments of design competence deficient and dogmatic, the main approach
of this paper contains the break along with the reasoning process and the recourse in the
designer himself. This will result in an essential change in the understanding of design

Differences between experts and non-experts are reviewed in many researches including
Christiaans and Dorst (1992), Ho (2001), Kavakli and Gero (2002), Popovic (2004) and
Kruger and Cross (2006). In these studies the main factors that make people experts are
tried to be found. The fundamental difference between them is that the experts can
perform much better than non-experts in areas of planning and organizing. For instance,
Lawson and Dorst (2009, p. 13-14) state as follows: One of the key common
characteristics of generic expertise models suggests that experts do not necessarily do
the same things as novices. Whether we look at the playing of chess, the solving
mathematical problems or the flying of aeroplanes, we find it is not simply a case of
experts working faster, more effectively or better than novices. What we find is that they
operate differently. There appear scattered approaches in expertise as a general study
by the effects of various areas like music, sports, chess and literature. However these
approaches can be gathered around two main views. Ericsson and Lehmann (1996) state
that; the first one which was led by Galton (1869/1979) brings the innate skills fore and
capacities while the second and newer one, led by de Groot (1946/1978) and Chase and

Epokhe is a word derived from Ancient Greek meaning suspending judgments about something temporarily.
Ekiszlk is an informal, collaborative and hypertext Turkish online dictionary in which registered users
can contribute by adding information


Simon (1973), emphasizes training and experience. These two views match with the
concept generated by Cross (1990) which mentions about the nature and nurture of
design ability. For the view which takes expertise within the context of innate skills,
experience and exercise are needed but not enough for expertise, since they have to be
built on the basis of innate abilities. On the other hand, according to the view that takes
expertise within the context of training and experience, almost anyone can be an expert
provided with appropriate training. Ericsson, Prietula and Cokely (2007, p. 2) supporting
the second view; state as follows: Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence
showed that experts are always made, not born. These conclusions are based on rigorous
research that looked at exceptional performance using scientific methods that are
verifiable and reproducible. This paper also stands near this view as enabling different
skill states on different subjects, without limiting any skill developments due to innate

Design Expertise and Design Competence

Design expertise has emerged by a solid whole being broken up into separate activities of
designing, manufacturing, selling and using within the context of modern industrial view.
Thus, design expertise departs from the view that reduces design to a fundamental
human activity level. There becomes an essential difference between these two views
with respect to the intended users, i.e. in expertise, the subject (the acting person) targets
the community almost all the time. Yet design activities not only refer to an expertise state
but also drag the designer to an expert position. At this point, the designer takes over
responsibility to develop his ability to higher levels to become an expert and differs from
the ones who do not design for others. Another difference emerging within the context of
design as an area of expertise is that it can be discerned and departed from the
background patterns of daily routine network, thus it can come out and be perceived as a
distinguished activity. Daily routine activities are unnoticed and embedded within the
context they are in. However design expertise, referring to the activities generated for the
society, can be distinguished from other activities and thus can gain a state in which it
allows itself to make a progress and give better and efficient results, which also affirms the
nature of expertise.
While design expertise indicates such a development process, contemporary design
researchers mostly take this matter by defining definite levels and associating them with
design approaches (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1980; Dorst, 2003; Dorst & Reymen, 2004; Dorst,
2008). These researches imply that design shows mainly linear development processes
and the levels distinguished in them are indecomposable. On the contrary, this paper aims
to break up design competence in order to get a new apprehension of this design
knowledge. Design competence can be defined as reaching a mature level in design. In
expertise models, the expert level has a higher hierarchical state than the component.
Thus, competence does not refer to a high level of ability, but rather a state in which being
authorized and being able to do something is emphasized. The reasons why this paper
focuses on competence instead of expertise is that, competence is a much vaguer
phenomenon than expertise and also is offered by the design institutions. Cross (2004, p.
427) states as follows: The topic of expertise has been receiving increasing attention in
the design research community. There has been a rapidly growing development of
protocol and other empirical studies of design cognition, amongst which have been
studies of expert, or experienced designers, comparisons of the processes of novice and
expert designers, and some interview studies on outstanding or exceptional designers.
While differences between novice and expert levels got much attention, competence is
usually neglected.


Design Expertise Models

There seem to be two leading models within the context of design expertise. Dreyfus and
Dreyfus (1980), showing how the students acquire skills through education, introduces a
more general frame and constitutes a basis for a design expertise model in design
research. Dorst (2003, 2008) associates this model especially with design. Making small
changes in the contents, he adds two layers as nave and visionary (Dorst, 2008). The
model consists of the following statements:
Nave. This is an extra level, preceding the novice level that is the start of the Dreyfus
model. This state is requires in a model of design expertise since design-like tasks
are not only performed by professionals, but also by ordinary people in everyday life.
() A novice will consider the objective features of a situation, as they are given by
the experts, and will follow strict rules to deal with the problem. () For an advanced
beginner, situational aspects are important; there is a new sensitivity to exceptions to
the hard rules of the novices. () Competent designers act in a radically different way.
They select the elements in a situation that are relevant, and choose a plan to
achieve goals. Problem solving at this level involves the seeking of opportunities, and
of building up expectations. () The real expert has many years of experience which
allows them to recognize high-level patterns in design situations and respond to a
specific situation intuitively, and performing the appropriate action, straightaway. ()
A master displays a deeper involvement with the professional field as a whole,
dwelling on success and failure. () The visionary consciously strives to extend the
domain in which they work (Dorst, 2008, p. 8-9).

Conclusions and a Model Suggestion of Design Skills

The model this paper suggests by taking a phenomenological approach in a philosophical
manner has a tripartite structure. Primary skills like systematic and conceptual thinking
which seem to occur in abstract mental channels are discussed as design thinking abilities;
while secondary skills like exposing, constructing and designating which seem to occur in
concrete physical channels are discussed as communicational abilities. This disparity
mainly lies on the contrast of concepts like abstract concrete, body mind and
substance meaning. Tertiary abilities that beleaguer these skills externally like historical
and cultural issues are discussed as supporting abilities. Thus, this model allows different
expertise states on different skill components. The assumptions that any skill of the socalled competent designer is at the same level and any selected skills of the same kind
from two so-called competent designers are even get irrelevant in this model. Contrary, it
suggests that a unique individual can have different expertise states on different skills.
Finally, the model this paper suggests is as follows:


Figure 1: A model suggestion of design skills

As the closing remarks, briefly, this paper focused on the stated assumption, put the new
paradigm instead of the one that suggested this statement and tried to expose the design
skills which seem to be diminished. Generating new expertise models based on these
skills is the foresight of this paper. This means that, with the seven levels of expertise
mentioned earlier and ten main skills stated above in this suggested model, there become
70 fields of extensive design research. All the ten skills should be much more detailed in
order to get a new apprehension of design knowledge. Consequently superficial
assumptions that are not studied in detail will be extinct.

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Ufuk Ulusan is a research assistant and a PhD candidate, studying design

competence and design skills at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. He was raised in
stanbul and earned a BSc in industrial design from stanbul Technical University.


Why design research practice is not design

as we know it
Tara Mullaney, Ume Institute of Design, Ume University, Sweden
Erik Stolterman, Indiana University, USA

Is there a difference between design practice and design research practice? Building on
recent discussions within design research about whether the design practice which occurs
within design research is distinct and separate from the design practice which occurs
within the design profession, this paper presents a case where constructive design
practice was employed within a research project, using this example to study the nature of
the design process in research. Through a thorough analysis of the designs generated,
the motivations behind their development, their use as research tools, and the knowledge
they generated, we identified three ways in which the design process was altered when it
was imported into the research. First, the degree of development of the designs shifted
from fully functional to functional enough. Second, the designs were developed in order to
ask questions rather than trying to solve a problem. And finally, the failure of the design
was equally able to contribute to generating knowledge as its success. We argue that
these shifts in values clearly distinguish design research practice from professional design
practice, but come with very real consequences that challenge the core measures we use
to assess design.

Research through Design; Design Practice; Design Research Practice

In the seminal paper, Research in Art and Design by Frayling (1993), he proposes three
distinct categories for the type of research done under the heading of artistic and design
research; research into art and design, research through art and design, and research for
art and design. Looking specifically at the design aspect of each of these categories, it is
interesting to note how they break Design Research into three quite dissimilar areas of
research. Research into design describes design research where design is the subject of
inquiry. The design process is observed by the researcher, who generates knowledge
about this process without engaging with it. Research through design describes design
research in which the researcher engages in the design process as a method to research
their subject of inquiry. In taking a research through design approach to design research,
the researcher creates new knowledge within their subject of inquiry through the creation
of designed things. Finally, research for design describes design research where design
is the subject of inquiry and the method, with the end goal of the research being the
designed artefact itself (Johnson, 2010). There is much debate around these
categorizations, as well as misrepresentation of Fraylings original definitions of the types
of research that is conducted within art and design (Friedman, 2008); however, they serve
as useful guides to show how varied the work done under the heading of design research
really is.
There have been many papers written about how theory is generated from research
through design, and examples of the types of knowledge that design research can


provide, however, a recent paper by Kuenen and Redstrm (2013) calls for detailed
accounts of the role design practice plays within design research. They make a distinction
between design practice and what they call design research practice, which they see as
a new kind of practice. Their argument is that the design practice which occurs within
design research is distinct and separate from the design practice which occurs within the
design profession. This is due to the differing intentions of academic research and the
design profession, where design researchers generally engage with design practice to
generate knowledge while design professionals often engage with design practice to solve
a set of problems.
So what does this new design research practice look like? This paper attempts to answer
Kuenen and Redstrms question by providing a specific example of research that has
been done where the researchers have engaged with design construction within their
research to generate knowledge, just as quantitative and qualitative methods are used as
means for generating knowledge within other fields, such as medicine and the social
sciences. Within this paper, we present research that has employed a research through
design approach to study a particular context, where design construction the act of
creating physical artefacts plays a central role in the research process. But how do we
generate knowledge through our designs? And what type of knowledge do we generate?
In this paper, we present a research project in which we have used multiple different
research methods to generate knowledge around the topic of the cancer patient
experience of radiotherapy. Using this project as an exemplar, we will discuss how and
why we employed design construction within our research in order to generate knowledge,
the specific knowledge generated through our designs, and finally, the consequences and
limitations of designing in this way within research. Furthermore, we highlight three
specific characteristics that distinguish design practice from design research practice,
suggesting that when design is imported into research it undergoes a value shift.

Patient Experience of Radiotherapy

For the past 3 years, we have been conducting research into the patient experience of
healthcare, focusing specifically upon cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment.
Radiotherapy is one of the three dominant treatment modalities for individuals with cancer,
which uses targeted ionizing radiation beams to damage and kill cancer cells. It requires
direct patient interaction with highly technical medical equipment, in addition to long-term
interaction with the treatment environment due to treatment duration ranging from two to
eight weeks of almost daily exposure. Our research project started with an interest in
understanding the emotional experience of cancer patients going through radiotherapy
treatment, and became focused upon situational anxiety triggered by medical
technologies after our initial exploratory fieldwork resulted in the observation of a patient
experiencing a panic attack triggered by the treatment technology.

Researching the Existing

If we look at traditional understandings of research and data collection, there are three
standard approaches to accessing data: observation, asking questions, and
experimenting (Eikeland, 2006). The data gathered from each of these sources can be
turned into information and transformed into knowledge by the researcher. The first two
approaches to accessing data, observation and asking questions, are focused upon
creating knowledge of what is, while the third approach of experimenting is about taking
action in order to understand why things are the way they are.
In setting up our research, we decided to engage with different types of research methods
in order to generate insights about the patient experience from multiple inputs, since
methods for conducting user research often provide a very singular view of the user. For
example, quantitative methods such a surveys are very good at looking at statistical


differences between patient groups at the population level but cannot provide detailed
information at an individual level, while qualitative methods are much better at providing
rich detail about the experiences that take place at an individual or small community level
but are much more difficult to use for generating information about larger populations. We
decided to draw on the strengths of different research methods to generate a richer and
more holistic understanding of patient experience.
Design researchers often draw on method from other fields, especially those researchers
that are taking a grounded approach and focusing on real world problems (Zimmerman
and Forlizzi, 2008). Ethnography, a method with originated in the social sciences and
anthropology, is often employed to generate understanding of the context first and the
insights drawn from this understanding are used to drive the creation of design prototypes
(Koskinen et al., 2011). Within this research project, we utilized two different types of
methods to create understanding around the patient experience of radiotherapy
treatments; qualitative methods from the social sciences to observe patient interactions
and gather stories and specific details about their experiences, and quantitative methods
from medicine and nursing to analyse the prevalence of anxiety in this population and
correlate it to different aspects of the treatment process.
This research conducted via ethnographic fieldwork, patient questionnaires, and des ign
probe kits found that the fixation devices used in radiotherapy to immobilize and provide
reproducible patient positioning can trigger situational anxiety and claustrophobic
reactions in patients (Mullaney et al., 2011; Mullaney et al., 2012a). Furthermore, these
findings suggested that this anxiety can be partially attributed to the passive,
disempowered role that patients assume while in the treatment room, where they are
completely dependent upon the radiotherapy staff to manually push, pull, and lift them into
the correct treatment position (Mullaney et al., 2012b; Mullaney et al., 2014).

Taking Action
While the knowledge we generated about the patient experience through these different
methods helped us to understand the negative emotional impact of the medical
technologies within this environment, as designers, we were not satisfied with simply
understanding the situation; we desired to change this experience for the patient. We
wanted to challenge the existing patient experience by creating alternative experiences
and possible futures for the current radiotherapy treatment system. This active
participation in intentionally constructing the future is suggested to be what separates
design researchers from other researchers whose research is limited to an analysis of the
present and the past (Zimmerman and Forlizzi, 2008; Gaver, 2012).
Design has been defined as the process through which new things are created, (Telier et
al., 2011:51), and as a kind of making which requires the ability to put things together
and bring new things into being (Schn, 1987:41-42). While these definitions can be
applied to various aspects of the design process, what interested us is this idea of the
new; the emphasis on design being able to construct something that does not exist yet.
We decided to engage in a constructive design practice within our research project in
order to provoke change in the radiotherapy environment, through the introduction of new
artefacts, in order to observe what happens. We call these provocations design
interventions, with each intervention arising from a question that we had about the
anxiety caused by the fixation device within radiotherapy treatment.

Intervention 1
The first design that we constructed was driven directly from patient stories gathered from
the journals we distributed in the design probe kits. The patients were quite vocal about
their dislike for the bare ceiling of the treatment room and having nothing to look at during
treatment, and so we asked the question, would it be possible to decrease patient anxiety


if the patients have something engaging and distracting to focus on during their
radiotherapy treatments?
The first intervention, implemented clinically, focuses upon providing self-selecting visual
and auditory stimuli to patients during their treatments. The design, Taklandskap, was a
touch screen interface that allowed patients to choose from a selection of nature videos
and relaxing music which were then projected onto the ceiling and played through the
sound system of the treatment room. The intention behind this design was twofold: to
actively engage the patients in curating their treatment experience, as well as to provide
them with visual and auditory stimuli to help them relax and focus during treatment. This
design, despite being a prototype, was installed within the clinical environment to assess
its impact (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Taklandskap touch screen interface and ceiling projection in the treatment room.
Because we were able to fully implement our design prototype within one of the treatment
rooms at the radiotherapy clinic we collaborate with, we were also able to conduct a
before/after comparison study through our qualitative and quantitative methods. While we
have not yet fully assessed the impact of this intervention upon patient anxiety levels,
other insights arose through the construction and implementation of this design.
The first insight our design generated was an understanding that Taklandskap would only
ever be able to mediate any anxiety cause by the fixation device, not eliminate it. This is
because the design does not act directly upon the source of the situational anxiety within
radiotherapy -- the fixation device. This insight led to the realization that if we wanted to
implement our designs within the clinical environment, we were very limited in what we
could actually change without disrupting treatment efficacy. Our second insight was that
the area of possible intervention within the healthcare environment is very small, with 95%
of the environment fixed and inaccessible to design intervention.
In order to act directly upon the anxiety-provoking fixation devices, we realized that the
next design step available to us within this research context would have to be developed
outside of the constraints of clinical implementation, with designs that exist solely as
exemplars of what could be, without the capability of assessing them through our other
measures. Understanding these constraints, we decided to create a second design which
directly addressed the role of the fixation device within the radiotherapy treatment

Intervention 2
Since the fixation device is one of the main sources of treatment-related anxiety within
patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment, our second design was driven by our desire


to alter the patient relationship with this technology. Drawing on our knowledge of the
positioning and immobilization process within radiotherapy (Mullaney et al., 2012b;
Mullaney et al, 2014), we hypothesized that it could be possible to remove the fixation
device from the radiotherapy treatment protocol if we were able to create a system that
allowed patients to become actively involved in their positioning process. Using the
skeletal and blob tracking capabilities of the Microsoft Kinect, we created software that
allows patients to visualize their body position in relation to the desired treatment position,
and provides visual cues for when the two are aligned (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Kinect prototype being tested in an exhibition.

Because this second intervention actively challenged the need for fixation within the
radiotherapy treatment process, we were not able to implement it clinically. Instead, we
presented our functional prototype in workshops, conferences, and exhibitions in order to
test our concept with other designers and radiotherapy experts, and create a dialogue
around the design. Furthermore, because this design was not implemented clinically, we
were not able to draw on the same data-generating methods we have been using within
the hospital environment. Instead, we began to lean more heavily upon reflection-in and on our action as a tool to analyse the impact of our designs and the knowledge generated
by them (Schn, 1987).
Our first insight came from presenting our design at these different venues and receiving
feedback from radiotherapy experts. There is an important distinction between positioning
and immobilization within radiotherapy treatment, which our previous research had failed
to fully emphasize; positioning gets the patient into the right place, but the immobilization
provided by the fixation device helps to keep them there. As a result, while our Kinect
prototype could be extremely useful for enabling patients to position themselves for
treatment, if the fixation devices were completely removed, these patients would lack a
support structure to help keep them aligned. If used alone, the Kinect prototype could
potentially generate stress in the patient because they would be solely responsible for
maintaining their position for a long duration of time without support. This led to our
second insight, which was that with our Kinect prototype, we could simply be replacing
one anxiety provoking technology with another.
From this new knowledge, we reflected further upon the role of the fixation device within
this environment, and came to the realization that the fixation device is simply a tool to
support the linear accelerator in dosing the patient. In order to eliminate the need for a
fixation device, you must change the type of interaction the patient has with the linear
accelerator and its dose-planning software. While the fixation device may be the trigger of
the felt anxiety in patients, it is not the source of this anxiety because the need for this
equipment is embedded into the very structure of how radiotherapy treatment is planned
and delivered.


Three ways design changes when imported into research

By engaging with the design process within our research project, and through the creation
of two designs that offer alternatives to the current treatment experience, we have been
able to build an understanding of the structures that shape the patient experience of
radiotherapy which were hidden or inaccessible through the other research methods we
employed. Our design interventions helped us to understand how highly regulated the
clinical environment is for radiotherapy and how difficult it is to act on the trigger of anxiety
in some patients the fixation device because the root of this anxiety stems, not from
the fixation device itself, but instead from the stringent positioning requirements needed
for targeted radiation dosing.
Within this research through design approach, we engaged with design construction to
create designs which we could then use as tools for generating knowledge, however, in
doing so, we realized that this type of designing is unique and different from design that
happens within professional practice. When you bring designing into research, it changes
and becomes a different approach. Based upon our experience with implementing a
constructive design practice within our research of patient experience, we have identified
three aspects to design construction that changes when it is brought into a research

Degree of Development
According to Koskinen et al. (2011), design construction within design research usually
takes the form of a prototype, a scenario, a mock-up, or a detailed concept, and this is
true of both of the interventions we present in this paper as well. The question is why are
designs within research not taken to the same level of refinement as those that are
developed within a professional context? We argue that there is a difference in the use
and evaluation of design that is developed within research, which deemphasizes certain
design values in order to emphasize new ones.
Design within research does not have a client, or manufacturing constraints, or a need to
be marketable. Its value is in its ability to generate knowledge, and therefore it is up to the
researcher to decide how far they must develop the design in order for it to be able to
accomplish this goal. The degree of development can differ from one design to the next
and from one research project to the next. For example, Taklandskap was developed to
the point where the software was functional enough to allow some level of patient
selection on a touch screen. If this prototype were to be developed into a marketable
product, it would require major redesign and development of the software to make it more
stable and versatile. In comparison, Taklandskap was developed much more thoroughly
than the Kinect prototype, because it was implemented within the radiotherapy clinic
which required that it be simple to use for the staff and not require direct oversight by the
designer. The change from being functional to functional enough is one of first value
changes in design construction as it transitions from a professional context to a research
The consequence of this value shift is double-sided. On one hand, the shift to functionalenough allows design researchers more freedom to explore the possibilities of design
without having to consider real-world constraints, but on the flip-side, this means that
designs generated within research can be perceived as having little value in the real
world, making it difficult for individuals outside of the academic context to relate to the
design work being done within research.

From Solution to Question

The second value change that happens when design is brought into research is a shift in
the intention behind design construction. Zimmerman et al. (2007) proposes that while
design professionals focus on creating commercially successful things, design


researchers focus on making the right thing. We agree that this is part of the difference in
the two design practices, but that there may be more to design construction within
research than just creating the right thing.
In our research, the designs we created were not intended to be solutions. We used them
as physical tools that could help us test our ideas and ask questions. For example, our
Kinect prototype arose from the research question, Can we remove the fixation device
from radiotherapy treatments if we provide patients with the ability to get themselves in the
correct position?, and we used it as a tool to help us understand the role of the fixation
device within the treatment process. Used in this way, the knowledge generated by the
Kinect prototype helped us reframe the research questions we were asking about patient
anxiety; from a singular focus on the fixation device to a deeper investigation into how
radiotherapy treatment is planned and delivered.
Designs generated within professional practice are often characterized by a problem solving and solution focused design process. In contrast, designs generated within
research can be characterized by their problem-finding and discovery-oriented nature.
The change in focus from problem-solving to problem-finding is the second value shift that
occurs when constructive design practice is implemented within a research context.
The impact of this shift is seen most clearly in the changes it evokes within the design
process. Instead of placing emphasis upon finding the best solution and culling all ideas
that are less than ideal, the design researcher can instead choose to explore many
different ideas. He may develop one idea to see what is learned, and then go in a
drastically different design direction with the next prototype, as evidenced by the two
interventions presented in this paper. As a result, refinement of a singular concept is
sacrificed for the ability to develop a much broader set of ideas.

Success or Failure
Using a problem-solving approach to develop our designs within this research project
would have generated drastically different results. Take for example, the problem of
patient anxiety caused by the fixation device. If we had chosen to focus on solving this
problem, we might have put all our effort into the redesign of the fixation device, or we
could have created a system similar to the Kinect prototype in an attempt to remove the
fixation device completely. If we had chosen to try to eliminate the fixation device and
design a new system which would cause less anxiety in the patient, the Kinect prototype
would have been seen as a complete failure because of its inability to replace the fixation
device and would have been summarily dismissed as a concept.
However, as a prototype implemented within a research context and used as a way to ask
questions about the patient experience, the perceived failure of this design to remove the
fixation device from radiotherapy treatment is irrelevant. Instead, this failure played a
crucial role in the generation of new knowledge. The Kinect prototypes inability to solve
the problem of anxiety caused by the fixation device came from our misunderstanding of
the role of the fixation device in the first place, which was made clear only through
reflecting upon the reasons for its failure.
The third value shift that we can see when design is practiced within research is that the
perceived failure of a design is as valuable as its success. Failure is no longer evaluated
by whether or not a design is successful in solving a problem, but by whether or not it is
able to generate new knowledge. The implications of this shift upon design research
practice are twofold: the generation of designs for research can be more open, and less


grounded in directed user research; however it does require that their construction is very
intentional and focused upon a clear research question.

It is obvious that engaging with design practice within a research context changes the
shape and value of the design output, making it distinctly other from the designs
generated within professional design practice. The three value shifts that we call attention
to above are evidence of the idea that design research practice is markedly different from
design practice. However, if design research practice is different from design practice,
what are the consequences? And why is it important to differentiate between these
Kuenen and Redstrm (2013) suggest that design research practice addresses a different
set of questions, issues, and problems than those that are typically found in professional
design practice, however both are design practices and therefore also share very many
similarities. By elucidating some of the differences between the design practices done
within a design research context versus a professional context, this paper aims to build a
better understanding of the practice of constructive design research. We believe that this
distinction can be used to help the design research community reassess how research
through design projects are evaluated, discussed and disseminated.
Over the last few years, the design profession has raised concerns about design research
and its relevance to professional design practice (Stolterman, 2008). If the differences in
design practices outlined in this paper have played a role in this disconnect between
research and the profession, perhaps by acknowledging and articulating these differences
in practice we can begin to create a common language between design research and the
design profession that will facilitate better knowledge transfer between the two. Rogers
(2004) has suggested that in order for research to be better able to contribute to design
practice, we need to create new mechanisms of bi-directional knowledge transfer between
the two contexts, and create a more extensive design language - a lingua franca - that can
be used for both research and design.
This paper just touches the surface of this discussion. We have only draw on two design
examples within a research through design approach, and it would take an in depth
exploration of many more cases to strengthen our argument. Furthermore, we have only
looked at designs that have been created through constructive design research, and it
bears asking if all design practice used within research share these value shifts, or if this
is specific to constructive design research. While we do not have answers to these
questions, as design research practice struggles to differentiate itself from both design
practice and traditional research we suggest that these questions bear further

In this paper, we have attempted to provide a detailed account of the role constructive
design practice plays within design research through an examination of a particular
research case, where the creation of design interventions played an active role in
knowledge generation. Furthermore, through an analysis of these designs and how they
generated this new knowledge creation, we identified three differences in values between
designs generated through design research practice and designs generated through
professional design practice: their degree of development, whether they ask a question or
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The Rhetoric of Design for Debate:

triggering conversation with an uncanny enough
M. Mollon, EnsadLab (France), Telecom ParisTech (France)
A. Gentes, Telecom ParisTech (France), Mines, Chair Design Theory and Methods for

Design exploration research refers to various interaction design research practices that
explore tensions issued from the interplay of science, technology, culture and society. Most
of them explicitly trigger discussions and debates in the audience, for instance critical
design, which raised the interest of members of design research communities. However its
generalization suffers from a lack of shareable methodology. This paper aims at clarifying it
practically and theoretically.
We claim that these practices trigger peoples reactions using a specific narrative strategy
which provoke an uncanny feeling. By producing uncanny enough artefacts that embed a
subtle entanglement of familiarity and unfamiliarity, designers can elicit responses from
viewers. First, a review of literature on critical design texts presents the uncanny balance as
being a recurrent design principle for the creation of these artefacts. We then present an
exemplary case study produced by one of the authors, exploring communication
technologycalled Dog&Bone. Using classical rhetoric, we present a theoretical overview of
the project. The outcome consists of a conceptual framework based on the narrative
dimension of the uncanny plus the rhetorical dimension (composed of three elements:
legitimacy, emotions, argumentation). We conclude that Design is a form of communication
between designers and their audience.
Debate; Uncanny; Rhetoric; Critical Design; Speculative Design

Design exploration research, as defined by Fallman (Fallman, 2008) is a particular kind of

research through design. The artefact it produces:


often seeks to test ideas and to ask What if?but also to provoke, criticise, and
experiment to reveal alternatives to the expected and traditional, to transcend
accepted paradigms, to bring matters to a head, and to be proactive and societal
in its expression.
These approaches are good at problem-setting (Schn, 1983) and exploring possibilities
outside of current paradigms. It is a way to comment on a phenomenon by bringing forth an
artefact that often in itself, without overhead explanations, becomes a statement or a
contribution to an ongoing societal discussion. (Fallman, 2008, p.7)
While critical design has raised the interest of members of human-computer interaction (HCI)
and design research communities, its generalization suffers from a lack of shareable
methodology (S. Bardzell, Bardzell, Forlizzi, Zimmerman, & Antanitis, 2012). We aim at
clarifying the methods practically and theoretically.
In particular, we study how critical design challenges the audience, triggering questions,
discussions or even debates through design. We therefore focus on the specific relationship
between the designer, the audience and the artefact, or how to convert people from being
viewers to questioners. We contend that these triggering discussion practices produce what
we call uncanny enough artefacts. After the case study produced by one of the authors, we
will discuss how these practices imply a fully developed rhetorical strategy.

Literature review: designing using the narrative strategy of the

Scope of the review
We present a review of literature of critical design related texts. We are interested in how
these texts strive to present the uncanny (defined below) as a narrative strategy used for the
creation of artefacts that trigger discussions. We focus on texts from Design Fiction, as
coined by (Bleecker, 2009) and commented by (Sterling, 2009), on Critical Design (Dunne,
1999) and on Speculative Design, term defined by (Auger, 2012), collaborator of Anthony
Dunne at RCA. Critical design will often challenge its audiences preconceptions and
expectations thereby provoking new ways of thinking about the object, its use, and the
surrounding environment. (Dunne, 1999). The same goes for design fiction defined as the
deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change by Sterling (Bosch,
2012), who recently added at Lift Conference 2013, Design fiction doesnt have users, it has
an audience. This also goes for James Auger who describes how:
"speculative design can develop and present future or alternative technological
applications (Auger, 2012, p.29).
Description of the the uncanny as a narrative trick
The uncanny concept, inherited from Freud and the literature of the fantastic, is claimed by
James Auger as an inspiration for his work. Freud goes on to suggest that by using the
uncanny, the story-teller has a peculiarly directive power over us; by means of the moods he
can put us into, he is able to guide the current of our emotions. (Auger, 2012, p.150). In


other words, the uncanny is a way to touch the audience, to appeal to their feelings and to
engage them. He also refers to other domains: observational comedy, psychology, horror
films and illusion, for the insights they offer into the complex workings of human perception
and how it can be consciously manipulated to elicit reaction. (Auger, 2012, p.140) While
other authors use other words like strange, unfamiliar, etc., the uncanny seems to be a
recurring motive of critical design.
Freuds theory of the uncanny - unheimlich (Freud, 2004) - stems from his double analysis
of patients and literature. In his text, he studies first the way the literature of the fantastic
produces a narrative so that the readers (as well as the hero in the story) do not know if,
what they are told is the product of the feverish imagination of the hero, or if the hero is
indeed confronted by evil forces. This narrative strategy that strikes a balance between either
a natural or a supernatural explanation has been analysed by Todorov as the essence of the
Fantastic (Todorov, 1970). A number of figures are related to this; the double, the mirror,
all figures that introduce a doubt about the uniqueness of an experience, or a subject. This
pattern has more recently been considered as one of the major narrative potentials of
pervasive computing because it gives the possibility to endow every object with a double
meaning (Gents & Jutant, 2012). Since then, this term has also been popularized in the
area of super-realistic humanoid robotics. In all these instances, the uncanny is a complex
combination of familiarity and unfamiliarity, which unsettles the audiences emotions.
Engaging the audience with uncanny artefacts
Unfamiliarity is the starting point for the audiences experience. Actually, because design
explorations present perspectives that are fundamentally different from our everyday reality,
they always seem foreign at first. As Auger remarks,
Any experience that challenges a preconception will at first appear odd, but here
the detail and finish of the artefacts, combined with the short explanations
describing their functions and modes of interaction, entices the audience into
exploring the concept further. (Auger, 2012, p.145)
The goal is to help the audience consider something unconventionali.e. what could change
tomorrow, or some unfamiliar, incredible, controversial (yet probable) situation. But what are
the critical design strategies to engage the audience? According to Auger, a design
speculation requires a perceptual bridge between the audience and the concept. (Auger,
2012, p.140) In other words, designers must find ways to make these perspectives seem
probable. People have to believe that these scenarios could be theirs tomorrow. According
to critical designers theory, the apparent probability of what seemed improbable (and
unthought of) triggers an emotional state of uneasiness, verging towards interrogation. This
unsettled emotion is the tipping point of engagement to generate concern, thoughts,
questions and conversations or even debate.
The strange artefact also shows familiar features that make it more probableproviding a
perceptual bridge.


How to root the unfamiliar into familiarity

As introduced previously the perceptual bridges fill the gap between the viewer's present
state of mindtechnical knowledge, psychological perception and cultural backgroundand
the unfamiliar proposition. According to Auger:
These perceptual bridges can then be stretched in precise ways: this might be a
technical perception such as extrapolating how they think a technology is likely to
develop; a psychological perception such as not breaking taste or behaviour
taboos; or a cultural perception such as exploiting nostalgia or familiarity with a
particular subject. In this way the speculations appear convincing, plausible or
personal, whilst at the same time new or alternative. (Auger, 2012, p.180)
The technical, psychological, and cultural perceptions described by Auger are supported by
common features throughout critical design practice:
Tangible artefacts, familiar typology of objects;
Narration (rhythm, plot, style);
Scales of complexity among a variety of media used;
Aesthetic experience of encountering the artefact;
Tangible artefacts, familiar typology of objects
The basis of design exploration research is to rely on design as a main medium. The fact
that the artefact exists in the material world makes a difference, as Dunne, specifies when
talking about Dunne&Rabbys work our ideas make their way into the material world in some
way; it's not enough that they end up as pure thoughts. They must be embodied in object
typologies that we understand: furniture, products, clothing, buildings (Dunne, 2009).
Using design offers a recognizable (familiar) typology of artefact that integrates well into
people's livesand help them to project its usage into their life. While designing the
artefactbuildings, clothes, computing interfaces, etc.the formal qualities given to the
object, can bring back familiarity, as done with the Vital Signs project (Kerridge, 2009),
adopting other features of the design language (p.13), or as Human Beans do with
packaging. Indeed, all the media used around the artefact can help represent and explain it:
photographs, videos, illustrations, diagrams, etc. They have formal and semiotic qualities
(type of tools, frame, light, speed, colours, shapes, etc.) that are naturally crafted in the
design process.
Narration (rhythm, plot, style)
Once intrigued by the appearance of the artefact, the audience usually seeks a deeper
understanding. Projects show that narration is another key part of the audience experience. It
enhances both the familiarity and the understanding of the project, in a complex and
entangled way. Thanks to rhythm, plot, style and through a panel of media as text, audio,
video, etc. narration weaves together everyday life elements and speculative elements.
Julian Bleecker refers to the work of David Kirby (Kirby, 2010) in his "Design Fiction" essay
(Bleecker, 2009, p.39). He mentions the ability of narration to make the strange familiar and
gives the example of "The Minority Report" movie where the police prediction device is used
as a very ordinary contraption: I want to highlight what the story does so as to fill out the
meaning of the clue-construction device, to make it something legible despite its foreignness


(p.35). Narration helps to bridge the foreign with familiarity (showing familiar places, actions,
etc.). It is also used for didactic purposes, for instance when introducing and explaining how
works a new technology. If people find a technology or a topic foreign, it is necessary to bring
a basic familiarity for the extrapolation to work. For this matter Auger proposes that
Inspiration and influence can be drawn from diverse fields such as observational comedy,
psychology, horror films and illusion, for the insights they offer into the complex workings of
human perception and how it can be consciously manipulated to elicit reaction. (Auger,
2012, p.140). Among other criteria previously presented, Auger proposes to rely on selfidentifiable aspects of daily life, to use details to stimulate audience imagination and to take
advantage of stereotypical or commonly held assumptions about a specific subject (like
myths or famous science fiction) (Auger, 2012, p.164). These elements are for instance used
to ground futuristic speculations into the present.
Scales of complexity among variety of media used
The criteria gathered above are often combined in order to arrange different scales of
complexity in the narration. It is a way to adapt to different contexts and audiences. Good
combinations allow the audience to encounter and learn more on the project through various
points of entry and different trajectories among the media used. This combination can play an
important role in bringing familiarity and bridging perception.
Aesthetic experience of encountering the artefact
Finally, the power of a live demo should not be underestimated. In fact, the audience
experience can be designed as a whole aesthetic experience, a global process or a
controlled situationas an installation, a user test, an event, or a workshop.

Balancing the unfamiliar neither too much, nor not enough

Bringing together alien and familiar elements raises issues of balance. Designers argue
that the efficiency and success of this process requires viewers to occupy a fecund middleground between familiarity and unfamiliarityas say (S. Bardzell et al., 2012). And this led
Dunne to develop the not-quite-right premise, If it was too correct and as expected, they
would glance once and move on. If the object is too open-ended in terms of meaning, then it
can seem empty. (Dunne, 2009, p.2). Dunne & Raby already stressed the importance of this
balancing issue in 2001 (Dunne & Raby, 2001, p.63). Auger as well, If a speculative design
proposal strays too far into the future to present clearly implausible concepts or describes a
completely alien technological habitat, the audience will fail to relate to the proposal, resulting
in a lack of engagement or connection. (Auger, 2012, p.138-140).
This balancing effort is applied to various criteria, including the ones found in the literature
review, through the different parameters of the artefactaesthetics, concepts, material and
Miss-managing the uncanny, an example: not familiar enough
Designers usually fine-tune the conditions of communication of their projects but sometimes
they fail to achieve this balance as Auger reports on his experience with the AfterLife


project (Auger, 2012). He shows how over-unfamiliarity can be taken for provocation and
abort peoples reflection on the project topics.
Auger-Loizeaus Afterlife project provides an investigation of science and technology's roles
in the delicate topic of death, new forms of funerals and belief. It is a coffin able to recharge a
dry cell battery thanks to the material activity of deceased human body (decomposition)
based on microbial fuel cell technology. Its first exhibition took place at the New Yorks
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind (2007). It could be
considered a failure as the audience focused on the repelling part of the decomposition
process, and consequently the discussions did not reach the main topic. The designers
therefore organised a workshop with fifteen colleagues, asking them to produce a text
describing what use they would make of their Afterlife battery. For the Experimenta exhibition
in Lisbon (2009), their solutions allowed the audience to focus on how people would have a
last interaction with their relativesby providing energy in a specific, and personal context.
In addressing this problem we shifted the emphasis from the fuel cell and coffin to
the function of the battery. This effectively heightened the familiar aspect of the
uncanny experience. [] This encouraged the audience to reflect on how they
themselves might use the battery, countering the initial repulsion factor and
resulting in a form of desirable uncanny. (Auger, 2012).
Staging is part of the Aesthetic experience of encountering the artefact criteria, presented
earlier. It is all about focusing the attention on the right part of the project, allowing it to
generate more meaningful reactions. Here, most of the audience were willing to engage with
the question of technologically-mediated life after death.
In conclusion, a design exploration research project inherently proposes unfamiliar
alternatives. Still, making the strange probable is what triggers viewers engagement
(curiosity, concern, discussion and even debate). It is completed by using a perceptual
bridge, rooting the unfamiliar experience into familiarity. This is achieved by
the practice of design (in all its complex dimensions, materialized in artefacts);
crafting the narration (rhythm, plot, style);
mixing a variety of media;
proposing an aesthetic experience of encountering the artefact;
Managing this subtle balancewhat we call the uncanny enoughis the key to the
audiences experience. Things have to be not-quite-right; this awkwardness is a way into the
object, an invitation to explain why it is the way it is, why its not quite right (Dunne, 2009).
The following case-study was to test these hypotheses.

Usecase: Dog&Bone example

Dog&Bone, is a case study of speculative design produced by one of the authors to test
critical design criteria and eventually to find new criteria of success.


Description of the Dog&Bone

Dog&Bone, The Empathetic Telephone, explores a scenario in which our telephone could be
sensitive and responsive to emotions. It is a simple dog collar (embedding a microphone +
speakers) connected to a phone by Bluetooth. Once the owner gets back from work, the
dogs collar connects to his mobile phone, allowing phone conversations to be held through
the loyal pooch. Taking over for the other's physical absence, the dog can feel the owner's
non-verbal cues and reacts to the interlocutor's emotional states.
The project investigated the topic of distant social relationships, and started from an
observation of the state of the research in social tele-robotic communications in 2011 (when
the project started). In that area, the dominant claim was that remote communication robots
should be able to sense non-verbal cues to provide more enjoyment and provide an
experience closer to the face-to-face one. Such efficient robots could even allow a longdistance-grandma to take care of her grandkids. Dog&Bone pushes this logic further by
speculating on the use of a fully non-verbal sensitive device, mans most faithful friend.
Its name, Dog & Bone, means telephone in Cockney rhyming slang, the East London slang.
This dog collar, made of leather, embeds a microphone and a speaker. It relays phone calls
from a local mobile phone, exactly as a hands-free headset would. The collar hosts an echocancelling microphone, a directional speaker (keeping dogs ears safe), a Bluetooth
connection with the phone (low frequency radio waves, safe for the animal), an ON/OFF
button (pick up/hang up) and a mini USB plug for battery recharge. Prototypes were
developed for two dog sizes (small and medium). The device works better indoors.
The goal of Dog&Bone was to push boundaries to reveal a different (yet probable) state of
communication, an alternative present. Rooting this unfamiliar proposition into the familiar
was an intentional process; a description follows. The main idea was to ensure the triviality of
the object in order to increase its apparent probability.
Design of the artefact
Avoiding unnecessary features
First, the device was limited to a simple dog collar to make it look like a usual domestic
object. We avoided adding any channel other than the audio. Adding video would be
concurrent to the non-verbal sensing role of the dog, and it would blur the apparent use that
the objects design evokes visually.
Avoiding unnecessary debates
Second, we included users feedback very soon in the design process. The making of a
handmade paper collar (which held a mobile phone) allowed us to makes critical choices.
Interviews of testers revealed that they worried for their dog (more than for their own brain)
because of the phone's electromagnetic radiation. In order to avoid unwanted debates (about
the danger of telephone waves for animals) we turned the collar into a transmittersimilar to
a hands-free headsetusing Bluetooth.


Crafting evocative appearance

Third, the first working prototypes embedded no intentional aesthetic choices. The final
product looks like a traditional dog collar, we made it with a leather artisan, its design seems
integrated into the usual lineage of domestic products. The aesthetic given to its functional
parts (microphone, speakers) borrows characteristics from usual telecommunication devices:
perforations and appearing metal nets.
We considered that the restrained choices of features and the traditional aesthetic made the
project realistic, accessible and questionable, avoiding the danger of making an overprovocative artefact.
Design of the staging
In staging, names play a central function. The Dog&Bone name is a play on words that
integrates the project well into British popular culture. The word affective instead of
empathetic Telephone was discussed at some point, but it would communicate different
values. Empathetic was chosen as it better relays the fact that the dog is sensitive to positive
as well as negative moods.
Communication material
The set of communication materials createdlogos, texts, images, videos and the two
objectswere able to articulate different scales of complexity (Fig 1.), in different situations
and for different audiences (conferences, exhibitions, web, print). For instance, an
audience of professional engineers asked for more technical details, but professional
designers asked more about the speculative design approach.


Fig 1. Someof the descriptive materials created to show the project (20112013)
Project circulation and reception
In order to circulate the project we tried different settings. Dog&bone was exhibited at the
2012 International Biennale of Design in St.Etienne (France)part of an exhibition on
animals and technology called Les androdes rvent-ils de cochons lectriques? (Do
androids dream of electric pigs?). Small audience talk presentations allowed more proximity
with the spectators. The one to one interviews allowed to engage meaningful discussions,
debates, and even arguments (once).
A series of questions were used as a guide for informal discussions. The user tests were
documented and retrieved by video (available on the projects website). They show two dogs,
with a very different character, interacting with their owner. We collected expressions of
acceptance, interest, wonder, enthusiasm and one strong outrage from a professional dog
During these experiments, we noticed that collecting meaningful reactions was dependant on
the context of mediation and the possibility for interaction with the audience. In other words,


we had developed not only a narrative dimension but also a rhetorical dimension that
contributed to the strategy of the uncanny enough.

Discussion: the rhetorical strategy

Defining rhetoric
We argue that, in addition to the narrative dimensions explored by the authors from the
literature review, the experiment reveals another dimensionintimately related to the aim of
organising a debate with the audiencethe rhetoric one. This next section goes over the
Dog&Bone experiment so as to build a framework that can also account for certain scattered
elements that are sometimes evoked by critical designers. The goal is to offer a more
systematic approach to these practices.
To define the rhetorical strategy, we intend to use Aristotles treatise (Aristotle, Rhys, Ingram,
& Friedrich, 1954) that still structures the way discourse and persuasion are analyzed today.
Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds.
The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on
putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or
apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself. (Aristotle et al., 1954)
Rhetoric is an art of persuasion that has three foundations:
the authenticity and credibility of the speaker,
the audiences interests and feelings,
the choice and organization of the argument.
While designers may be aware of the importance of addressing each of these conditions of
debate, we think that we need to explicitly examine how different aspects of their production
relate to these foundations.
Setting the credibility of the speaker
While presenting Dog&Bone, the author usually explains the reason motivating the project in
very personal terms. He explains his long distance relationship with his girlfriends whom he
lived with only part time. Then he points out how there is a need for him to imagine
alternative ways of communicating with each other. In other words, the author makes it clear
to his audience that he has a vested interest in this project not a superficial one. He explains
some of his very personal, intimate reasons for doing so. The authors relationship to the
subject makes him credible. The author also makes clear that he has worked with RCA
teams, a place where such productions were initiated and developed. This particular
connection is what makes him appear personally more legitimate.
According to Aristotle, credibility is particularly necessary when the subject is debatable. The
more the subject is controversial the more the audience needs to have some certainty about
the authors engagement and legitimacy. This legitimacy can be bestowed by the personal
intimate experience of the speaker, it can also derive from his professional experience.
Repeatedly for instance, critical designers reaffirm that they are designers and not artists,
which is a way for them to situate their work and the type of legitimacy that they claim for
their work. This legitimacy is reinforced by the different institutions (museums, galleries, labs)


with which they collaborate to produce and distribute their work. They often act as metalocutor that remediates, or frames, how a project is considered by the audience.
Teasing the audiences interests and feelings
The Dog&Bone experiment wants to focus on how to make absence more bearable. The
choice of a pet to carry affection is bound to elicit very positive feelings in the audience. But it
can also make them feel uncomfortable that the animal is being used as a tool. Or it makes
them laugh when the movie shows the tester running after the dog to continue his
conversation. The feelings are not here - as in a work of art - for themselves or for any
cathartic experience. They are here to start a discussion.
In rhetoric, the speaker has to stir and relate to peoples interests and feelings for the
discussion to start. First, the locutor has to establish a good relationship with his public. What
traditional rhetoric qualifies as captatio benevolentiae. She does that by respecting the
feelings and expectations of her audience. But then, to win her case, she needs to move the
audience. Rhetoric is born in the tribunal. Different emotionsanger, sadness, joy,need
to be elicited from the audience. Aristotle remarks that most of the time, this play on emotions
is what is going to win a case or lose it because, he notes, people do not have the time to
learn, or to follow complicated demonstrations, but they can still feel about a case and make
a decision on the basis of these feelings.
This echoes the definition of the uncanny given earlier, as well as the intentions of the
authors related in the literature review. The authors repeatedly caution that the audience
needs to be unsettled but not freaked out. They point out the necessary balance of positive
and negative emotions. The uncanny appears precisely as a way to touch the audience, to
appeal to their feelings.
Convincing the audience with argumentation
As said in the usecase description, the set of communication materialslogos, texts,
images, videos and the two objectscreated around Dog&Bones dog collar, is able to
articulate different scales of complexity. The discourse generated by the presence of the
different elements on their own or the one performed by the speaker is adaptable in different
situations (conferences, exhibitions, web, print) and audience. An audience of professional
engineers would not ask for the same kind of technical details as professional designers.
Another example of this rhetorical criteria is found in Auger-Loizeaus work.
for technological believability, the Audio Tooth Implant relies on a general public
awareness of hard and well-publicised facts, such as the miniaturisation of digital
technology and urban myths such as dental fillings acting as radio antenna and
picking up audio signals. These combine to give the concept a familiarity. It was
also necessary to provide a convincing description, in laymans terms, of the
technology involved. [] This description helped in convincing those with a good
understanding of electronic technology. (Auger, 2012, p.158)
The artefact is part of an argument and as such does not present so much a truth as a
probable explanation. The art of the rhetoric, as it is mostly remembered, is about the topics


and stylistic flourish that the author is able to master to tell his case in original and appealing
ways. Stories, descriptions, metaphors, examples, are part of the argumentative process as
well as the aesthetic qualities of the objects. Designers do indeed put a lot of emphasis on
the quality and finishing of their productions.
The uncanny is not only triggering feelings of unease, it plays on peoples cognition too
because the outcome is not some aesthetic experience or cathartic experience. It is a means
to an end: that is the debate itself. It presents its case with a relation to what can or what
cannot be believed, what can or what cannot be done, what is technically feasible or not. To
do that the designers of uncanny objects make hypotheses about the technical literacies of
their audience. They need to have a fairly good idea of what is considered common
knowledge to be able to destabilise it.

The conceptual framework of critical design is not only based on the narrative dimension of
the uncanny but also on the three rhetorical dimensions (legitimacy, emotions,
argumentation) that are also ways of managing the balance of the uncanny enough. The
rhetorical dimension is a key element of the design for debate.
Design exploration research and more precisely, the design practices that trigger reactions,
discussions and even debates in the audience need methodological and rhetorical
clarification. In order to elicit the audience reaction, these practices use a specific narrative
strategy based on the psychological concept of the uncanny. Based on a literature review we
presented how these artefacts, subtly balanced between familiarity and unfamiliarity, provoke
an uncanny feeling. At that point, a case study of critical design, produced by one of the
authors, was presented in order to reflect on the research. We finally proposed a conceptual
frameworkbased on the narrative dimension of the uncanny plus the rhetorical one. This
allows us to frame more systematically the strategy for debate that is at work, in particular it
draws our attention on three main rhetorical aspects: the argumentation which is provided not
only by the artefact but also by all the documents that organise the reception of the artefact;
unsettling the audiences emotions is a cornerstone of this form of design, in particular
because it offers a shortcut to discuss the problems; and the argumentation used to assert
the artefact probability.
The limitations of the framework could be explored by evaluating if, and how much peoples
reactions are triggered (emotions, engagement, discussions). We also wonder if the notion
of debate is appropriate. It can be seen as the intent of these practices but does the debate
or even the discussion occur at this stage? Is a step missing to start a discussion? Are the
debates happening, but simply not captured by any media? The next step of this research
should examine the importance of the mediation of these projects (crafting the situation of
reception) as it seems primordial to gather meaningful audience reactions to start a
meaningful discussion.
As designers insist on getting forms of engagement, they therefore shift the attention from
winning a case (rhetorical framework) to discussing and debating options (communication
framework). We conclude that this specific relationship between artefacts and viewers makes
Design a form of communication between designers and their audience.


The authors would like to give a warm thank you to their research collaborators: Pierrick
Thebault, Jeremy Boy, Remy Bourganel, Emmanuel Mah; The persons involved in the
Dog&bone project, including James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, Nicolas Nova, Daniel Sciboz,
Daniel Pinkas, HEADGeneva Media Design program; And the anonymous DRS reviewers.

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Teaching a User-Centred Approach to Exploring Product

Personalities and Sensory Attributes
Lois Frankel, School of Industrial Design, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

While basic design principles tend to be visually oriented, a user-centred design
perspective focuses on the product experience and hence is multi-sensory. Moreover, the
sensory qualities of products can relate to perceived product personalities. This paper
describes a pilot investigation in a design principles course. We used an existing product
personality tool for evaluating perceptions associated with a number of small mechanical
everyday products. Initially students explored links between visual qualities of products
and meanings and emotional responses derived from them. Subsequently, they observed
participants multi-sensory experiences with the same products with the objective of
understanding the differences in perception between purely visual experiences and other
sensory layers of human-object interactions. The paper concludes that tactile and auditory
sensory design attributes contribute additional and sometimes different meanings,
emotional responses, and interactions to everyday products, and possibly into whole
product categories. Product design educators can benefit from expanding their
introduction to form-giving from a strongly visually-oriented approach to a multi-layered
approach for detailing sensory characteristics of products, especially auditory and tactile

Multi-Sensory Experiences, Sensory Product Attributes, Product Personalities
This paper documents a pilot student investigation of the relationship between perceived
product personalities and sensory qualities designed into products. Patrick Jordan (2002)
notes that products are like living objects with which people have relationships. Other
design researchers have observed that people relate to certain products as if they were
human, for example, getting angry with them or being nice to them to get them to work
properly (Reeves and Nass, 1996). Given this phenomenon, designers should be able to
enhance the person-object relationship by intentionally incorporating sensory features into
products that may be perceived as having particular personalities. This project explored
existing product/user relationships to begin to understand how and when sensory features
contribute to perceived product personalities and user experiences, within the context of
teaching design principles. The objective of the study was to identify multi-sensory design
considerations for determining user-centred design features for different stages in humanproduct interactions.
The paper begins with a brief discussion of design principles introduced to product design
students, ranging from formal rules to user-centred considerations. It then discusses the
two phases of the students assignment; the first phase explored visual factors that
contribute to perceived product personalities and the second phase explored how
meanings, emotional responses and interactions based on visual perceptions can be
altered by additional sensory channels such as touch and sound.


Product designers have traditionally determined the visual and three-dimensional
attributes of products. In product design schools, there is an emphasis on form-giving,
according to fundamental principles governing visual and tangible properties (Gilles, 1991;
Pipes, 2009). Prescriptive design approaches, many originating with the Bauhaus, form
the basis for foundation design studios. Students also learn about user-centred issues in
separate ergonomics or human factors courses and user-centred design projects
(Courage and Baxter, 2005). There is a separation between the creative skill set and the
human-oriented approach. In the former case, a good designer applies the rules of
compositional unity and balance to achieve or disrupt a model of harmony (Jordan, 2002).
In the latter case, user studies provide feedback for refining and adjusting a products
formal properties to meet user requirements (Kuniasvsky, 2003).
Alternatively it could be argued that the visual and formal features of a product are part of
the same domain as user-centred product features such as affordances (Norman, 2004).
From that perspective user-oriented design adds more than formal attributes to design
detailing; it encompasses a broader range of subjective multi-sensory experiences.
According to Hekkert and Schifferstein (2007) product experiences consist of three
The aesthetic response is characterized by feelings of (dis) pleasure that are based on the
sensory perception of the object; the object looks beautiful, feels pleasurable, or sounds
nice. In addition, people try to understand how a product must be operated or which
actions it affords, and people attribute all kinds of expressive, semantic, symbolic or other
connotative meanings to it. The interactions with a product can help a person to reach a
goal or can obstruct him or her in attaining that goal, and thereby lead to various
emotional responses.
In a user-centred design approach, the user should be involved from the products
inception (Courage and Baxter, 2005). This means that an understanding of users
requirements, ways of doing things, mental models, and contexts of use all come to play
in the design of the products. It makes sense to incorporate the users sensory
experiences into the process rather than collecting user/usability data and then turning to
principles of form-giving that are somehow detached from the components of the user
This study was conceived as a way for students to learn about the relationship between
the multi-sensory features of existing everyday products and users subjective
experiences. The intention was to engage undergraduate students in examining how
multi-sensory aesthetic, operational, and interactive components add to purely visual and
formal compositional principles in product design. With this approach, emerging designers
can develop a broader perspective about user-centred design features, especially for
products incorporating multisensory characteristics.

Seeing is Believing
This exploration took place as part of a new second year undergraduate industrial design
course entitled Sensory Aspects of Design, replacing a studio focused on traditional form
and colour principles. The exploratory study described below, took part in two phases.
Given that there is a strong focus on the visual characteristics of product design in the
design curriculum, Phase One began with an investigation into the messages product
appearances communicate. This investigation built on Patrick Jordans (2002) Product
Personality Assessment Questionnaire. The objective was to determine perceptions of
small mechanical everyday products within eight specific product categories: corkscrews,


locks for lockers, handheld safety razors, multi-purpose Swiss army-type knives, hand
held juicers, desk lamps, tape dispensers, and staplers. There were eight teams with five
or six students and each team selected one product category. Within their chosen product
category each team studied three products varying from high design through to low
design. They were looking for links between visual qualities of products that users
associate with meanings and emotional responses to the products in that category. Each
team recruited a total of ten participants from the class to assess the traits of each of the
three objects in the teams product category. For example, the Lock Down Krew team
selected three different locks, as shown in Figure 1.

Figures 1 & 2: The 3 locks and set up for participant evaluation (credits: Booth-Dawson,
Mathew, Rakoff Bellman, Steindel, Zurowski)
Each participant evaluated the locks primarily through visual inspection, as shown in
Figure 2, filling out semantic differential scales derived from Patrick Jordans Product
Personality Assessment Questionnaires [5], as shown in Figure 3 and Figure 4 below:

Figure 3: Product Personality Assessment Questionnaires (credits: Booth-Dawson,

Mathew, Rakoff Bellman, Steindel, Zurowski)
The teams then analysed the set of product assessments for each product to determine
its perceived personality. They identified the personality dimensions unique to each
product by focusing on the adjectives with the highest scores. Following that, the teams
analysed the formal properties of each product to determine links between the product
personality profiles and specific form and colour phenomena that may have contributed to
the perceived meanings and/or emotional responses. This interpretive and experimental


process, without prescriptive rules for interpreting form and colour features, stimulated
discussion and debate. In the case of team Tight-Squeeze, their hand-held juicer results
were revealing. For example, they associated the participants perceptions of narcissistic
and inflexible personality traits with the juicers downwards-thrusting ridged and pointed
central body element and its sharply angled asymmetrical legs as seen in Figures 4 and 5:

Figures 4 & 5: The Violent Juicy Salif (credits: Cross, Yonekawa, Natchetaia, Sudak, Zhu)
In addition, each team was required to develop a 5-minute role-playing enactment to
illustrate the aspects of the products qualities and/or features that might affect users
perceptions. Strangely, in the case of the Juicy Salif above, the enactment ended in the
death of a much simpler and sweeter juicer who could not stand up to the sharp, violent
masculine personality of Juicy. Playfulness aside, all of the student teams reported
significant qualitative realizations. For example, the Lock Down Krew reported:
Similar products were compared yet vastly different personalities arose amongst
the same product category. This is not because of large differentiations (aside from colour)
but because of the magnitude of the sum of fine details, such as radii, finish, transitions,
and text. Most personality traits could be traced back to a supporting formal detail of the
Our group was surprised to find that our predictions for the results of the testing
were far from the actual results. We would not have been able to perceive these results
without testing. It was reinforced that, despite what we think, we dont know what others
feel/think until we ask.
By the end of this phase, each product was assigned a personality profile based on the
visual perceptions of its formal features. The teams gave each product a name, ranging
from common names to movie star names, already associated with strong personality
types. The students had no idea if these personalities would hold true when participants
interacted with the products using other sensory channels. Would sweet Annie Edison, the
mini stapler or masculine, Viktor Iznakov, the powerful stapler maintain their attraction
when participants actually used them?


Figures 6 & 7: eStapler online profiles for Annie & Viktor (credits: Barsalou, Chen,
Nyakairu, Wilcox, Wilson)

Interacting is Differentiating
In the second phase student teams focused on observing sensory and experiential
interactions between people and the chosen team products. The objective of this phase
was to analyze the multi-sensory experience of a product with respect to understanding if
the original product personality would change with more interactive sensory involvement,
based on the work of Fenko, Schifferstein, and Hekkert (2009). Their mission was to
How do sensory features and attributes affect product choice and multi-sensory
Do the previously determined product personalities persist?
Three participants tested each product. Each participant performed two tasks with each
product, in some cases choosing each of the three products in order of preference. Team
members observed, videotaped (with permission), and later analysed the interactions
each participant had with the product while completing the specified tasks. In their
analysis they looked at the number and kind of sensory interactions in relation to specific
product features and stages of use. For example, in the case of the eStapler team the two
simple tasks were to choose a stapler and staple some paper, which was repeated three
times, and to refill the staplers. The results of these observations led to Classifications
of Sensory Interactions, which some teams presented as storyboards of sensory
interactions (see Figure 8) and interpretations of the findings (see Figure 9).

Figures 8 & 9: Classification & Interpretation (Barsalou, Chen, Nyakairu, Wilcox, Wilson)
Overall, the teams found that the principal senses people engaged with while using the
products were visual and tactile, and secondarily, auditory. In fact, the senses could be
ordered as follows: the first experience of interaction is through the distant sense of vision,


followed by the proximity sense of touch, and enhanced periodically during use by the
distant auditory sense. Most teams found discrepancies between their findings from
phase one and phase two. Moreover, design elements appealed to different sensory
modalities depending on stages of use. For example, the Lockdown Krew noted that,
when first seen, colour and formal novelty initially attracted their Phase 1 participants to
their lime green Olivia lock. However, the anticipated familiarity associated with the
users tactile and auditory experiences made their Gary lock the favourite when
participants engaged in sensory interactions with the locks in Phase 2, as noted in Figures
10 and 11:

Figures 10 & 11: Participants choices differed between Phases 1 & 2 (Barsalou, Chen,
Nyakairu, Wilcox, Wilson)
Overall, the discrepancies alerted the students to the value of user-centered and multisensory design approaches to design decision-making. Their insights are discussed in the
following section.

Since this assignment was both introductory and experimental, it was not obvious whether
the results would show any differences between participants visual perceptions of
products and their perceptions after additional sensory interactions with them. However,
for most of the teams, once participants interacted with the products, the perceived
product personalities changed. The students began to recognize that user-centred design
is closely tied to ease of use. The users are influenced by their interactions with multimodal product features. As in human relations participants interactions became more
intimate, focused, and complex when they were required to complete tasks. While good
looks promise successful and engaging interactions, tactile and auditory product features
act as important mediators in the activities.
For example, the desk lamp team realized that the visual aspects of the product
personalities held true, but during interaction, certain sensory aspects of the lamps
started to contradict their personalities. A friendly lamp displayed tactile unfriendliness
during interaction due to poor button design and a sophisticated multi-element lamp
displayed primitive tactile operational features for adjusting its height. They concluded,
The functionality and usability started to influence the personalities more than their visual
qualities, supporting the notion of considering multi-sensory aspects as user-centred
design features.
The students began to consider visually oriented aesthetic product features as the most
determining factor in terms of shelf appeal. They began to recognize that multi-sensory
attributes that contribute to an engaging and successful operational experience are key
factors for a good user-centred product. In terms of it being a successful product,


functionality and usability is incredibly important- HONESTY. One team summarized the
user-centred sensory contributions of sound and touch by saying, These functional and
usability factors need to incorporate secondary sensory aspects in order for it to become a
satisfying experience.
The students were also encouraged to consider the ordering of human-object interactions
with respect to sensory features, based on the work of Fenko, Schifferstein, and Hekkert
(2009). As a result several teams presented their findings in relation to stages of use,
similar to a task analysis breakdown, as can be seen in the knife interactions in Figures 12
& 13 following, where the sensory interactions are mapped onto each step in the task. As
the stages of use proceed, the dominant visual sense in stage one in Figure 12 gives way
to tactile interactions, which dominate in the rest of the stages, albeit to a lesser degree
(note grayed-out hand). These are further augmented by auditory feedback as the use
cycle progresses and in stage one in Figure 13, auditory engagement is more important
than the visual experience.

Figures 12 & 13: Mapping sensory interactions to task stages (credits: Arkuszewski, Choi,
Gilmour, Kurluk, Roberts)
By the end of phase two it became apparent that the overwhelming focus on the visual
aspects of form and colour phenomena in form-giving activities could contribute to
products that do not fully meet users needs, requirements, or optimal sensory experiences.
Taking a multi-sensory approach to the design of product features could result in a richer
multi-layered, and longer lasting product experience.
Nonetheless, this pilot study had several limitations. First, it was a simplified introduction
to basic design research for undergraduate students beginning to develop their
foundational industrial design knowledge. Second, it was the first assignment in a new
course with the objective of converting a studio-based approach to form and colour
principles into a reflective user-centred exploration of multi-sensory product features.
Third, the students were given a great deal of leeway in setting up their testing contexts to
allow for some creativity, which may have affected the test results. For example, some
teams came to the conclusion that the discrepancy between phases one and two were
due to the testing situation. For example, the Lockdown Krew were concerned that they
had influenced their participants in phase two:
Our question in phase 1 targeted visual aesthetic preference from a consumer perspective.
Personality is a factor that influences choice but it is mostly based on tastes.
Our user scenario was (unintentionally) a high-pressure situation.
We think the choice of lock was influenced by an observer expectancy effect [in which]
our test subjects wanted to perform well and meet our expectations.
The desire to perform well led our users to choose the lock with which they were most
With different product choices and a different time frame, in-situ observations may have
been more appropriate. Since participants did not fill out a Product Personality


Assessment Questionnaire after the multi-sensory use scenarios, the discrepancies in

final personalities were not statistically confirmed. Lastly, the basic design research
observations in these two phases were oriented towards providing a reflective alternative
to teaching students prescriptive design principles. Therefore a measure of success would
be to determine the extent that students are more aware of how a wider range of usercentred multi-sensory features can be an integral part of the design development of
everyday products.

This paper illustrates the potential usefulness of incorporating form and colour
characteristics within the larger context of a user-centred approach to design detailing in
foundation design studies. It reveals how students explored the dynamic nature of the
sensory relationship between a product and a user over time, as different sensory
experiences come to the fore in different stages of interaction. Product personalities are
first perceived through a visual sensory modality. Once the user engages tactile and
auditory senses in operational and interactive activities, his or her original visual
perceptions may change, altering the perceived personality of a product. This awareness
can sensitize student designers to the multi-layered aspect of sensory interactions with
products, with more than one sensory experience occurring, creating a richer or a more
complex (good or bad) experience for the users. Therefore, in this assignment, emerging
student designers learn that user-centred design is not separate from the aesthetic formal
and multi-sensory features of products. Well-designed multi-sensory and use-oriented
attributes of products can contribute to users perceptions and responses to those
Product personality is only one tool for measuring assumptions, reactions, reiterations,
and contextual differences. In this case, it provides a lens that shows how sensory
engagement changes with stages of use. Multi-layered sensory interactions are necessary
considerations in the design of a product for long-term use. Product design educators can
benefit from expanding their introduction to form-giving from a strongly visually oriented
approach to a multi-layered approach to detailing multi-sensory characteristics of products,
especially auditory and tactile features.
The assignment described here was inspired by the work being undertaken at Delft
University of Technology in Multisensory Product Experience in Industrial Design
Engineering by Hekkert and Schifferstein and the work of Sensory Anthropologists David
Howes and Constance Classen at Concordia University. It sets the stage for future
investigations into the transformation of prescriptive design principles as well as the study
of the advantages and disadvantages of different sensory modalities in designing product
interactions. The long term goal is to sensitize emerging designers to integrate multisensory design elements that enhance pleasure, meaning, and operational aspects as
part of holistic, long term, evolving relationships between people and their everyday

Courage, C. and Baxter, K. (2005). Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to user
requirements: Methods, Tools, & Techniques. San Francisco: Elsevier Inc.


Fenko, A., Schifferstein, H. N.J., and Hekkert, P. (2009). Which Senses dominate at
different stages of product experience? In Proceedings of Undisciplined! Design Research
Society Conference 2008, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July 2008.
Hekkert, P. and Schifferstein, H. N.J., (2007). Introducing Product Experience. In
Schifferstein, H. N.J. and Hekkert, P. (Eds.) Product Experience (pp. 1-8 ). Oxford:
Gilles, W. (1991). Form Organization. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd.
Jordan, P. (2002) The Personalities of Products. In Green, W. S. and Jordan, P. (Eds.).
Pleasure with Products: Beyond Usability (pp. 19-47). New York: Taylor & Francis.
Kuniavsky, M. (2003) Observing the User Experience. San Francisco: Elsevier Inc.
Lauer, D. A. and Pentak, S. (2008) Design Basics 7th Ed., Boston: Thomson Higher
Norman, Donald. (2004). Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. New
York: Basic Books.
Pipes, A. (2009) Introduction to Design 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Education Inc.,
Reeves, B. and Nass, C. (1996) The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers,
Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places, Stanford: Center for the Study
of Language and Information.

Lois Frankel
Lois Frankel, Associate Professor in the School of Industrial Design at Carleton University,
studies the user-centred design of computer-enabled products. Her past experience as a
jewellery designer influenced her focus on wearable computing devices for health and
wellbeing. Her work with smart products for the Elderly/Vision Impaired includes design
research projects with the TAFETA (Technology Assisted Friendly Environments for the
Third Age) group at the Elisabeth Bruyere Health Centre in Ottawa and the Canadian
National Institute for the Blind.
Lois has been a Professor in the School of Industrial Design for twenty years and is a past
Director of the School. She is currently a PhD student at Concordia University, with the
generous support of a Doctoral Fellowship from SSHRC (the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council). Her PhD research combines the disciplinary approaches
of Sensory Anthropology Research and Generative Design Processes in design research
for wearable technologies for mature adults. Her previous degrees include: Master of
Environmental Design (Industrial Design) from the University of Calgary, Meisterschulerin
from the Dsseldorf Art Academy, Germany, Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia
College of Art and Design, and Diploma in Crafts and Design from Sheridan College,


Designing Affiliative Objects: Investigating the Affiliations of

Medical Identification Jewellery

This paper reports on design work-in-progress that, to date, has focused on the
affiliation of medical identification jewellery with paramedics as the central user group.
In doing so, we use Suchmans notion of the affiliative object to reframe medical
identification jewellery as a compound epistemic object with affiliations to paramedics in
the province of Ontario, Canada. The paper begins by providing background including
the methods used to assess the use of medical identification jewellery. There follows a
section on how the findings from fieldwork were used to develop a first iteration of
design recommendations. A compliancy table then appends discussion of key findings
and design recommendations. Three design concepts were found to be particularly
successful in focus groups of participant paramedics. These were modified and
evaluated in response to the feedback obtained. One concept was ultimately rejected,
while the other two underwent redesign. The two successful concepts were developed
into high-fidelity prototypes. The design concepts presented here are observably
original and not copies of previous designs. As affiliative objects, they aim to facilitate
diagnostic work in emergency response. In doing so, they follow Lucy Suchmans
(2005: 381) injunction that the constitution of objects is a strategic resource in the
alignment of professional identities and organizational positionings.

medical identification jewellery; user-centered design; objectualization; object-centered
socialities, epistemic objects; affiliative objects; boundary objects.



There is a growing literature in organization studies on the function of objects in design

practice, learning and institutional change (e.g., Henderson 1991, Yakura 2002, Sapsed
and Salter 2004, Miettenen and Virkkunen 2005, Ewenstein and Whyte 2009). The
concept of object here serves as a trope to express the relational dynamics of
association between things and persons. At the same time, the dynamics of association
between things and persons are subordinate to the logic and culture of different
professional identities and organizations that define and order objects (Law 2009).
Power is seen to be an effect of limited forms of ordering located on boundaries. Some
writers place emphasis on a role for boundary objects as agents that socially organize
distributed cognition (e.g., Star 1989, Star & Griesemer 1989, Carlile 2004). Others
focus on the capacity of affiliative objects as strategic resources in the alignment of
professional identities and organizational positionings (e.g. Knorr-Cetina 1997,
Suchman 2005). But crucial to all concerned is the idea of performativity and how
objects are positioned and the practices that embody them are ontologically enacted
into being (e.g., Mol 2002, Shotter 2011). Early on, Hans-Jrg Rheinberger (1997)
usefully contributed a distinction to be made between technical objects and epistemic
objects, the former being more or less permanent or immutable, the latter embodying
what one does not yet know. Ontologies in the context of epistemic objects are multiple,
not plural, requiring the work of affiliative objects and boundary objects to span partial
connections (Haraway 1988, Mol and Law 1994, Strathern 2004). The idea here is that
there are no essences or totalities to be revealed beyond boundaries, only partisan
positions. Moreover, it is a mistake to think about parts in terms of them being
fragments of a whole. The logic of the whole is not found in the logic of the parts, but in
effects that exist beyond the parts. Things and persons carry forward new
epistemological realities and new ontologies through interventions, enactment,
practices, and performances. The ontological enactment of epistemic objects is based
on becoming rather than a fixed being.
This paper considers the case of medical identification jewellery as a class of
affiliative objects. Specifically, the paper reports on design work-in-progress that, to
date, has focused on the affiliation of medical identification jewellery with paramedics as
the central user group. It begins by providing background including the methods used to
assess the use of medical identification jewellery. There follows a section on how the
findings from fieldwork were used to develop a first iteration of design
recommendations. A discussion of key findings and design recommendations
accompanies the production of a compliancy table which outlines key design
considerations from the perspective of paramedics as first responders in emergency
pre-hospital care. The design concepts presented here are observably original and not
copies of previous designs. As affiliative objects, they aim to facilitate diagnostic work.
In doing so, they follow Lucy Suchmans (2005: 381) injunction that the constitution of
objects is a strategic resource in the alignment of professional identities and
organizational positionings.


The existing MedicAlert bracelet has, in many respects, retained similar functionality
and appearance since its creation in the mid-1950s. The original design was for a silver
bracelet with the medical condition of the wearer engraved upon it (MedicAlert
Foundation 2013. The early MedicAlert logo featured a Rod of Asclepius, an emblem of
the medical profession, flanked by the words Medic Alert. A central plaque bearing
this motif remains the hallmark of contemporary MedicAlert jewelry, and is closely
mimicked by other medical identification jewellery brands, such as Universal Medical ID
(2013). MedicAlerts trademark patient database and telephone hotline were established
internationally by 1964 (Stevenson 1964: 980).
Significantly, it has been a commonplace for wearers to personalize or otherwise
modify their bracelets in a manner that reduces access to medical information in favour
of fashion and style. A perfunctory survey of internet sites concerning MedicAlert
bracelet undertaken at the outset of this study revealed a range of modifications that
indicate a sharp division in intents and objectives. While some wearers seem focused
on concealing and otherwise modifying the bracelet in order to decrease or avoid
stigma, others are tattooing written instructions to service providers on strategic sites of
the body in order to guide first responders in emergency situations. The division in
intents and objectives recalls Graham Pullins (2009) study of the tension that currently
exists among design disciplines (e.g., fashion, industrial design, graphics, engineering)
involved in designing for disability. The exemplary case for Pullin is the modern day
transformation of eyeglasses from wholly functional medical assistive devices into
stylish eyewear. Eyewear thus functions as a kind of boundary object. Susan Leigh Star
and James R. Griesemer have described boundary objects as those that:
inhabit several intersecting social worldsand satisfy the informational
requirements of each of them. Boundary objects are objects which are both
plastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several
parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity
across sites (1989: 393).
However, eyewear is a special case in the history of the design of medical
assistive devices. Pullin shows this in comparisons with other medical appliances such
as hearing aids and prosthetic limbs that continue to achieve discretion for disabled
wearers through concealment. In view of all this, we decided to take a stepped
approach to problem-solving in the redesign of medical identification jewellery. In effect,
we reasoned, the redesign of the medic identification bracelet could begin by first
addressing the culture and organizational positionings of a segment of user concerns. A
table of compliance of successful design recommendations could be generated for
purposes of identifying indispensable design considerations for future iterations of a
more inclusive bracelet. In this regard, Lucy Suchman (2005) usefully observes that
objects demonstrate affiliative powers, particularly when occupying the role of an
epistemic object. She describes the process of transforming the Xerox 8200 copier,
initially a common workplace object, into a specifically scientific object by reworking its
boundaries among the various parties involved in research on the device. Our
recommendations for the redesign of medical identification jewellery are the first step


such a transformation. In what follows, we reframe medical identification jewellery as a

compound epistemic object with affiliations to paramedics in the province of Ontario,
Among the provincial emergency medical personnel we interviewed, paramedics were
the only ones who report considering medical identification jewellery in their practice. In
fact, emergency department physicians noted that hospital staff rely on paramedics to
report the presence of medical identification jewellery. Furthermore, several paramedics
stated that medical identification jewellery has the potential to be useful in situations
where patients are unresponsive, uncommunicative, or have a language barrier.
A literature review of the medical directives and training materials used by
paramedics in Ontario was initiated in order to obtain information about specific
procedures. We wanted to know which practices paramedics were supposed to use
when responding to medical emergencies. In particular, we wanted to know how
practitioners prioritize and classify patient information so that we could draw up
recommendations for the information architecture of the proposed redesigns.
Additionally, we wanted to know what behaviours paramedics perform when seeking
patient information. That being said, because such practices are based as much in tacit
knowledge as they are in explicit knowledge (Collins 2010), we also conducted a series
of semi-structured long-form interviews with fourteen paramedics from five emergency
medical services in the province of Ontario. The services with which we worked serve a
range of demographics, including large and small urban centers, suburban, rural and
seasonal populations, and highway traffic.
The lead author used the findings to develop a first iteration of design
recommendations. A set of six representative design concepts were then presented in a
series of focus groups for participant paramedics. Participants were provided with
illustrations, orthographic drawings, and explanations of the designs. They were asked
to share their thoughts and preferences regarding the prospective usefulness and
practicality of the various ideas, as well as to identify any features or characteristics that
they thought were missing. A second iteration of design recommendations were then
drawn up and taken back to the participant paramedics.
Key Findings
Three design concepts were found to be particularly successful in the focus groups.
These were modified and evaluated in response to the feedback obtained. One concept
was ultimately rejected, while the other two were further adapted in response to our
initial recommendations regarding the redesigns information architecture. The two
successful concepts were developed into high-fidelity prototypes.
Participant paramedics expressed concern with the overreliance of medical
identification jewellery providers on patient reporting which, they said, is often
inaccurate, incomplete, irrelevant, or some combination of the three. They also
complained about the absence of any clear standard of what constitutes relevance in


the context of a medical emergency. For example, glaucoma is listed in the

Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (Canadian Pharmacists Association
2011) as a contraindication for four paramedic-administered drugs (and several other
emergency-relevant drugs), and it is listed as a relevant condition by a major medical
identifier brand (Universal Medical ID, Frequent Questions 2013). Emergency medical
personnel were most interested in medical conditions or past procedures that could
have some bearing on a patients emergent condition, such as allergies, conditions or
medications that contraindicate the use of drugs that are commonly administered prior
to a patients admission to the hospital. In order to identify relevant contraindications, we
identified ten categories of drugs as likely to be administered during pre-hospital or
emergency department care. The list of contraindications was revised to include only
interactions that are life-threatening or potentially life-threatening.
A second concern reported by paramedics was the lack of visibility and
recognizability of current designs. Focus group participants attributed this problem to
the stylistic similarity of medical identification jewellery and conventional commercial
jewellery. Watches and delicate chains on bracelets were mentioned as design
elements that are particularly challenging to identify as being distinctly medical. The
practical conditions of pre-hospital medical care render discreetly-styled medical
identification jewellery ineffective. Every paramedic noted that rather than spend a
substantial amount of time searching for information from a specific source, a
paramedic will choose to gather information throughout his or her environment. With
respect to visibility and obviousness, one participant joked about, flashing lights, disco
balls, strobe lighting[or] really bright colours. (His partner noted that this comment
was only half in jest.) Another participant pointed out that simple or decorative bands or
chains used on many bracelet styles can be problematic, as they give no indication of
the objects medical status and, at any rate, there is little time to turn the bracelet
around and check. Participants also expressed a preference for standardization of the
location and appearance of a medical identifier system. This issue is once again linked
to medical identification jewellerys mimicry of commercial jewellery. Participants also
clarified that uncommon medical identifiers such as anklets or tattoos may often go
unrecognized. Further to this, they acknowledged that they are unlikely to use any
system that requires additional steps to access information in an emergency situation,
including wallet cards and necklaces. The primary concerns about wallet cards were
that patients may not always have such identifiers on or close to their persons, and that
paramedics are sometimes reticent to search a patients pockets or possessions. One
participant added that purses and other personal possessions are often not collected
immediately from the scene of an accident, increasing the chance that devices like
wallet cards or key fobs might not be found. Opinions about necklaces were more
mixed: some participants felt these are effective because they are likely to be noticed in
critical emergencies, wherein a paramedic will quickly obtain access to an unstable
patients chest. Other participants felt that in the majority of emergencies, a necklace
will be relatively non-visible and inaccessible as it may be hidden under a patients shirt.
Finally, they also stressed the size and appearance of any text used on designs.
Participants noted that the small text currently used on most medical identification
jewellery designs is often not readable, especially for paramedics who are farsighted, or


responding to night-time calls. A table (Table 1) below provides a summary of key

focus group findings that were used in the development of the first iteration of design
recommendations. Subsequent focus group feedback was used to refine our design

Use attention-getting design elements.


Use design elements that are distinct from

commercial jewellery, and/or distinctly medical; use
distinct elements around the chain or band to
improve 360-degree recognizability.


Require minimal steps between recognition of device

and accessing of patient information.


Any text elements follow accessibility guidelines such

as those listed in the United States Federal Aviation
Administrations Human Factors Criteria for Displays
(Ahlstrom and Kudrick 2007).

Relevance of information

Three-tier information architecture

Include only information about severe or potentially

fatal contraindications and hypersensitivities to
emergency-relevant drugs and therapies.

Display information relevant to life support drugs and

therapies, non-life support paramedic-administered
drugs and therapies, and pre-admission hospitaladministered drugs and therapies on visually and
geographically distinct devices

Table 1: Initial specifications required for medical identification jewellery

designs to successfully address paramedics needs.

Design Concepts and Considerations

The first set of design concepts featured the use of surface mimicry, i.e., mimicry of a
form that is likely to be commonly encountered in user practice or training. We


developed a form factor based on a hospital bracelet (Figure 1a); icons to indicate the
presence of medical information in a charm necklace concept (Figure 1b); two designs
employing a pharmaceutical capsule motif and EKG waveform (Figures 1c-d); a
singular, simple form based on the red blood cell (Figure 1e); and a Star of Life icon
with secondary visual cues of saturated colour (Figure 1f). Figures 1b, e, f were
designed with an intended purpose to house RFID tags, NFC tags, and QR codes,






7 concept; b) charm necklace concept; c) pill

Figure 1: Initial design concepts. a) Hospital band

concept; d) EKG band concept; e) red blood cell pendant concept; f) spectrum pendant

Participants reviewing the initial design concepts in the second round of focus
groups were unexpectedly unreceptive to design concepts that relied on digital
technology (i.e., RFID tags, NFC tags, and QR codes). They raised concerns about
efficacy and access to smartphones, computers and/or wireless internet in the field;
about the fiscal challenges of implementing new technologies for governmentsponsored emergency medical services; and about the privacy issues that may arise
regarding the use of a smartphone camera (as required for QR code scanning), or the
possible retention of patient data (as could occur with Internet-based solutions or NFC
tag readers). Furthermore, they pointed out that the use of such technologies would add
extra steps to field procedures that required nimbleness and speed of operation. One
participant asserted: The rule in fire and ambulance is the piece of equipment is going
to fail when you need it. Given such reticence and barring a massive shift in the
information transfer practices used in the pre-hospital care field in the province we put
to one side the digital consideration in favour of analog information storage methods.
The RFID pill concept, which received considerable positive feedback as a form, was
retained with revisions.
The paramedics in the second round of focus groups were overwhelmingly in
favour of design steps with the least number of steps between identification of the
medical identification jewellery and retrieval of information. They were particularly
supportive of a design concept with a flip mechanism, that is, where the information on
the device can be accessed in one step by flipping the text-bearing part of the device.
Several participants mentioned that this is how they access information on most current
medical identification jewellery, and commented that this is one existing design feature
that works effectively for them. As a result, we also set aside the charm necklace
concept, which required multiple steps of flipping through the various charms in order to
find the one that is relevant to the particular emergency.
Hospital band concept
The concept that received the most favorable response during the focus group process
was the hospital band design, shown in Figure 1a. This design received substantial
attention and commentary. All participants commented that the bracelet is instantly
recognizable. Immediately upon seeing the drawing, one participant stated, This I
already recognizeif I saw this, Id be like what is this? Another participant stated that
it was the only design that she would instinctively recognize as medical in nature. The
hospital band-like design appeared most likely to encourage paramedics to check for
information: several participants stated that if they see something that looks like a
hospital band, they will probably examine it. Participants also liked the perforated, foldover style band, which they felt provides an additional visual cue as to its medical
status. The band style was implemented specifically in response to the comments of
one first-round participant, who noted that the generic metal chains used on current
medical identification jewellery make that jewellery impossible to recognize if looked at
from the wrong angle. The use of a distinctive band, and especially one that is already
associated with medical information as in the case of the perforated hospital band,


increases the designs 360-degree recognizability. Based on this, we developed a

prototype for user-testing.
We subsequently thought that the initial
design, featuring a wide metal plaque on a fairly
wide but snug-fitting leather band, would be very
difficult to flip. The protype was therefore made
entirely out of a flexible material. We used of
durable debossed, colour-filled silicone for the inner,
text-engraved surface of the bracelet. (See Figure
2). In order to increase recognizability and
customizability we used custom fabric snaps and
featured the emblematic EKG wave, rendered in
acrylic, sterling silver, and gold-plated sterling silver.
To allow for ease of reading, the engraved text was
oriented in such a way as it would automatically
face the reader when the bracelet is flipped over.1
Finally, to maximize readability, we lined the inner
band in light gray silicone, with black debossed text,
as studies have found that dark text on a light
background is easier to read. A gray background is
less likely than a white one to become noticeably
Figure 2: The flip mechanism applied in a
marred by dirt, which could decrease readability.
hospital band concept prototype.
EKG feature
The initial EKG-wave band (Figure 1d) was popular among our focus group participants.
They praised the recognizability of the EKG wave and commented that they would be
likely to inspect the bracelet. Some participants felt that this bracelet was more likely to
be accepted by potential wearers, as it is less conspicuous than the hospital band style
(although we noted that in the context of this study, being less conspicuous is not
necessarily a strength). Nonetheless, this concept received a sufficiently positive
response from most of the focus group participants that we wanted to include it in
Pill motif concept
Despite their aversion to digital approaches, many participants responded positively to
the form of the red and white pill pendant that was originally intended to store an RFID
tag (Figure 1c). Most participants found the pill design to be attractive and recognizable.
Several liked it enough to suggest alternative strategies for information storage that
might make the pill design more functional. These suggestions included using the
pendant to store a slip of paper with the patients information typed on it, using the

It can be assumed that the reader will be facing the wearer. The orientation of the text
(and bracelet itself) should be adjusted to accommodate left-handed wearers.



pendant as a case for a micro USB key with the patients information stored on a text
file, and using the pendant as the basis for a scroll mechanism (such as is used in the
popular novelty banner pens). We decided to push matters further by producing a
conceptual model for the participants to examine and handle. Nevertheless, in the final
review of models and prototype, the idea lost instead of gained participant support.
Discussion and concluding remarks
In her paper Affiliative Objects (2005), Lucy Suchman proposes that our relations with
objects are relations of affiliation. Following Karin Knorr-Cetina (1997: 1), objects can
progressively displace persons as relationship partners and increasingly mediate
human relationships. Knorr-Cetina describes this as an objectualization of social
relations. At the same time, as Karen Barad (1998) has shown, objects have histories,
they resist and bite back. Hence, objects are not innocent but fraught with
significance for the relations they materialize (2005: 379).
In this paper we have studied medical identification jewellery in the context of
affiliative relations between paramedics and the people (i.e., patients) paramedics work
with when responding to emergency situations. The approach we have taken has been
to reconfigure and modify elements of design already in circulation. We have done so in
such a way as to understand the organizational positionings through which medical
identification jewellery can be made not as copies of earlier designs but as observably
original in relations of affiliation. As a first step, we offer below a Table of Compliance
(Table 2).
We have no doubt that the considerations listed in our Table of Compliance are
incomplete for the redesign of medical identification jewellery in general. We have
acknowledged, for example, the propensity of wearers to modify their medical
identification jewellery according to personal style. But this, we have noted, is at odds
with paramedics stipulations of visibility and recognizability. And our focus is on the
organizational positioning and user needs of paramedics. Medical identification
jewellery clearly holds multiple affiliations. At the same time, medical identification
jewellery bites back as it moves across boundaries in other social worlds (e.g., the
everyday life of the wearers).
Further to what John Law and Annemarie Mol (2002) have said, objects in
medicine by virtue of being medical are held together by affiliative practices. In her
work on atherosclerosis (2002), Mol persuasively argues that the multiple enactments of
a patients disease (via, for example, various clinical and test outcomes, and images)
are unified by certain practices, such as the adding-up of outcomes to support a
common object, the hierarchization of outcomes when they do not support a common
object, and the calibration of outcomes. At the same time, medical diagnosis and
treatment does not represent a single coordinated network and a single coherent
ontology. In a similar vein, we are arguing for a stepped approach to design work
whereby the design considerations of medical identification jewellery, if they are to fit
into the organizational positionings of first responder practices, must fit with and not
increase steps for field procedures that demand nimbleness and speed of operation.


What we are highlighting here is the idea that the production of organizational order
through everyday practice has, as both a primary resource and an ongoing, practical
problem, the work of bringing various forms of occasioned instruction into productive
relation with specific circumstances of action (Suchman 2005: 388).
This is not to say that other organizational positionings do not matter. They do.
But they are discursively heterogeneous. We have adopted a way of thinking about the
design process in which iterations of designs are energetic entities that juxtapose,
distinguish, make and transform absences and presences. The iterations represent a
pattern of presences and absences. Future work remains to be done in our stepped
approach to design work that will enable coordination among various positionings and
allow our design for medical identification jewelry to take on the role of a boundary
object that is flexible enough to accommodate multiple affiliations. For the time being,
we offer a Table of Compliance (Table 2) to designers working on medical identification
jewellery based on the local organization positionings of paramedics working in the
province of Ontario, Canada.

Design consideration

Use attention-getting design elements.


Use design elements that are distinct from

commercial jewellery, and/or distinctly medical;
use distinct elements around the chain or band to
improve 360-degree recognizability.


Require only one step between recognition of

device and accessing of patient information.
Preferably, use a flip action for information


Use analog (non-technological) approaches to

information storage.


Any text elements follow accessibility guidelines

such as those listed in the United States Federal
Aviation Administrations Human Factors Criteria
for Displays (Ahlstrom and Kudrick 2007).



Relevance of information

Three-tier information architecture

Include only information about severe or

potentially fatal contraindications and
hypersensitivities to emergency-relevant drugs
and therapies.

Display information relevant to life support drugs

and therapies, non-life support paramedicadministered drugs and therapies, and preadmission hospital-administered drugs and
therapies on visually and geographically distinct

Table 2. Table of compliance for medical identification

jewellery designs to successfully address paramedics



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Designers in complex problem solving: the contribution

of Systems Thinking
John Darzentas, Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering, University of
the Aegean, Ermoupolis, Syros, GR84100, Greece
Jenny Darzentas, Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering, University of
the Aegean, Ermoupolis, Syros, GR84100, Greece

This paper, attempts to provide a useful perspective of Systems Thinkings contribution to
Designs theoretical grounding for both research and education. Useful in the sense that
it will equip design students and graduate professionals with a supportive and productive
way of thinking about Design. This is viewed against the trend of more and more
multidisciplinary design problems emerging where designers are asked to deal with the
complexity which is inherent in such problems. Thus this discourse is also framed in
understandings of interdisciplinarity and further, transdisciplinarity, to attempt to gain
some traction on these heterogeneous domains.
Such domains are subject to many attempts to provide them with a theoretical framework.
In this paper, it is suggested that Systems Thinking can contribute considerably to such a
framework. The world of Systems Thinking is not new to Design, but against the new
scenarios of increasing complexity, it is in a stronger position to demonstrate its potential
for Design. This paper will posit the enhancements to both the designers way of thinking
as well as the design tools that Systems Thinking could provide.
Hence, the papers main emphasis is on how and why the designer profile could be
positively influenced by Systems Thinking.

Design Theory; Design Education; Systems Thinking; Interdisciplinarity; Transdisciplinarity

The recent debates centred around Design Thinking (Jonas, 2011; Razzouk & Shute 2012)
have been in part provoked as a response to the changing nature of problems that Design
is called upon to assist with, such as questions of services, or sustainability. In addition,
Design is deploying its existing methodologies and tools in areas that were previously
closed to it, such as innovation management and strategy in businesses (Dunne & Martin,
2006; Martin, 2009).
A common feature of these new types of problems is their complexity. To deal with the
challenges of complex problem situations, new or revised theories and methods are
needed. Thus, as we have seen with Design Thinking, the concern with, and the actual
search for, the theoretical identity of various evolving knowledge domains is becoming
more and more noticeable. That identity either emerges as a need to ground new
practices, or from the need to be able to refer to theoretical frameworks to accommodate
evolving groupings of disciplines, such as in Service science. These emerging practices
and disciplines are often difficult to identify and define. For instance, Service Science calls


for ways to deal with the complexity of modelling people, their knowledge, their activities
and their intentions p8 (Maglio, Srinivasan, Kreulen, & Spohrer, 2006)
There are, of course, those disciplines which traditionally existed under the term of
multidisciplinary (usually engineering departments); those that appeared in the middle of
the last century (e.g. Operational Research); and finally the ever increasing numbers of
newly emerged disciplines with multifaceted identities and varying characteristics (such as
Cognitive Systems Engineering, Human Computer Interaction, User Experience Design,
Service Science, etc.) that are variously labelled as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary,
although transdisciplinary, in many cases, is also a justifiable characterisation (Klein,
A common characteristic of these knowledge domains is their human-centric character
and, as a consequence, their ill-structured nature which exacerbates the difficulty to
provide a robust, commonly accepted, definition. This has been well understood for some
time. Design as a discipline has all these characteristics and it is well documented that it is
a prime example of a human centric domain which is exceedingly rich and complex,
challenging continuously, as it evolves, the research and education world and naturally
defying definition as evidenced by many design thinkers and researchers (Findelli, 2001;
Love, 2002; Buchanan, 2004; Venable 2006; Jonas, 2007; Eckert et al. 2010; Burnette
2011; Galle, 2011).
When constructing an undergraduate curriculum on design, or attempting to equip
practitioners with tools of thinking and praxis, one comes up against a natural mix and
perhaps confusion of notions, concepts and general labels. Models are called theory (ies);
theoretical frameworks are called models; praxis, methods and methodologies are lumped
under design thinking, etc. That as an observation is not necessarily a bad thing, because
it is an indication that the Design recognizes and welcomes complexity and multi, inter, or
even transdisciplinarity. This makes design properly challenging, and leaves a great deal
of latitude and degrees of freedom.
For designers, however, there needs to be continual adaptation of theoretical frameworks
for renewed commitment and grounding. A practical question is what is required from the
designer profile to be able to accommodate and deal with increasing levels of complexity.
It is this question that we seek to examine and understand here. The paper attempts to
identify and understand the need for a theoretical commitment for Design given the
increasing levels of complexity it is called upon to deal with. It supports the hypothesis that
a theoretical view of Design driven by Systems Thinking contributes towards a useful
grounding for both Design itself as well as applications of design. More importantly, it puts
forward the hypothesis that structuring the profile of designers with the aid of Systems
Thinking improves the design praxis in terms of problem understanding as well as the
appropriateness and robustness of the outcomes of the design praxis.
This paper is organised as follows: the next section gives some background on the new
demands that are being placed upon design and briefly introduces Systems Thinking.
Then the following section describes and attempts to justify why the designer profile is
positively influenced by Systems Thinking. Further it speculates on using notions and
concepts from Systems Thinking, showing how they can go towards shaping theoretical
frameworks for contemporary design challenges. The last section presents discussion and

More than a quarter of a century ago, there was a definite change towards organising and
structuring the domain of human-centric design by offering frameworks to designers


through methods and methodologies to approach design problems (Archer, 1979; Jones,
1970; Cross, Dorst & Roozenburg,1992). These were mainly to do with formalising the
various stages of the design life cycle, and supporting that endeavour mostly through
philosophical argument. This change, started by a number of researchers [see Bayarzit,
2004 for an overview] began a tide which continues to increase, as the need matures for
the establishment of theoretical backgrounds and identity of design. It is very timely that
such a challenging, and definitely extremely influential domain as design is thus
considered more and more as generic domain. In other words, philosophical arguments,
methods, methodologies, and techniques, imported from other well established
interdisciplinary areas such as structured Systems and Operational Research, etc.
pioneered by people like Herbert Simon (1969), seem to have gradually expanded and
developed further and become of the design world.
It has to be mentioned here that traditionally, engineering design, stemming as it does
from the less complex, not necessarily human centric engineering world, was well founded
and continues to be staunchly supported by the engineering research community (Dym,
2005). By contrast, in the domain of human centric design, the needs for grounding are
somehow very different. It must be acknowledged that in many cases there is a
considerable overlap, and that a useful index of that, is the level of acknowledged problem
complexity, and the permitted use of multi/trans-disciplinarity. Norman (2010) recognises
that complexity is not to be simplified, and notes The real problem is that we truly need to
have complexity in our lives. We seek rich, satisfying lives, and richness goes along with
complexity (p10).
At the same time, the emergence of the notion of transdisciplinarity is gaining substance.
As long ago as the early 1970s, the OECD (1972) noted that specialist and reductionist
tendencies in education at Universities were in need of counter balancing. Currently,
according to Klein (2004), there are two main traditions of transdiciplinarity. Building on
the vision of Piaget, Nicolescus 1996 Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity and his essay
New Vision of the World does not attempt a new discipline or superdiscipline. Rather,
Nicolescu calls transdisciplinarity the science and art of discovering bridges between
different areas of knowledge and different beings. The principal task is elaboration of a
new language, logic, and concepts to permit genuine dialogue.
The other tradition of Transdisciplinarity thinking is strongly related to research and
problem solving and dates from around 2000. It highlights the convergence of
transdisciplinarity, complexity, and trans-sectorality in a unique set of problems that do not
emanate from within science alone. It recognises that the problems of society are
increasingly complex and interdependent. Hence, they are not isolated to particular
sectors or disciplines, and they are not predictable. In fact, they are emergent
phenomena with non-linear dynamics, uncertainties, and high political stakes in decision
making, centred in complex heterogenous domains (Bruce, 2004). These domains are
those where there is interaction of humans with natural systems, such as the environment
and of human involvement with technological developments such as nuclear power. It has
also proved effective in fields where social, technical, and economic developments
interact with elements of value and culture, including aging, energy, health care, nutrition.
The multidimensionality of each of these subjects is now recognised. In the past they
were structured in terms of disciplinary and sectoral boundaries, however transdisciplinary
approaches have exposed the limits of segmented thinking and problem solving. (Klein,
Faced with this state of affairs, we observe changes in design praxis. Design praxis
follows, but also influences, changes in Design. For example, in traditional industrial
design, it can be said that the designer and the manufacturer did collaborate in as much
as they each performed a part of a process, with one carrying out design work and the


other accepting or not the resultant designs. Nowadays, it is clear that in activities like
service design the nature of the design work is highly interactive. The designer plays the
role of a facilitator in co-designing between stakeholders (Vargo, Maglio, & Akaka 2008;
Vosinakis, Koutsabasis, Stavrakis, Viorres, & Darzentas, 2008). The service thus
designed and produced is enriched by incorporating results from the involvement of the
various stakeholders who are collaborating to co-produce the outcome. In addition,
currently, the designing of a product may encompass much more than the artefact. It may
include related aspects such as its packaging and the way it will be distributed, which
reach back to influence the artefact at the heart of the design effort. It is also not
uncommon that these aspects become more important than the artefact in terms of
influence. In this way the usability of a product, becomes more important that the product
itself. This is because it is touching on the dynamics of the interaction between the user
and the product.
Systems as an approach appeared more than half a century ago, in response to the
failure of mechanistic thinking and vitalism to explain biological phenomena. A System' is
a complex and highly interconnected network of parts, which exhibit synergistic properties,
where the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. Systems is a typical paradigm of an
interdisciplinary domain, which in its trajectory through time and applications, has
amalgamated other domains such as Biology, Information Theory, Management,
General Systems Theory, Cybernetics amongst others.
Systems Thinking requires shifts from traditional classical decomposition or reductionist
ways of doing things. It looks at relationships (rather than unrelated objects), at
connectedness, at process (rather than structure), at the whole (rather than just its parts),
the patterns (rather than the contents) of a system, and context. It offers a perspective
which provides tools for understanding relationships between things and does not look for
a single answer to a problem within the confines of a single discipline (Moore & Kearsly,
1996/2005, Cameron & Mengler, 2009). While understanding the whole involves
understanding the parts, it also requires an examination of the inter-relations between the
parts. In this way, they present emergent properties, which cannot be deduced from their
component parts
A further important part of Systems Thinking is the understanding that living organisms
are considered as closed systems in terms of their organisation, while at the same time, in
terms of their energy, they are open systems, with incoming and outgoing energy and
matter. That is, they are not "idle" or "immobilized" in the immediate surroundings, and are
studied as a total entity.
Several groups of Design Researchers have shown interest in bringing Systems Thinking
to bear on their research, teaching and practice. (Jonas, 2007; Valtonen, 2010; Sevaldson,
2011). Some of this work is more related to organizational design, including complex
problem formulation and systems redesign (Pourdehnad et al, 2011; Nelson & Stolterman,
2002). Others working in the area of sustainable design and the need for whole system
design have found Systems Thinking approaches correspond to their needs (Charnley
and Lemon, 2011). Systems has been used in Engineering and Engineering Design for
many decades. However the real power of Systems Thinking is in dealing with the high
complexity of ill-structured problems. Those are traditionally the human centric ones. This
did not go unnoticed by the design community: Buchanan, in his 1992 paper, Wicked
Problems in Design Thinking was using Design to address intractable human centred


The Systems Thinking influenced Designer

Systems Thinking has currently evolved into a term which encapsulates the way of
thinking about Systems as a holon which contains the problem understanding and
description of situation of concern. In the position presented here, the knowledge profile of
a Designer is assumed to be nurtured by Systems Thinking. As a result, Designers will be
thinking about their problem spaces (design problem) holistically.
A product / system designed using Systems Thinking, will have to carry with it from the
outset as many aspects, notions and ideas, and the relations amongst them, as can be
identified and studied. As an example, in the life cycle of the design of a mobile phone,
apart from the knowledge about the materials, ergonomics, hardware, software, human
computer interaction etc. the design praxis should include every relevant subsystem of the
products environment: that includes its packaging, market characteristics, target users
(and includes notions of usability, accessibility, respect for cultural paradigms, learnability)
Although this attitude could be expected to be in the thinking tool bag of almost every
designer, it has not been the case so far. Decomposing the problem space and
reductionism remains the dominant way of thinking, which is understandable since it has
been used and has sustained the industrial and technology driven world we live in.
However specialists increasingly understand the necessity for the separate disciplines to
talk to each other, as the complexity of contemporary problems grow. For designers,
working with human centric problems, there are benefits to adopting holistic approaches.
Designers do know that the wider their spectrum in examining a design problem the more
they will gain in the robustness of their solutions. Time and resources constrain them,
however, and direct their efforts to the inevitable reductionism.
What designers should know is that reductionism can lead to serious omissions and
mistakes. Reductionism might seem the right thing to do, simply because it feels more
natural to design and build parts of an artifact or a system which may have to exist before
others, however, with this approach, very important properties of the holon which is being
designed, will not present themselves. That is mainly because, as was already mentioned
above, parts of a system (the subsystems) cannot identify and reveal properties of the
system unless they themselves are considered and recognised as parts of It and have the
interrelationships to each other acknowledged.
A Systems Thinking trained designer would consider the design problem as a system
knowing that viewing the holon he will see a lot more about it than the sum of its parts will
ever reveal. This is known as the emerging properties which are identified and emerge
when subsystems are considered together. The more the subsystems whose associations
and interrelationships are looked at together, the more the emerging properties which
show themselves as being relevant and important.
Also, Systems Thinking designers welcome and utilize the complexity of their design
problem description, being aware that this complexity, if recognizable and describable,
offers richness to the description. A design problem that considered as a system is
characterized by various levels (or degrees) of complexity, where the interrelationships of
the parts it consists of defy analysis. Forcing a de-composition of the problem into sub
problems to be tackled separately will inevitably mask properties of whole, since we do
not possess or propose a method for piecing it out and keeping all the properties.
Since complexity is now accepted as expected feature that characterises most design
praxis, where much design is concerned with human activity systems that involve complex
webs of human centric problems that require to be understood and solved. Thus Design


cannot ignore complexity, but should actively seek complexity in its grounding and
application. Complexity should be understood as enriching the process of design and
leading it to consider larger variety in its definition and its understanding of the problem
The designing of a new mobile phone; a self-service terminal; a simplified application form
in the context of Information Design; a service design in an accident and emergency
department of a regional hospital, and so many others, have been dealt and are being
dealt very often almost on a daily basis. What brings them as examples here is that they
can be used to demonstrate the importance of the claims made above. For instance a
mobile phone is expected to be attractive, useful, accessible, affordable or wanted by the
users irrespective of the cost for various reasons, for example its innovative features. If,
despite its complexity as a product / system, designers understand, define, and design its
components separately without talking to each other; i.e. the software developers make
sure that whatever is in the phone can be expressed in some way so it can be utilized, but
have not worked with the interaction designers to make sure that all required functionality
is there. As a result, the emergent properties of those subsystems which should have
been considered together will not be recognized and answered to. The same applies to
considerations such as the ergonomics and materials used, or the shape and size,
marketing, packaging, and image of the user, and so on. The above is also a useful
example to demonstrate that the service part of the holon to be designed is the real
complex problem and determines the success or failure of the artefact. If that artefact is
designed with reductionism adopted as the driving force, then it will probably be foreign to
the service it is supposed to offer.
It must be said again, that experienced and talented designers will have methods,
methodologies, and experience in their toolbox to deal with most of those issues when
doing design. The argument here is that there should be grounding knowledge which
provides methodologies with methods and techniques, and way of thinking which give in
the toolbox the power to conduct and direct groups of designers in their praxis towards
design solutions from the beginning.
Staying with the notion of complexity, it is also interesting here to introduce the concept of
variety from Cybernetics. In Cybernetics, variety it has been introduced to measure the
potential of a system to defend itself against external threats or interference in a sense
that only variety controls or defeats variety. Designers with the profile stated here will
accommodate and utilize complexity and variety in their praxis, as an example in a way
similar to what follows. Complexity will be welcome because of the richness it offers and
there is the understanding that the more complex a system appears to be the healthier it
is, because if studied properly, it can be seen that it offers more ways to deal with
problems than a less complex one. We could also add that complexity, if appropriately
accommodated, promotes simplicity, that is, complexity is not the opposite of simplicity,
and to that extent it supports the simpler use of a product.
A further example might be in the case of the design of self-services. Systems Thinking
designers will possess the knowledge to add in to their methods the determining of the
variety of demands, i.e. the types of different service demands. In other words they are
aware of the usefulness of knowing the different ways users will demand service. That
way, the designers will know the variety of services that should be provided and of course
what the self-service terminals such as ATMs should be able to deal with. The notion of
requisite variety for dealing with the demand, will lead the designers to those stakeholders
involved in the relevant subsystems (e.g. Service Design) for dealing with potential
problems, for example of accessibility (Darzentas & Darzentas, 2013).


Designing an office interior will include the design of workstations, which could be seen as
a task of designing for a typical member of staff to be operational as possible and
accommodating all he needs for performing his assigned duties. Given the type of work,
the space available, regulations, the location of working places will also be high in the
agenda. However the design of a workstation for one person might not bring up some
emerging properties which will make the end result successful. That is, since in the office
there will be more than one member of staff, the design should be able to accommodate
conversation and collaboration. That need may considerably change the understanding
of the workstation requirement. Also knowledge about the requisite variety will aid the
designer to address accessibility issues in the station itself as well as in the location/
allocation of these stations in the office, so they can be used by people with special needs.
Such needs can radically change all of the thinking about the design and layout of the
The example illustrates the importance of examining the whole problem/system from the
beginning. The emerging properties when seen during the understanding of the problem
they seem obvious, however it is fairly easy to miss them when the relevant subsystem is
not considered.
Summing up, the main aim of the introduction of Systems Thinking as a Design Thinking
support is to nurture the profile of designers with it in order to provide them with a very
valuable and useful way to deal with the human centric problems they face. These
designers can also be taught about and practice Systems Thinking methodologies such
Soft Systems Methodologies (SSM) (Checkland, 2000), Critical Systems (Flood &
Jackson, 1991) etc. However, this paper is not yet suggesting ways to teach designers, it
is presenting and attempting to justify the belief that Systems Thinking can aid the
grounding of the domain of design very usefully by providing a theoretical framework
which in turn can support designers and their way of thinking towards human centric
In the discussion and theses above about the domain of Systems Thinking and its
application to Design, a number of notions and concepts have been mentioned. They are
important and they stem out of their multi-inter-trans disciplinary world. They are not
though the only ones which can be very relevant and useful to Design Thinking and praxis,
but they are representative of the nature of Systems Thinking for the purpose of the paper.
These are:

Complexity (the nature of which has so far led to attempts for reductionism)
Emergent properties
Variety (requisite variety)

As far as the notion of self-reference is concerned, briefly this refers to the fact that
designers should be expected to know and feel that their self-reference as far the design
problem they are facing exists and influences the design and should be managed. This
can be achieved partly through co-design which naturally acknowledges also the selfreference of the stakeholders, in order to work towards a robust solution.
A final example which can be used to demonstrate the role and usefulness of some of the
above notions in a design problem is the design of the packaging of medicine and the
corresponding instructions. This can be seen as including an information design problem
where the instructions as far as their content, form and positioning have to be designed. If
this packaging problem is considered as a system and the designers involved resist
reductionism then the design problem will, in its rich Systemic view include all possible
subsystems such the type of medicine (including the degree of danger if used wrongly).


This will lead to more appropriate definitions of the user groups (patients, carers, doctors,
pharmacists, manufacturers, etc.) and in turn will identify emerging needs of use. For
instance in the case of blood pressure pills that will emphasise aspects like the
ergonomics of the container, the size of lettering, a complex way of describing the use
by which is mean a model of information with an appropriate variety of ways to offer the
necessary explanations. We must not forget that here complexity is not the opposite of
simplicity, but they should work together in making life better by offering a rich adaptable
guidance for as many types of users as possible.

Our main thesis is that Complexity is recognised in Design and should be welcomed, and
that together with a number of aspects of Systems Thinking enhances the chances of
design praxis to succeed in producing a robust design solutions, and characterises and
enforces the profile of Designer in a positive way.
One might comment that the above begs the question as to why does one need new
theories to proceed, in such an obviously successful and leading domain as design, which
has evolved into a prominent leader amongst the newly and powerfully evolving multi /
inter / trans disciplinary domains. The answer might be a simple one, that is because of
the apparently very important role design is playing in that evolving world, and that it
seems to be a naturally mature hyper-domain able to accommodate and direct most of
them. Also because that maturity requires new leads and ways of thinking, through which
to evolve, understand, and solve a wider range of problems.
A theoretical identity supporting a domain could be a very important aspect of this
evolution, it could also be absolutely necessary for its survival. However it could also be
very damaging hence one must in most cases, introduce statements such as lack of
owned theory which could be a conscious decision or evolution. Here, very briefly, it is
stated that there is a generic domain, that of Systems Thinking, which can accommodate
theoretical needs of design, and complement others such as engineering, in supporting
designers to design. A main assumption made here is that design is human centric,
assuming that engineering is well founded. It is argued that Systems Thinking helps to
understand the problem in hand and to analyse it maintaining a very high level of
Decorating the living room of a blind person, might sound provocative. One might also get
the answer that it is a problem like any other and the designers toolbox contains tools to
deal with it. Of course it does, the thesis here though is that another theoretical framework
might be useful in understanding, and ordering / optimising the actions, and of course do
what theories help one to do: to provoke, to explain, to define, to predict. In the case of
the decoration problem, it could translate to knowing that, for example, increasing the
requisite variety should be a high priority because probably autonomy will be very
important to the problem owner.

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John Darzentas:
Professor John Darzentas (BSc Athens, MSc Sussex, UK, PhD, London, UK) is Head of
the Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering ( of
the University of the Aegean (
He has held academic faculty positions in universities in the UK and in Greece, and
departmental headships, including Docent at the Abo Akademi, Turku, Finland, visiting
Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Athens, and others.
His research interests are wide ranging and include Systems Thinking and Systems
Design; Service Design; Information Systems Design; Intelligent Systems and Decision
Support Systems; Human Computer Interaction; Design for All; Learning Systems and
Technologies, and issues of Multi-Inter-Trans-Disciplinarity.
He is on the editorial board of a number of journals and has authored many papers
published in books, journals and conference proceedings. He has served as Scientific
Lead in many research programmes, funded both at national and European level. He is
invited expert / member of IFIP TC13 (International Federation of Information Processing
Technical Committee 13) on HCI.
A fuller Curriculum Vitae is available at

Jenny S. Darzentas
Dr Jenny S. Darzentas (BA, London, UK, PhD, City University, UK) works in the
Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering ( of the
University of the Aegean ( and lectures on Design for All;
Information Design; Interaction Design Communication Theory, Organisational Theory,
Behaviour and Service Design.
Her publications cover topics in Design and HCI (Human Computer Interaction), such as
user needs for information; accessibility practices and policies; and educational
requirements for Design for All. In addition, she has worked on many national and
European funded projects, on library and archival programmes; online learning; on issues
of accessibility; on personal profiles/device profiles aiming at seamless interactions, and
has published on these subjects.
Her current research interests focus on the questions about self service and accessibility,
and the contributions of frameworks and methodologies from Systems Thinking to Service
Design and its accessibility and to Information Design. A fuller Curriculum Vitae is
available at


Staging the Interaction Explorative Interventions for

Engaging Citizens in the Development of Public
Knowledge Institutions
Eva Eriksson, Department of Applied IT, Chalmers University of Technology
Josef Widestrm, Department of Applied IT, Chalmers University of Technology

In this paper, six different classes of methods of exploratory interventions for engaging
citizens in the development process of public knowledge institutions will be presented.
The classification is based on twelve implemented and tested exploratory installations,
and can be used as inspiration for stakeholders in order to work systematically with the
stakeholder-citizens interaction. The discussion is centered on intertwining the physical
and the digital, and exemplified through the development process of a new culture house.
The contribution of this paper is the classification of methods that a) address the
unification of physical and digital spaces and b) stage the interaction between different
actors relevant for the development of the design process, through interactive tools that
can be a complement to using the traditional virtual 3D-models, physical architectural
models, or public hearings.

Public engagement; Architecture; Interaction Design; Exploratory Installations;

In recent years, there has been a growing understanding among both public and private
stakeholders of the importance to interact with and engage citizens in the development of
public buildings and spaces. Ideally, all public building projects should be initiated by
defining the future users, define how to communicate around the project, and to engage
the citizens. Though, most often the project is almost completed before the users gets
involved. In the development of public knowledge institutions, here defined as places
accessible to the community whose functions are to serve as repositories for and
disseminators of knowledge, such as libraries, museums, theatres, science centers and
culture houses, the purpose of engaging the citizens is firstly to make the public aware of
the project in order to create interest. Secondly, it is also about introducing a participatory
design process, where the citizens become co-creators, inform the architectural program
and city planning processes, and finally provide stakeholders with decision making
Already some decades ago, Alexander stressed the importance of involving the citizens
and future users of the building in the development process, and developed a common
language (Alexander, 2005). Though, not many have taken up the mantle, and there is a
lack of best practice models (Dalsgaard & Eriksson, 2013). User centered design and
participatory design have been used in interaction design for decades. Though, voices
within the interaction design community are starting to rise to transfer this knowledge to
design projects of larger scale (Shapiro, 2005), extending the tradition of applying this
approach toprojects of smaller scale (Oostven & Besselar, 2004; Simonsen & Hertzum,


2008). Large-scale projects are typically characterized by one or several of the following
factors: long time spans, large or diverse groups of users, and result in products that are
complex or extensive in scope. User involvement has had great influence in interaction
design, but has in recent years become an important factor also in architecture and urban
development (e.g. Sanders, 2010). An example of this is the development of the new main
public library in Aarhus in Denmark (Aarhus municipality, 2013), where the winner of the
architectural competition was appointed due to how they would involve the users in their
development process. This is in opposition to the tradition where projects of this nature
and scale more often are developed top-down, such as in for instance the Bibliotheque
National in Paris, France (McCrady, 1998).
The case in question in this paper has been initiated by the municipality of Lundby in cooperation with researchers in architecture and interaction design at Chalmers University of
Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The aim of the project is to develop methods and
tools for stakeholders to create engagement from the citizens around the planning and
development of a new cultural house.
The prototypes are intended to stage the interaction between the citizens and the
stakeholders in the development process. The concept of staging is used here as a
unifying synonym to bringing out, presenting, showing, and performing. Staging also
refers directly to putting something on the stage, using the theatre stage as conceptual
metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Ricouer, 1978). This conceptual metaphor includes
and induces other usable metaphors, such as roles, actors, audiences, storytelling, play,
and set. All of these are viable concepts in the use of interaction design as a method in
participatory design processes.
This paper aims for public institutions, private interests, researchers and practitioners, to
explore methods for how to work with citizen engagement in large-scale development
projects using interactive tools. In this paper we offer an analysis of twelve different
implemented prototypes for a case centered on the development of a new cultural house.
The prototypes serve as examples and shape the foundation for a classification system
that can be used by stakeholders, researchers and designers in the development of public
knowledge institutions. The purpose of this approach is to contribute to existing methods
for engaging the citizens, and to provide the stakeholders with a classification of methods
that can be used in order to work systematically with the stakeholder- citizens interaction.
The contribution of this paper is twofold. Firstly, we offer a case description of the
development of a new cultural house with twelve alternative ways to create citizen
engagement through intertwining the physical and the digital space. The second
contribution is a classification system, where six types of methods for how to
systematically engage citizens in large scale development projects are identified and
described. Though, this is based primarily on experiences from this project, it is our hope
that this can inform and inspire other stakeholders involved in similar projects.

Working Definition of Involvement

Alexander states that Even in the biggest building, people must be the core (Alexander,
2005), meaning that involving the citizens and stakeholders is essential. Citizen
involvement is a mutual relationship in which the visitor in a public knowledge institution
encounters a framing of his or her experience and inquiry and gives something to the
space through her actions. This contribution may be understood in a very literal sense,
e.g. comment on a prospect, or it may have to do with enriching the place through
engaged interaction, e.g. through participating in an event. Most common methods used
today are virtual models, web services, social media, physical architectural models, or


public hearings. Stakeholder involvement is when the different stakeholders have

methods and inspiration enough in order to be curious and do new types of explorations
and interventions to engage citizens, employees and contributors, both before and after
the program. This will eventually provide material to support the decision making process.
The drawback of involvement can for instance be the cost, or the lack of knowledge of
methods and tools. There is a risk with user involvement that the process leads to a result
that is merely acceptable for everyone and fulfilling expressed demands, rather than being
visionary and fulfilling true needs (Dalsgaard & Eriksson, 2013). In despite of this, user
involvement is an ongoing qualification of vision, idea, and product, and provides the
stakeholders with empowerment and influence. An overarching argument for using
involvement is to develop something that fits stakeholders needs, but it also provides
political leverage (Dalsgaard & Eriksson, 2013).

Culture House Aims and Background

In 2010, a proposal for a new cultural house in Lundby was approved by the Gothenburg
city council, making the project realizable in about 5-10 years. The concept builds on the
idea that cultural activities and expressions are important for the life quality of the citizens,
and that a culture house is a service that the district Lundby should provide.
The intended content of the culture house is a library, exhibition areas, a multi-purpose
hall for lectures, cinema, concert and theatre, rehearsal rooms, meeting rooms,
workshops, a caf, and possibly other facilities. The activities are meant to be run by three
different actors; the district of Lundby, other cultural institutions of Gothenburg, and
commercial actors. The vision is that the content and design of the cultural house is
developed in close collaboration with the citizens of Lundby, making it flexible and
updated for the different and ever-changing activities of the local communities.
In the proposal for the culture house, user involvement is emphasized, both regarding the
ongoing planning process and for the future management. The overall goal is that the
culture house will be a well-known meeting point and cultural center, both for local citizens
and for visitors to Gothenburg. The proposal also points out that the culture house will be
built using the latest technology, for sustainability reasons but also for the flexibility and
interactivity of the physical space.
So far, a physical prototype space for the culture house, called Culture Warehouse, has
been established. The building is a huge and empty warehouse situated in a void urban
space. Since 2011 different artists have used the space for performances and exhibitions.
The purpose of this temporary physical space is to give room to cultural activities that
contribute to the citizens creativity in projects that have low or no budget.
One of the initial steps in developing the culture house is to define a Virtual Culture
House. This has three aligning purposes; to realize a set of virtual spaces where cultural
activities and expressions can take place and later complement the physical culture
house, to inform and support the ongoing design process of the culture house, and also to
promote it to the citizens. The prototypes and methods presented in this paper should be
seen through the aspects of these purposes.

Classification of Interactive Exploratory Interventions

In the ongoing planning stages of the culture house, the Lundby council has expressed
their interest in encouraging as much citizen involvement as possible in its planning and
realization. However, as for now neither traditional public hearings nor social media
interaction have led to good quality input from the citizens. In the recent co-operation
between the municipality of Lundby and researchers at Chalmers University of
Technology, the mission has been to develop exploratory interventions as method for
stakeholders to stimulate engagement from the citizens around the planning and


development of this new cultural house. The outcome, so far, has been twelve different
prototypes, all tested in the municipality. Based on analysis from these experiments, a
model describing six categories of methods of exploratory interventions mixing the digital
and the physical in order to stimulate involvement in the development of public knowledge
institutions will be presented, see Table 1.
The twelve exploratory interventions are used as exemplars of the six different categories,
which differ in purpose, concept and method. A common concept for all six classes of
methods presented is that they a) address the unification (co-existence) of physical and
digital spaces and b) stage the interaction between different actors relevant for the
development of the design process (citizens, stakeholders, planners, decision makers,
and designers).
The six classes of methods are labeled A-F and are presented below in close connection
to examples. The examples are small projects developed by groups of Master students in
interaction design at The University in close co-operation with actors in The District.
The classification is summarized in this table:

Create new experiences
Content and community
Inform design process

Culture house visitors
Local citizens

Inform citizens about

Creators / citizens
Staging cultural content
Visitors / visitors
Sharing experiences and
community building
Table 1. Model of categories for exploratory interventions

Culture house visitors


Visitors / culture house
Citizens / culture
Citizens / culture
house program
Visitors / content

Local citizens

Local citizens
Culture house visitors


Purpose: To evoke the experience of presence in, and interacting with, the physical public
space before it is realized. The intention is to create interest and expectations from the
Concept: To create an interface between visitors and the physical culture house, in order
to make visitors presence in public space matter.
Method: To display an interactive art installation, related to the context of the intended
public space that can give the users an experience of interactivity and presence.

Fig. A1: The E-Motion Wall

Fig. A2: The ChimeCloud


The E-Motion Wall is a large screen (2x3 m) installation where multiple users in front of
the screen leave traces in the form of shadows in different colors (Fig. A1). These
shadows stay on the screen even after a user has left the space in front of the screen.
The shadows interact with each other, erasing, mixing and enhancing the shadows.
Different sounds also appear in this playful interaction.
Chimecloud is an evocative, responsive auditory and visual installation aiming to make
users actively take part in the creation of soundscapes using their body and movements in
interaction with the space surrounding them (Fig. A2). It takes its idea from nature, where
the wind is the main element creating natural soundscapes. Chimecloud is using this as a
metaphor, making peoples presence and movement matter and bringing the space to live.
The 2x3 m installation hangs from the ceiling and consists of a Kinect camera, and 36
servos connected to 216 aluminum tubes that play notes according to peoples
Purpose: To strengthen and develop local cultural networks and communities.
Concept: To create an interface between citizens and local culture activities.
Method: To introduce virtual spaces that is filled with cultural content, as activities and/or
results of cultural activities.

Fig. B1: Virtual Rooms

Fig. B2: Culture House App

Virtual Rooms is a mobile application for integrating virtual and physical space in a cultural
context (Figure B1). Artistic content in digital form, such as visual art, music and texts, are
connected to certain physical spaces in District. The concept is to make these physical
spaces important in relation to the cultural content of The Culture House and to enrich
public spaces with cultural content through virtual spaces. The implemented project focus
on visual art, showing the potential to overcome some of the limitations of the physical art
gallery as well as the web based art gallery. This project is a direct contribution to the
stakeholders need of a Virtual Culture House that in the future also could complement or
even replace some of the parts of the planned physical culture house.
The Culture House App addresses the problem highlighted by the stakeholders at Lundby,
that culture houses in general lack in reaching out to the public and in communicating with
members of the public (Figure B2). In order to solve this, a concept of a service with
connected avatars was created. The service holds data about culture houses as well as
conversations about the culture houses and their offerings. The avatars work as an
interface between citizens and local culture activities that allow the members of the public
to take part of the information as well as participate in conversations. A prototype of the
service and one avatar, in the form of an iPhone application, was created to demonstrate
the concept. The resulting prototype was received as an important contribution to the


Virtual Culture House as a means to strengthen and develop local cultural networks and
Purpose: To inform the design process
Concept: To create an interface between citizens and the programme of the cultural
Method: Through data gathering

Fig. C1: MCN web

Fig. C2: MCN installation

My Culture Now (MCN) is a project with three tracks, that each addresses different
aspects of engaging the citizens in the public space development process. MCN includes:
A website where the collected data informs the design process and the program
development of the culture house (Fig. C1), an interactive installation to create cultural
expression of the citizens (Fig. C2), and a gallery showing these cultural expressions and
promoting the culture house. The need for user involvement has been a key point for the
My Culture Now project team as The District sought out an Interaction Design perspective
to implement the idea of a virtual culture house that would precede and contribute to the
physical one.
Purpose: To inform citizens of the content
Concept: To create an interface between visitors and content
Method: Interactive media installations

Fig. D1: The Gate

Fig. D2: Live Tree


The Gate is a concept connected to the library activities of the culture house (Fig. D1).
The concept is to make books alive by transforming the content into interactive media
installations that can be explored by the visitors to the culture house. The idea is to inform
the citizens, evoke interest in book reading and enhance the library.
Live Tree is an interface between the visitors and the content of the culture house (Fig.
D2). The project aims to introduce a novel experience in public space to represent the
content and activities of the culture house and to encourage human-human social
interaction. The work suggests a design approach to embed information into architectural
elements as a design material that can facilitate rich information processing, thus
increased efficiency and overall public space experiences.


Purpose: Stage artistic work and content related to culture
Concept: To create an interface between creators of content and citizens
Method: To stage the space framing of the content for exploration and experience

Fig. E1: The Invisible Showroom

Fig. E2: Digital Window

Culture will find you use the bus stop as interface for connecting creators of content with
new audiences. The project is a service for bridging the gap between the digital and
physical world in the context of cultural expressions. The service allows artists to share
their creations not only in the crowded digital space, but also in the public bus stop. The
project suggests an interface between creators of the content and citizens, aiming to help
promote the cultural house and local artistic expressions and activities reach a broader
audience, people that otherwise would not visit the culture house.
The Invisible Showroom is a prototype of projection mapping as a tool for exhibiting art
(Fig. E1). Projection mapping involves hand-held projectors that can show digital content
mapped onto a physical environment, used in exhibitions and public performances. The
idea of is to stage artistic work and content related to culture in a flexible and exciting way.
The prototype shows how visual art can be displayed in physical public space, such as the
culture house, without using a traditional gallery space.
Digital Window aims to create a connection between the virtual and physical space (Fig.
E2). By tracking a user looking at a screen, showing a 3D environment, the projection of
the 3D environment adapts to the position of the user enabling a spatial 3D effect as if the
user was looking through a window. The content of the 3D environment is provided by
visual artists that upload their work to a server, which is connected to the Digital Window.
This window is meant to be a part of the actual faade of the culture house, so that people
outside the building can get an experience of looking into the digital space of the culture


house. This installation can be realized already in the early phases, in order to create
interest among the citizens and to support cultural activities that can become part of the
culture house in the future.
Purpose: To share experiences and support community building
Concept: To create an interface between visitors
Method: To stage interventions, installations and spaces that trigger social interaction
through exploration

Fig. F1: Tile Voting

Fig. F2: Backa Orchestra

Tile voting is an installation that encourages social human-human interaction in physical

space, using an interactive game that let people together change the ambience of the
physical space (Fig. F1). The prototype uses multi-colored floor tiles as buttons for the
interaction and the outcome of the game is that the leading color affects the atmosphere
and the theme of the room, in the form of music and lights associated with this color. One
aspect of this project is that it in some aspect takes the lead from the architectural design
process, as it becomes the founding concept of the design of the culture house interior,
rather than merely existing as a decorative element in a given physical space.
Backa digital orchestra is designed to enable co-creation in public space, connecting two
important cultural spaces; the jamming culture of musical get-togethers and Swedish
coffee drinking culture (Fig. F2). These two cultures come together around an interactive
music table, using tangible interaction and augmented technology. This project serves two
of the main tasks addressed by the Lundby municipality; to support social interaction
through shared experiences and to support community building through everyday
The examples of exploratory interventions described here are implemented prototypes
that have all been tested by citizens and stakeholders in the municipality for at least three
days, at minimum one occasion.

The Stakeholders View on the Exploratory Interventions

In the initial results from using exploratory interventions in The Culture House project, one
main point from the stakeholders point of view is that the methods have been an eyeopener to them, and a support to force them to think out of the box. The use and
involvement that has been staged through the exploratory installations has acted as an
inspiration to the program. The whole thought around how humans can affect both the
building and the content has been new to them. The stakeholders basic understanding for
materials in general and IT specifically has truly extended their design space. The


playfulness that has come to life through the installations has been highly appreciated.
The stakeholders believe that these types of methods will inspire and involve the citizens
in a completely different way than the questionnaire and one way media communication
they have used so far. The exploratory installations developed in this project have
provided the stakeholders with new means, arguments and ideas to share with other
decision makers.

Methods for User Involvement

Although user involvement in urban planning has existed for decades (e.g. Al-Kodmany,
1999), it is not common practice (Bratteteig & Wagner, 2012). Modern urban planning
involves a wide variety of interests and individuals, consequently new methods and tools
are needed to assure the active involvement of all parties in the planning process. The
classification model presented in this paper is a try to categorize different types of
interaction design installations that can be used to raise involvement of citizens in the
development of a public knowledge institution.
The traditional way to raise awareness of new urban development projects and of
incorporating citizens and future visitors and employees into the development process, is
mostly public hearings, advertisement in local media, web, physical architectural models,
renderings, 3D models, and similar. These are all mostly one way communication tools,
informing rather than being actual working tools. In extension to this, there are different
tools for fostering involvement that visualize possible futures through tangible interaction,
e.g. Urp (Underkoffler & ishii, 1999) and Colourtable (Bratteteig & Wagner, 2012). The use
of visualization tools in planning processes can enable strong community participation and
contribute to greater equity among participants (Al-Kodmany, 1999).
Technology enhanced exploratory games as a tool for participation is a growing area in
urban development. Games provides a set of formalized rules, which makes everybody
participating on equal ground, no matter preferences, qualifications and ambitions
(Lssing et al, 2007). Participants often have different interests but instead of utilizing this
for competition the aims are to take advantage of the various skills represented and jointly
explore various design possibilities within a game setting (Brandt, 2006). In the game, the
future possibilities can be explored without the fear of spending money, or putting prestige
on play, as it is a non-existing space.
The process model AELIA is a strategic tool for user involvement in urban development. It
is concerned with getting the Attention of citizens, keeping them interested through novel
Experiences, building capacity by introducing an element of Learning, giving the citizens
Influence, and supporting Action by relevant actors in short AELIA (Delman & Nielsen,
2009). It is of relevance for large-scale development projects with a long time span, aimed
at very diverse groups of users.
The classification model presented in this paper can be used in combination with these
and other methods, and is meant as an aid to make it clearer what should be explored,
how, and who is the target. The strength with the methods described in the classification
model are that they explore the building as well as the use, users, services and content of
the future culture house, as these are dependent on each other and should therefore be
intertwined in the development process.
The categorization table can support a design process in opening up the possible design
space to create interventions of different kinds aiming to engage, inspire and inform
stakeholders and citizens in the process. Active use of the prototypes represents different
ways of contributing to the specific places, rather than merely accessing information.
These contributions occur both on the level of adding some sort of information, be it


leaving a shadow on the wall, adding an event in an app or the creating of piece of art, as
well as on the level of engaging oneself in social interactions tied to the place, , or by
piquing the curiosity of fellow visitors by moving about the cultural house while interacting
with the walls or ceiling.

Planning for and building a public knowledge institution is not only a large-scale
development project, it is also a project in need of citizen and stakeholder involvement as
design inspiration for developing the city, the identity of the organization and institution,
new services, roles, and use, meanwhile developing and building the new house and city
area. There are many issues facing public knowledge institutions when interactive
technologies challenge their fundamental roles and practices, and have forced a shift of
focus from their collections towards visitors and experiences. The case presented here
offers examples of how these challenges can be explored and addressed in the
development process through explorative interaction involvement initiatives. What is
promoted here is not that all future public knowledge institutions should have a Backa
orchestra installation or a virtual cultural house, but rather to see the possibilities there are
in creating exploratory interventions in order to engage citizens in the development
process, and to inform the stakeholders and the design process.

Staging With the Use of Exploratory Interventions

Architecture as a domain is no longer static and unresponsive: it is being transformed by
new materials and new technology and is becoming dynamic and conversant. This
development changes our understanding of space and even our relations. Buchanan
stresses that interaction design, not only refers to interaction with a digital material, but
also to the design of other interactions (Buchanan, 2001). An interesting aim is then to
investigate how an interaction design understanding of space in relation to human beings
may be used to stage interactive spaces as well as passive ones. The combination
between interaction design and architecture may help to open up the traditional
understanding of space when it becomes a dynamic set of potential functionalities open to
augmentation. Some may say that interaction design has nothing to do with large-scale
projects such as planning and building a new house and that it is enough to consider
interaction design in relation to the building when it is completed. Though, in this paper, it
is argued for involving interaction designers from the very start in large-scaled public
development projects, to foster conversation and participation.
Media and technology changes rapidly, why we have to design structures with a high
degree of flexibility in order to engage and support the users of the public knowledge
institution in the long run, as well as in the development process. The main question is
how to create environments that will provide users with an experience that makes it
worthwhile for them to visit the public knowledge institution. It is argued in this paper to
involve the users in the development process, through exploratory interventions that
inform and promote the future institution through interactive experiences in both the digital
and physical space. Combining interaction design and physical space may yield new ways
of understanding functionality and the use of artefacts and services in a larger perspective.
The design of the content and services of the public knowledge institution is just as much
a part of the artefact or building as the artefact or building itself. By using different forms
of digital services and interventions, the development of public knowledge institutions can
be supported to move from single-user to multi-user experiences, from individual design to
social design, from closed to extendable and open institutions, from regulated designs to
evolving designs, and from systems and processes designed merely to act as information
providers to dialogical systems.


Opening the public knowledge institutions to noise, clutter, and aesthetics differing from
what people are used to, or to what might seem as pointless activities, can be a challenge
or even provocation to many people. Though, the effects of seeing the public knowledge
institution in a different light might seem to prove worthwhile, and opens for dialogue
between the different stakeholders.
The model for exploratory interventions presented in this paper should be seen as a
complement to other methods. It has its strength in containing methods to support the
citizens in seeking their attention, stimulate through novel experiences, introduce
elements of learning, give them influence and the possibility to act and interact, in line with
the AELIA model (Delman & Nielsen, 2009). Elements of exploratory games can be found
in the model for exploratory interventions, and can be extended further by an increased
focus on game design and role playing in the design of the interventions (Brandt, 2006;
Lssing et al, 2007).Though, the different categories of exploratory interventions are more
flexible and reach a wider audience than exploratory games, as they are more directed
towards the public space rather than invited guests or staged sessions, and are not in
need of a moderator. The interventions can be used as interactive elements in the
exploratory games and in other methods.

In this paper, a model for exploratory interventions that intertwine the digital and the
physical in order to stimulate citizen engagement in the development of public knowledge
institutions have been proposed. Twelve different implemented interventions are classified
into six different categories of methods that can be used for enhancing citizen and
stakeholder involvement in the development of public knowledge institutions. The
interventions have been used in a case where a new cultural house is about to be
developed. The model is a complement to traditional methods for stakeholders to engage
citizens, and introduces interaction design into the planning process, the dialogue and the
actual building. By introducing a practice-based classification of methods we have given
structure to the use of interaction design and exploratory interventions in the development
of public knowledge institutions.


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Eva Eriksson
PhD in Interaction design, now working as a lecturer at Chalmers University of
Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. She has ten years of experience from developing
methods and designing multi-scaled interaction design in public contexts, such as
developing public knowledge institutions. She teaches interaction design methodology
and is one of the founders of Gothenburg Working Group for Interaction Design and
Children, IDAC,
Josef Widestrm
Josef Widestrm is working as a lecturer at Chalmers University of Technology, teaching
in interaction design and visualization. He is also working on a PhD thesis in Digital
Representation, focusing on the relations between physical and digital spaces from a
design perspective. He has been involved in research projects at Chalmers and University
of Gothenburg since 1999, contributing with an expertise in visualization and digital
representation. He was the manager of Chalmers VR CUBE for five years, being involved
in more than 20 different research projects. Josef Widestrm is an architect by education,
with a M.Arch from Chalmers in 1998.



Visualisation as a means to explore, discuss and
understand design theory

Anne Louise Bang, Design School Kolding, Denmark

Anne Katrine Gtzsche Gelting, Design School Kolding, Denmark
Silje Alberthe Kamille Friis, Design School Kolding, Denmark

This paper set out to investigate how design students learn from visualising theory in
design education. The exploration rests on the assumption that the application of tools
and techniques from design practice supports design students with an entrance to the
theoretical part of the field.
The paper is based on teaching experiences from an MA course in design methodology
where we use visualisation as a tool to discuss, explore and understand design theory. To
throw light on the question, student evaluations and feedback has been included together
with a classification of the material from one visualisation exercise. In addition, theories for
how to understand designerly ways of knowing and constructing knowledge have been
applied as tools to think with in the discussion.
The educational approach where design students read, analyse, and visualise theory,
appears to be beneficial to the students learning process for a number of reasons, which
will be discussed in the paper. The main findings indicate that visualising theory is
beneficial because it applies a type of practice that the students are familiar with, and
supports the construction of new knowledge, by allowing the students to express
information and concepts in ways that are personally meaningful to them.

Visualisation, designerly knowing, design education, design methodology

The use of visualisation as a design tool has been discussed in various ways within the
field of design research and in textbooks. During many years design researchers have
studied, discussed and acknowledged sketching and drawing as a tool for reflection as
well as designing in various ways (see for example Schn, 1983; Cross, 1995; Lawson &
Dorst, 2009; Goldschmidt 1991, 2013). Visualisation has also been the subject or included
in textbooks across different design domains, see for example Buxton (2007) on user
experience, Olofsson and Sjlen (2005) on product design or Gaimster (2011) on Fashion
design) Also method card collections usually include methods where visualisation plays a
central role (IDEO, 2002; DSKD, 2011). Additionally visualisation has been discussed as
an assisting tool in communicating design and design processes (see for example Roam
(2009) on visual thinking in business innovation, Sibbett (2010) on visualisation as
meeting facilitation and Rohde (2013) on visual note taking). Thus, there is a large and
diverse body of knowledge and a vast amount of literature, which is concerned with
visualisation as a communicative or reflective tool in the design process.


In this paper we are specifically concerned with visualisation as a reflective tool but we
take a slightly different perspective than most of the cited literature since our aim is to
discuss visualisation as a teaching approach in theoretical courses in the design
education. We use this study to claim that there is an educational potential in using a
designerly approach when teaching theory in design schools. Therefore, instead of
exploring visualisation as a design tool, we discuss ways in which visualisation can be
integrated as a tool for exploring and learning theory in design education.
In recent years at Design School Kolding in Denmark we have applied visualisation
exercises in various cross-disciplinary courses at all levels as a tool to discuss, explore
and understand design theory. Back in 2009 one of the authors introduced students to the
use of visualisation as a tool for dialogue when reading and making sense of theory
(Gelting, 2009). We decided to further explore the integration of visualisation using
examples from an MA course on Design Methodology. The exploration rests on the
assumption that the application of tools and techniques from design practice supports
design students with an entrance to the theoretical part of the field and holds the promise
of improving the students learning outcome. Feedback and evaluation by the students
indicate that they do indeed experience that the visualisation approach helps them
engage with theory at a new level, and in this way supports the learning process.
We use the paper to reflect on the teaching approaches and learning outcome of the
course. During the three times that we have run the program, we have received positive
feedback and evaluation from the students, indicating that applying visualisation as a tool
for exploring and making sense of theory provide them with the ability to grasp and
discuss theoretical concepts see different perspectives and being able to address them
together. We use a combination of structured reading assignments, group work and
visualisation exercises. What we would like to focus on in this article is the visualisation
exercises, how and why that helps the students process the readings. The overall
question, which is explored in this paper, is therefore: How do design students learn from
visualising theory in design education? The overall purpose is to gain a better
understanding of why it works well to use visualisations as a pedagogical tool and how
does it work?
Before we lay out the theoretical foundation we introduce the case, which we build upon,
namely the course in design methodology, and the empirical data produced by collecting
and clustering the visualisations from the first exercise in the 2013 course.

Teaching Design Methodology

The Design Methodology course at Design School Kolding in Denmark encourages the
students to work in-depth with design theory in an active and participatory way. The
students are expected to acquire an overview of design methodology and in-depth
knowledge of selected literature. Furthermore they are expected to reflect on
methodological aspects in relation to their personal design practice. It is a mandatory
course offered to all MA students in their final year. This means that we teach an
interdisciplinary group of 60-80 students coming from Fashion, Textiles, Industrial Design,
Graphic Design, Illustration and Interaction Design.
From a didactic perspective the large size of the group is a challenge. How can we secure
the individual learning and at the same time encourage the students to contribute to
common knowledge generation and learning? Another main challenge is that the students
are highly dedicated to design practice and how to act as designers. It can be difficult for
some students to understand that their design practice can benefit from theoretical
insights. On top of that many students suffer from dyslexia. Finally, if there is any
international students present the course is taught in English, which is not the native
language in Denmark.


We are a group of three teachers/researchers, who develop and run the course together.
The course was offered for the first time in September 2011. In September 2012 and 2013
we had the opportunity to refine the course, building on experiences from the previous
year(s). The course is a 2-week course. Teaching is 4 days a week from 9.00 to 2.15.
The students pass this course by attending a minimum 75% of the time. Therefore the
learning impact cannot be measured in terms of exam grades or by analysing written
assignments but is related to an expected learning outcome for the students. The
expected learning outcome is to be able to discuss design process and method from a
historical perspective and to possess knowledge on how the field of design relates to
methodological research and approaches of other disciplines. It is also important that the
students gain an overview of the most important design theorists design methodological
stance and to be able to use this knowledge to understand contemporary prevailing
approaches. Last but not least the students must be able to reflect on design methodology
in relation to design practice.
The pedagogical key elements in the course are: group work, a process of structured
reading assignments and visualisation as a tool to think with. As a preparation for the
group work we provide the students with a short introduction to the selected literature and
an assignment, which guides them in the subsequent reading process. Each assignment
encourages the students to reflect on structure as well as content in selected text(s). The
expected outcome is a written summary and a visualisation. The visualisation is expected
to communicate the main points in the text(s) using drawing and short statements. Over
the years we have learned that the visualisation appear to serve the purpose of further
understanding and remembering the theory if it is hand-drawn and in poster size.
The 2013 course consisted of three assignments. Each assignment had a specific goal: 1)
to understand a single text in-depth, 2) to conduct a comparative analysis of two texts,
and 3) to understand design methodology in a historical context. The group size was two
to four students to increase the likelihood of everyone in the group participating actively.
The students read in groups, they explored, discussed and solved the assignment
together. One full day was allocated for each assignment. Subsequently we arranged
discussions and presentations in smaller groups. This was an alternative to plenum
discussions, which we reduced to a minimum in order to let each student be as active as

Empirical Data and Examples

In this section we use material from the first assignment to exemplify and cluster ways in
which the students visualised single texts. In the first assignment the students worked in
pairs. They were asked to read one text and subsequently demonstrate the insight in the
form of a written summary and a hand drawn visualisation in poster size.
First we present a classification of the different types of visualisation, which we have
received. We have registered 26 visualisations, which we have divided into three main
groups. Each group reflect a certain type of visualisation: 1) Mainly text based, 2) Mainly
narratives and/or symbols based, and 3) A combination of statements and
narratives/symbols. Secondly we exemplify ways in which the visualisations were used as
a means for knowledge sharing between the groups.


Mainly text-based visualisations

Figure 1: These posters exemplify the mainly text based visualisations (photos: S. A. K.
The smallest group of visualisations is mainly text based (5 out of 26). As Figure 1 shows
the text often appears in an organised and structured way, which resembles bullet points
organised in diagrams. The diagrammatic character indicates an order or a system of
reading and understanding the visualisation. This type of word-based visualisation
presents the main points of the text. The reader gets a clear view of the relation between
the main points due to the way they are structured and organised on the poster. This type
of visualisation appears close to an objective depiction of the text, bringing forth key terms
and concepts.


Mainly narratives and/or symbols based visualisations

Figure 2: These posters exemplify visualisations mainly based on narratives and/or

symbols (photos: S. A. K. Friis).
The visualisations that are mainly based on narratives and/or symbols appear to reflect a
more subjective depiction of the text (8 out of 26). It is a translation of the text into
something personally meaningful. It fits with how designers and architects use a concept
as a means for grasping, framing an ideaif we make it like a. Using metaphors,
analogies and associations the text is transformed from something difficult and abstract
into something more relatable and known. In other words the visualisation based on
narratives and/or symbols is a concrete bid on the essence of the text (Figure 2). Some of
these visualisations are difficult to understand if one is not familiar with the text or has
witnessed the presentation of the visualisation.


Visualisations based on a combination of text and


Figure 3: These posters exemplify visualisations using a combination of narratives and/or

symbols and short statements (photo: S. A. K. Friis).


The largest group of visualisations is a combination of narratives and/or symbols and

short statements (13 out of 26). As Figure 3 shows this type of visualisations is in many
respects a mix of the two other types. It is characteristic that the text appears as short
statements, which enhances the chosen narrative or symbol(s). Some of the visualisations
have a diagrammatic character like the text-based visualisations and some of them are
closer to the visualisations mainly based on narratives and/or symbols. Common for this
type of visualisations is that words and images supplement each other.

Presentation and Knowledge Sharing

Figure 4: Examples from the knowledge sharing (photo: S. A. K. Friis).

When we first introduced the visualisation assignments in 2011 several students found it
odd. The students clearly expected a highly theoretical course with classic lectures and
one-way communication from teacher to students even though this is rarely the case at
Design School Kolding. They assumed that we included the visualisation assignment in
order to bribe them to love theory by letting them use well-known tools from design
practice. While we were not out to bribe them, we did want to provide them with a familiar
entrance to exploring and making sense of theory. Fortunately, in the course evaluation,
the term bribe did not come up and students emphasised how much they actually
learned from taking the visualisation assignment seriously. The task of visualising forced
the students to discuss and identify the content and main points of the texts. Otherwise
they wouldnt be able to decide for a way to visualise it. Said one student in 2013 I love
visualisation. It helps dive into the texts and making it enables you to see if you
understood it! (09.2013). A group of students explained it this way: Its great to meet up
in a small group when you have read the text, to talk about it, make sense of it, and circle
the most important points together. And when you have to make the visualisation together,
and tell each other about ideas for how to do it, there is another point of discovery: Do we


have a shared understanding or are there things, which we have understood differently?
Not until you make the visualisation, do you really understand it [the text] (09.2013). Two
students described what happened when they were comparing visualisations of the same
text: It was fun there were two groups that had read and visualised the same text. But
the visualisations made them see that they had understood the text quite differently. The
visualisations acted as drivers for a rich discussion, which gave room to new perspectives
The first reading assignment was followed by knowledge sharing in groups of 2-3 pairs of
students. We asked the students to use the visualisations disseminating the generated
knowledge to fellow students (Figure 4). Afterwards we had a short plenum discussion,
which included a brief feedback on the use of the visualisations. Several of the students
mentioned that the visualisations helped in their understanding of the texts presented by
fellow students. It was also mentioned that it was easier to remember the main point of the
texts when they were accompanied by a visualisation. Finally the visualisations served as
a starting point for discussing diverging understandings of the same text.

Theoretical Foundation
The next section seeks to provide a theoretical foundation for the further discussion of the
research question: How do design students learn from visualising theory in design
education? Design students are special in the sense that they are trained to use the
power of conjecture (Lawson, 2006) for instance through sketching and visualising
possible solutions (Schn, 1983; Cross, 1995). This is an important factor when trying to
understand how MA design students in their final year learn from visualising theory the
training of the students cannot be separated from the teaching methodology that we apply
and investigate. We therefore find it appropriate and worthwhile to use design theory
with a special attention to designerly ways of knowing since the visualisation approach
to exploring, discussing, and understanding design methodology is applied in the context
of design education. Thus, the present paper builds on theory from the field of design, and
particularly the designerly ways of exploring and knowing as described by Cross (2007),
Lawson (2006), Schn (1983), Goldschmidt (1991) and Kolko (2010). While the
visualisation approach to exploring and understanding theory might also be fruitful in other
disciplines, it is not part of this investigation.

Constructive Thinking in Education/Cognitive Potential

According to Cross (2007), there are large areas of human cognitive ability that have
systematically been ignored in our educational system. He argues that numeracy and
literacy have been favoured whereas the culture of constructive thinking has been
neglected: This culture relies not so much on verbal, numerical and literary modes of
thinking and communicating, but on nonverbal modes. This is particularly evident in the
designers use of models and codes that rely so heavily on graphic images i.e.
drawings, diagrams and sketches that are aids to internal thinking as well as aids to
communicating ideas and instructions to others (Cross, 2007: 28-29). Based on the work
of Piaget and Bruner he further argues that cognitive development is a continuous
process of interaction between different modes of cognition. That is, the qualitative
different types of cognition (e.g. concrete and formal types in Piagets terms, iconic and
symbolic in Bruners terms) are not simply characteristic of different stages of
development, but are different kinds of innate human cognitive abilities, all of which can
be developed from lower to higher levels (Cross, 2007: 28).

Solution Focused Strategies

Several researchers have pointed out how designers are trained to explore and
understand by conjecture. Lawson (2006) studied design behaviour through a series of
experiments and came to the conclusion that while scientists problem-solve by analysis,


designers problem-solve by synthesis. He also concluded that the design behaviour is

learned by education since 1st year BA students did not display distinct solution focused
strategies. Says Cross A central feature of design activity, then, is its reliance on
generating fairly quickly a satisfactory solution, rather than that of any prolonged analysis
of the problem (Cross, 2007: 23). Designing is a process of pattern synthesis, rather
than pattern recognition. (Cross, 2007: 24). By doing so, trying out solutions, they learn
about the nature of the problem (Lawson in Cross, 2007: 23).

Reflective Practice
Looking at design as a unique way of thinking and acting, Schn (1983) has provided
significant insights into how this takes place in practice. Schn explains how the
architect/designer uses a complex combination of different materials, medium and
language to engage in the creative process. This process creates unintended
consequences that feed back into the process and creates a new understanding of the
project and process. He shapes the situation, in accordance with his initial appreciation of
it, the situation talks-back, and he responds to the situations back-talk (Schn, 1983:
79). This process Schn names as having a conversation with the materials of the
situation. Just like Cross, Schn understands the designers approach from a
constructivist perspective knowledge is being formed in the individual human being
when new information meets existing knowledge generated from previous experience
The solution is not simply lying there among the data, like the dog among the spots in the
well known perceptual puzzle; it has to be actively constructed by the designers own
efforts (Cross, 2007: 24).

Externalization as a driver for Sense- and Synthesis-Making

Kolko (2010) explores how designers use externalisation of data and thoughts to fuel
synthesis and to make ideas external and sharable: Common to all methods of synthesis
is a sense of getting it out in order to identify and forge connections. This is an attempt to
make obvious the sensemaking conditions described above; emphasis is placed on
finding relationships and patterns between elements, and forcing an external view of
things. In all of the methods, it is less important to be accurate and more important to
give some abstract and tangible form to the ideas, thoughts and reflections. Once
externalized, the ideas become real they become something that can be discussed,
defined, embraced, or rejected by any number of people, and the ideas become part of a
larger process of synthesis. Essentially, sensemaking is an internal, personal process,
while synthesis can be a collaborative, external process. (Kolko, 2010: 18). Alas, Kolko
makes a distinction between sensemaking, which is described as internal and personal,
and synthesis, which can be collaborative and external. This point will be further explored
in the discussion in relation to the approaches, which were applied in the present course.

Seeing That and Seeing As

Based on the assumption that the practice of sketching is helpful to architects thinking,
Goldschmidt (1991) is interested in the underlying cognitive operations behind sketching.
She describes a protocol study of 8 architects working on a specific building design and
how they use sketching to pull thoughts onto the paper but also create new ideas and
thoughts in the process. Sketching being a visual conversation and meeting place
between paper, pen and ideas. In the analysis Goldschmidt defines two different ways in
which architects use sketching: seeing as (when thinking in metaphors or figural thinking,
synthesising) and seeing that (non figural, and analytical thinking). Sketching being used
to trigger alternately seeing as and seeing that thus aiding the architects development of
ideas and creative process. Kolkos findings that the externalization is a way to make
sense and create synthesis appears to be in line with Goldschmidts definitions of
seeing as and seeing that. However, while Kolko differentiates between two processes as


being either internal and personal or collaborative and external, Goldschmidt points out
the cognitive operations supported by different types of sketches.

In this section theory from the previous section is applied to analyse and discuss the main
question of how and why design students learn from visualising theory in design education.
As a part of this we address the role that the type of visualisation plays for the individual
understanding of the text and the role that the visualisations play in the presentations of
the texts to fellow students.
Lawsons findings concerning how scientists and designers prefer to work (2006) is
relevant to the present study, since design students are asked to use both approaches:
firstly, they analyse the text, using a series of guiding questions in relation to content and
structure, and render the significant points in a summary. This is a straight forward
understanding exercise, making the strange familiar in a quite objective way. Secondly,
the students are asked to visualise the text, to synthesise their findings in a hand-drawn
illustration. This is a transformation exercise, making the familiar strange in a subjective
way, allowing the students to reflect while constructing, and bring forth something of them
selves in the illustration of the text. However, depending on the type of visualisation that
the students make, the activity can be placed on scales between subjective and
objective, concrete or abstract, and diagrammatic and narrative the transformation
being more evident in the subjective, concrete, and narrative representation than
visualizations at the opposite end of the spectrums. This relates well to Goldschmidts
findings of different types of sketches supporting different types of cognitive operation,
which is further addressed later in the discussion.
In the present case, the situation can be said to be opposite to the one depicted by Cross
when suggesting that constructive thinking has been neglected in culture. Master students
in their final year are familiar with using drawings, models, and sketches in their everyday
work whereas reading and analysing theory is something, which they in general are less
comfortable with. However, Crosss point about the different cognitive abilities is still of
interest to the present study where the educational approach encourages students to
switch between these different cognitive modes. By visualising the text that they have
read and analysed, the students thus apply an approach, which Cross would refer to as a
designerly way of knowing: making their mode of problem solving solution focused,
making their mode of thinking constructive, using codes to translate abstract
requirements into concrete objects, and using these codes to both read and write in
object languages.
The students in doing a visualisation transformation or synthesis of the text goes into a
dialogue with the text in a tangible way. Thus, they create a situation where the
visualization talks back to them and force them into a conversation with the text (Schn,
1983). The material nature of the handmade visualisation invites the students to physically
explore the text. Rather than designing beautiful visualisations meant for broader
knowledge dissemination the students use visualization as a tool to think with. Thus, these
may not reflect the actual drawing skills design students on MA level are supposed to
Comparing Goldschmidts findings to the classification presented in section 3, they seem
to be in accordance: Some students use seeing as visualisations where they create a
poster, which is narrative and metaphorical (Figure 2) and some students use seeing that
sketching were they use a diagrammatic and analytical way of visualising the text (Figure
1). Some students use the visualisations to move between the different ways of reflecting
upon the text and getting an understanding of it (Figure 3). Pulling thoughts from a tacit
state to an explicit state. In coming courses it may be interesting to increase the attention
to the type of visualisations the students come up with or be more precise when giving the


students the visualisation assignments, altering between different types of visualisation

for different purposes or maybe even asking the students to make a series of
visualisations, for instance starting out with the sensemaking visualisation, seeing that,
and continuing with the synthesis visualisation, seeing as.
Kolko also explores the significance of external representations, however, suggests that
sensemaking is internal and personal, whereas synthesis can be a collaborative and
external process. When looking at the present course material, it is not readily clear
whether sensemaking is only an individual process or whether it can happen between
design students working together on a visualisation. As a matter of fact, a consistent
feedback from the students is that working in groups together is supportive in both the
exploration and understanding of a theory. However, answering the question goes beyond
the scope of the present study.
To summarise the findings of the present study, the educational approach where design
students read, analyse, and visualise theory, appears to be beneficial to the students
learning process for a number of reasons.
a. Applying visualisation tools and techniques support design students with an
entrance to the theoretical part of the field, because it constitutes a familiar way of
exploring and making sense of a situation
b. When moving from reading and analysing to interpreting and visualising, the
students make connection across different cognitive ways of operating, such as for
instance the verbal and non-verbal modes of thinking. This continuous process of
interaction between different modes of cognition supports the construction of
connections and the ability to remember what was constructed
c. Working with visualising a text takes the students away from prolonged analysis,
which is unfamiliar territory to many design students, inviting them to investigate
and understand the text by trying out solutions (constructive thinking)
d. Visualisation, particularly in the case of visualisations that are mainly narratives
and/or symbols based, has to do with synthesising and translating the text into
something personally meaningful. In the visualisation process, new information
(the theory) meets the students existing knowledge and experiences, and new
knowledge is constructed
e. Visualisation, particularly in the case of visualisations that are mainly text based
and diagrammatic, enables visual analysis and sensemaking of a theory, enabling
abstract and objective representation
f. Getting it out as suggested by Kolko, enables the students to make their ideas,
reflections, and thoughts real and they can use the externalised version to further
discuss and make sense of the concepts and ideas. It moves the exploration and
sensemaking from a largely individual process to a shared process
g. Presenting and seeing other student groups visualisations enables students to
identify and forge connections and produce new understanding together

The present paper set out to investigate how design students learn from visualising theory
in design education. To throw light on the question, student evaluations and feedback has
been included together with a classification of the first visualisation exercise in the 2013
course program. In addition, theories for how to understand designerly ways of knowing
and constructing knowledge have been applied as tools to think with in the analysis and
The research is still in its early phases and the findings are tentative. However, we argue
that our experiments with integrating visualisation as a tool for exploring and making
sense of theory can be of value to design education as a whole. In a time where many
design schools move from arts and crafts based approaches only to also include more


academic ways of learning, and where the production of theory is increasing, it seems
appropriate to think of ways in which we might tailor theory based programs to design
The main findings is that yes visualising theory is beneficial to MA design students,
because it applies a type of practice that they are familiar with, and supports the
construction of new knowledge, by allowing the students to express information and
concepts in ways that are personally meaningful. Getting it out, putting it on paper,
enables students within the groups to make sense of and synthesise new meanings
together. When sharing with other groups and seeing their visualisations, the student
groups as a whole, support each other in creating an overview.
A downside might be that some groups have misunderstood a text or they might only
show a fraction of a theory in the visualisation, leading to the fact that other students, who
have not read the text themselves, are cheated on important information or directly
misled. When running a course for this many students, and presentations are run in
smaller groups, the teachers cannot be present everywhere at the same time. However,
the fact that several groups read the same texts and get a chance to present to each other
and discuss perspectives might in part make up for this.

Further Work
Would visualisation work as an educational lever within other educations as well? It is a
good question whether the visualisation approach to text reading can be transferred to
other disciplines and fields and it might be a subject for further research. As mentioned
above Lawson argues that design students are trained to use their powers of conjecture to
find solutions and for example a biology student might not be able to benefit from the
visualisation exercise in the same manner as the design student in his/her final year. But
all the same, thinking about Crosss argument, that numeracy, literacy, and nonverbal
models and codes are all innate human cognitive abilities all of which can be developed
from lower to higher levels, one would think that the visualisation approach to text reading
can be transferred to other disciplines and fields. With the proper introduction, the above
mentioned biology student might be able to benefit from the visualisation exercise by
getting some training in visualisation and applying it to theory understanding.
However, we are teachers and researchers at a design school and it would be appropriate
to consider further research worth to discuss within the community of design research and
from which the design students could benefit. In this paper we have started to identify
different categories of and approaches to visualising. Studying in-depth the roles the
different types of visualizations play in teaching design theory might be a fruitful and highly
interesting subject for further research.

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design. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, Elsevier.
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Cross, N. (1995). Discovering Design Ability. In: Buchanan, R. & Margolin, V. (eds.).
Discovering Design. Explorations in Design Studies, pp. 105-120. Chicago: The University
of Chicago Press.
Gelting, A. (2009). Kursusbeskrivelse Designmetode, (Course description Design
methods, in Danish), Fakultetet for Undervisning og Forskning (Cross Disciplinary Faculty),
Design School Kolding.


Gaimster, J. (2011). Visual Research Methods in Fashion. London: Bloomsbury

Goldschmidt, G. & Rodgers, P. (2013). The design thinking approaches of three different
groups of designers. Design Studies, Volume 34 (4), pp. 454- 471.
Goldschmidt, G. (1991). The Dialectics of Sketching. Creativity research Journal, Volume
4 (2), pp. 123 -143.
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15- 28.
Lawson, B. (2006, 4th edition). (1st edition 1980). How Designers Think. The design
process demystified. Oxford: Architectural Press, Elsevier.
Lawson, B & Dorst, K. (2009) Design Expertise. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis
Olofsson, E. & Sjlen, K. (2005). Design Sketching. Sundsvall: KEEOS Design Books AB
Roam, D. (2011). The Back of the Napkin : Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with
Pictures. New York: Marshall Cavendish.
Rohde, M. (2013). The Sketchnote Handbook The illustrated guide to visual thinking.
USA: Peachpit Press
Schn, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. How Professionals Think in Action. New
York: Basic Books.
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Anne Louise Bang

Assistant Professor at Design School Kolding in Denmark. Originally educated as a textile
designer in 1994 ALB earned her PhD degree in 2011 with the thesis Emotional Value of
Applied Textiles Dialogue-oriented and participatory approaches to textile design. Main
areas of research are within the fields of textile design and design methods. ALB takes a
special interest in approaching design research from the perspectives of research through
design and co-design.

Silje Alberthe Kamille Friis

Associate Professor at Design School Kolding in Denmark. SKF graduated as an
industrial designer from the Aarhus School of Architecture in 1994 and in 2007 she earned
an Industrial PhD from the Danish School of Education (Aarhus University) with the
dissertation Conscious Design Practice as a Strategic Tool. Her present research focuses
on finding new ways of facilitating the development of creative competencies in design

Anne Katrine Gtzsche Gelting

Associate Professor at Design School Kolding in Denmark. After graduating and working
as an industrial designer AKGG earned her PhD degree in 2005 with the thesis
Electronical Furniture and Digital Amulets. As a cross-disciplinary teacher of design theory
and design methods her main research interests are design process and method and
what constitutes the core competencies of designers.


Bombs Away: visual thinking and students

engagement in design studios contexts
Marianella Chamorro-Koc, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Andrew Scott, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Gretchen Coombs, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

In design studio, sketching or visual thinking is part of processes that assist students to
achieve final design solutions. At QUTs First and Third Year industrial design studio
classes we engage in a variety of teaching pedagogies from which we identify Concept
Bombs as an instrumental in the development of students visual thinking and reflective
design process, and also as a vehicle to foster positive student engagement. Our
formula: Concept Bombs are 20 minute design tasks focusing on rapid development of
initial concept designs and free-hand sketching. Our experience and surveys tell us that
students value intensive studio activities especially when combined with timely
assessment and feedback. While conventional longer-duration design projects are
essential for allowing students to engage with the full depth and complexity of the design
process, short and intensive design activities introduce variety to the learning experience
and enhance student engagement. This paper presents a comparative analysis of First
and Third Year students Concept Bomb sketches to describe the types of design
knowledge embedded in them, a discussion of limitations and opportunities of this
pedagogical technique, as well as considerations for future development of studio based
tasks of this kind as design pedagogies in the midst of current university education trends.

Visual thinking, Design sketches, Design studio, Student engagement

In any design studio on any given day, someone will always be working with pens, pencils
and paper. Whether its a mock-up, mood board or concept, sketching is the quickest way
to produce visual representations of ideas. Sketching constitutes a natural thinking
process in design; it is part of a process in which final design drawings are approached
through a series of drawings (sketches); it is the designers dialogue with his/her ideas
(Cross, 1999). Sketching as concept development technique and the ability to visually
communicate ideas is a fundamental skill and essential in design practice.
In traditional design education, sketching is part of design studio pedagogies. It is through
the iterative practice of sketching that design students learn about design visual thinking;
that is, the process by which visual elementscodes, symbols, and other
representational formsare integrated into the tangible forms (whether drawings,
prototypes, etc.). This pedagogical approach, adopted from the Architectural design studio
tradition, is also present in other disciplines: Engineering, Games Design, Fashion,
Filmmaking, etc.

In this paper we introduce Concept Bombs as one of the approaches employed in

design studio pedagogies at the Industrial Design discipline of the Queensland University
of Technology (QUT). Concept Bombs are design studio tasks that require students to
engage in a rapid visual thinking process to generate a conceptual solution to a supplied
design problem in a very short time. The context is the design studio and thus this paper
reviews key literature on design studio pedagogies and visual thinking. Through the
analysis and comparison of First and Third Year students Concept Bomb sketches, this
paper describes the types of design knowledge embedded in students sketches; benefits,
limitations and opportunities of this pedagogical technique.
Finally, the paper presents a discussion of how this kind of studio activity promotes
reflective design process and consideration for future development as design pedagogy in
the midst of current university education trends. Amongst other challenges for educators,
current higher education trends promote an outcome focused approach where students,
instead of being deeply immersed in the process of learning are eager to complete tasks,
finish assessments, graduate and become employed. While this is understandable in light
of economic trends, processed based learning task become more crucial for a students
education and development as good designers (Taboada & Coombs, 2013).

Design studio pedagogies, design sketches and visual

Design studios are the traditional educational models in design education and it has also
been seen as producer of knowledge and social practices in design (Dutton 1987:17). The
design studio pedagogical approach is widely known as foundational for design education
and is an important part of the educational curriculum. The primary aim of studio-based
teaching is not only focused on how to design but on what design is through a creative
and analytical way of thinking. The design studio is the first place where a design student
will experience the design process. This view is firmly supported on the Architecture
studio tradition where the act of designinggenerating, evaluating, and developing
alternativesis learned and practiced (Gross et al; 1997). The literature refers to a variety
of well-established pedagogies that are employed in design studios where the students
individual designing process during the studio is the central activity. Some of these
pedagogies are: field trips, expert lectures and panel discussions, pin up sessions, desk
critique sessions, formal juries, consultation during class work time, and a proposecritique-iterate stance (Broccato, 2009).
Traditionally, the design studio provides the physical setting that enables a pedagogical
basis focused on the design problem and on learning by doing (Broadfoot & Bennett,
1991). Studios are usually organised upon replication of professional task performance;
this means, through the use of client design briefs that present ill-defined design
problems. This problem-based context prompts students to experience designing,
through the exploration and redefinition of the problem as part of the design problemsolving process. Schn (1992) described this experience as reflection-in-action and
identified it as the basis of any design process. He furthered described that there are
types of know-how revealed in our intelligent action: knowing in action (tacit knowledge),
reflection in action (questioning and challenging taking place while designing), and
reflection-on-action (questioning emerging after design solution has been reached). One

of the manifestations of this process is evident in the development of conceptual design

Design sketches are commonly employed by designers to develop ideas. Schn defined
the sketching process as a conversation between the designer and the drawing (1983), a
process in which designers do not only record an idea but generate it. Along this idea,
Menezes and Lawson (2006) state that conceptual sketches are at the core of emergence
and reinterpretation during the design process. As new ideas emerge and are drawn
(emergence), drawings become visual clues that trigger and help developed and
transform new images during sketching. In earlier design studies, drawings have been
seen as communication aid but also as part of a cognitive process of thinking and
reasoning. According to Do (1996) design reasoning is embedded in the act of drawing,
as it supports rapid exploration, and incremental definition of ideas.
Studies about sketching in design as a cognitive reflective thinking process (Schn, 1992);
have found different stages of visual thinking. The dialectics of sketching discovered by
Goldschmidt (1991) refers to: seeing that (reflective criticism) and seeing as (analogical
reasoning and reinterpretation that provokes creativity). The importance of design thinking
activity has been eloquently described by Cross (1999, p.36):
Without writing, it can be difficult to explore and resolve our own thoughts; without
drawing it is difficult for designers to explore and resolve their thoughts. Like writing,
drawing is more than simply an external memory aid; it enables and promotes the
kinds of thinking that are relevant to the particular cognitive tasks of design thinking.
In design research, drawings have been employed in the study of design knowledge and
as a source to analyse visual thinking and the design activity (Dahl et al., 2001; Rosch,
2002; Tang, 2002). These studies assert the notion that there is a relationship between
drawing and experience, and that drawing is an iterative act that involves seeing and
thinking. According to Kosslyn (2003) visual mental imagery is seeing in the absence of
an immediate sensory input, and it is related to human experience where memory not only
comprises an image or an event, but also information about its sensorial context.
Therefore, it can be said that knowledge in visual thinking is associated with
contextualised human experience. For example, a study conducted by Chamorro-Koc et
al (2008) in which design sketches from novice and expert designers were compared,
identified four types of knowledge embedded in visual representation of concepts:
familiarity (experience from seeing), individual experience within context (experience from
doing), principle based concept (knowledge of product from experience of using it),
descriptive based concept (knowledge of product from seeing it). Her analysis of those
four types of knowledge embedded in sketches led to discover references to: individual
experience, knowledge to a products use, and its context of use and revealed that
particular areas of human experience that trigger peoples understandings of products.
Figure 1 illustrates it by comparing sketches of a novice (left) and expert designer (right)
done as part of such study. Drawings were produced during a collaborative design task
where both novice and expert designer were asked to discuss while designing in response
to a given design brief (Chamorro-Koc et al., 2009).


Fig 1 Segments from a novice (left) and expert (right) designer sketches

One conclusion emerging from the analysis of these drawings established that novices
visual thinking demonstrate an emphasis on features, functions and mechanisms of the
product being designed, while the experts visual thinking demonstrate understanding of
principles of use and of the functionality of the product. This type of analysis mostly
focuses on the action of sketching and visual thinking and not the specific type of
knowledge embedded in the sketches themselves. It adds to the extant theory postulating
that drawing and re-interpretation support different kinds of cognitive activities in design.
So we ask: could this approach be instrumental in design pedagogy to understand
students learning? What types of knowledge/thinking processes are manifested in design
sketching during Concept Bombs tasks? and why is this important to understand in the
shifting context of educational delivery systems (blended learning environments) and an
outcome-focused approach to education.

Concept Bombs: a visual thinking technique as part of

design studio pedagogy
A pedagogy that utilises visual thinking through rapid sketching in our Industrial Design
studio sessions is the Concept Bomb. This format consists of a short design task
undertaken in class followed by immediate staff and peer feedback. Students are given a
five-minute briefing and asked to generate one or more design concepts for a simple
product. In Third Year design studio the brief is often quite blue sky and conceptual or a
fairly superficial styling challenge. In higher years the brief focuses on elaborating on
particular aspects of a larger project. In each case the task is achievable in a short space
of time. The session concludes with immediate tutor-guided peer-assisted assessment
during the same session. The focus can be on different aspects of design in initial and
advanced semesters. In this paper we compare First and Third Year Industrial Design
students Concept Bombs, as these are the design studios in which this pedagogy is
utilised the most.
In First Year, Concept Bombs are 30 minute design tasks. The design brief is usually
comprised of a single design challenge with two or three factors for students to consider.
The tutor presents the design brief to their studio group and responds to questions before
the design phase commences. The expected outcome is one or more conceptual
sketches in marker on A3 paper briefly annotated to facilitate explanation of the design
ideas. At the end of the session students pin up their sketches and review each others

work. Sometimes time is provided to review the work of other studio groups who have
been working in parallel. Teaching staff review the work simultaneously and the group
reassembles for a brief public critique of each presentation. Figure 2 shows an example of
a First Year design Concept Bomb and the design brief.

Fig 2 A First Year students Concept Bomb (left) and the Concept Bomb design brief

Concept Bombs in First Year design studios are employed for two different purposes: (a)
to pace tasks and projects within the semester; and (b) to give students the opportunity
to refine their understanding of sketching for rapid ideation in a supervised setting. There
are four characteristics:
Pace and focus: Three to four Concepts Bombs in a semester help punctuate the
semester experience within or in between larger projects. As some First Year students
experience difficulty maintaining engagement and motivation throughout long design
projects, Concept Bombs provide a change of pace. The briefs are object oriented with
topics based on familiar daily experience that dont require research. Students apply the
foundational design knowledge and methods they have been learning in class.
Rapid feedback: Concept Bombs enhance learning by closing the feedback loop. As
there is little pause between doing the sketches and getting feedback and assessment
they provide instant gratification' to students. Staff moderated peer feedback also
encourages student engagement with assessment criteria and promotes peer learning.
Ideation technique: Concept Bombs are about using sketching as a rapid ideation tool.
Given the same project brief as homework students would likely spend four or five times
as long on it. Left to their own devices novice designers tend to draw slowly and carefully
investing too much time on too-few sketches without necessarily engaging in deep
ideation. Forcing students to practice rapid sketching forces them to streamline their
technique and see the value of sketching without the formality of formal project
presentation. Doing this within a supportive studio context within the framework of an
imminent deadline encourages useful engagement with relevant skills. Students learn that

fast sketching is a means to become more efficient and explore more ideas in a shorter
Repetition: Repetition is a key part of Concept Bombs both in the development of
sketching skills and in managing performance pressure for students. Since Concept
Bombs are effectively an examination of sorts students might be forgive for feeling
considerable pressure to perform. This is managed in two ways. Firstly the assessment
weighting for Concept Bomb assessment within the unit is quite lowrarely more than
20%. Secondly this mark is derived from the best three out of four (or best two out of
three) Concept Bomb submissions. The consequences of poor performance in any single
Concept Bomb is thus quite low and the addition of a spare gives students a safety
margin that moderates the pressure they feel on any single exercise. The outcome is that
students report high levels of engagement and enjoyment with Concept Bomb activities.
Third Year Concept Bombs are also short 20 minute design tasks but they form part of a
larger project and prompt students to explore particular aspects of the main semester
project. Three design briefs take place one after the other during a single intensive design
studio session with minimum time allowed in between for pin-up of the work. This
experience is repeated at key stages of the semester project. Design briefs are delivered
to students by including a user scenario to help contextualise particular design problems.
The expected outcome is blue-sky design propositions which form the basis for later indepth exploration. At the end of the third task, students review each others work and
indicate, on a feedback label that accompanies each submission, the best of the three
designs from each student. In some projects it has been possible to engage industry
collaborators in the feedback phase which gives students real world input via informal
conversation on the merits and limitations of their ideas. Figures 3 and 4 show examples
of Third Year students Concept Bomb sketches and the associated design brief.
CONCEPT BOMB #1: Collecting information on the go
Your client is a high-tech product developer and is planning the
next generation of wearable devices the techno-savvy group of
users. This market niche is comprised of people who collect
information on the go in their lives with the goal of selling this
information to specialised wholesalers information distributors.
The interactive designed object should:

be wearable,

be appropriate to use for the user group on the go,

have a GPS which allows identify location of the

news/information being transmitted,

rely on gestural and tangible interactions for sensing and


not include GUIs.

Fig 3 A Third Year design students Concept Bomb sketch (left) and the design brief


CONCEPT BOMB guided by Industry collaborator (*)

Choose an assistive technology from the ones

presented in the exhibition
Role-play a device of your interest, imagine using it in
your everyday life
Assess the device affordances and think how could it
benefit other users
In your teams (4), re-design the device by extending its
functionality to a broader range of users.

*Industry collaborator is a non-for profit organisation that

provides information and services to people with disabilities
and the senior population.

Fig 4 A Third Year design students Concept Bomb sketch provided by industry
Concept Bombs in third year design studios are employed for two different purposes: (a)
to encourage focus on particular areas of the project that are of pedagogical interest, and
(b) to give students the opportunity to enhance their sketching techniques and visual
thinking skills. The application of Concept Bombs in Third Year shows four characteristics:

Pace and focus: Concept Bomb briefs focus on particular aspects of a project that
otherwise students would not explore at first. Such areas are usually related to new
theory being presented to them. In order to bring all elements together in a concise
format for students, Concept Bomb tasks use scenarios to introduce a design problem,
illustrate a user situation and the context of use. Design requirements are presented
as a set of problem boundaries.
Rapid Feedback: The tight loop between the sketching activity and feedback allows
students to quickly learn from the experience and bring their learning into the initial
stage of the semester design project. Peer feedback plays a more important role with
these students as there is no formal assessment attached to the task. Peer feedback
becomes a vehicle for students to expose their ideas and be competitive, be aware of
how effective they are at communicating their design ideas, appreciate differences
between what they think is their best concept design versus what other people
perceive is the best, push themselves out of their comfort zone and think about design
aspects they would not consider otherwise.
Ideation technique: As in First Year, Third Year Concept Bombs cultivate student
sketching as a rapid ideation tool however here there is a higher expectation of
.design resolution and effective visual communication
Repetition: Repetition of Concept Bomb activity within same studio session allows
students to quickly gain confidence from Concept Bomb task one to task three.
Usually by Concept Bomb three students are working at that most confident and
effective level.

There are evident differences between outcomes from the two students cohorts. It is
interesting to observe that beyond the quality and detail of the design development
observed in the sketches, there are different types of experiential knowledge embedded in
the visuals. Input from a Second Year unit, Culture and Design, seems to contribute to
Third Year students design thinking when addressing the Concept Bomb briefs, as in this
unit students explore how culture influences product design and how people interact and

use products in everyday life. The following section presents an overview of a

comparative analysis that aim to uncover characteristics described in this section.

Understanding visual thinking behind Concept Bombs:

an initial analysis
An initial exploration of sketches produced by First and Third Year design students was
conducted to find out what aspects of the learning experience of designing and visual
thinking can be evidenced through Concept Bomb tasks. This analysis is based on
Chamorro-Koc et al (2009) study in which design sketches were categorized to reveal
types of individual knowledge.

Analysis of students Concept Bomb sketches

The analysis of sketches was assisted with ATLAS.ti, a software-based qualitative
analysis package. A system of categories was employed that focus on identifying
elements in sketches that reveal students individual experience, knowledge of the
product, and of the products context-of-use.
Drawings were analysed and interpreted to identify references made to students
knowledge of the product design, their individual experience with similar products, and
references to context of use employed in their design concepts. The following table shows
the coding system.


Features with indication of
Individual experience within
Episodic data
Principle-based concept


Description-based concept


Intended use





Table 1 Coding system

The coding system reveals different types of knowledge due to individual experiences:
individual experience with similar products (tacit knowledge), reference to a particular
experience situated in a particular context (individual or episodic experience). The coding
system was applied to the appropriate segments of drawing. For example Figure 5 shows
how the coding was applied to a students Concept Bomb sketch. It uses images and
written notation to describe a design concept for a product with three components, a
bracelet, an earpiece and a screen, and the gesture-based interface of the device. It can
be seen that the drawing does not provide detailed design features however, arrows,
annotations and images provide a sense of the principles behind the functionality of the
design. Thus PBCPrincipled based conceptis the code applied to the segment of the
drawing where it clearly indicates how bracelet, screen and earpiece interact. The
segment showing a detail of the earpiece placed on the ear indicates IUintended use.

The segment showing the earpiece with an annotation (capture a photo) is coded DBC
Descriptive based conceptas it only represents what it is, but does not provide more
references as to the purpose or context of use.

Fig 5: Exemplar of a coded Concept Bomb

A comparison between First and Third Year students sketches

As expected differences in the quality and detail in Concept Bomb drawings of First and
Third Year design students are evident. Additionally the thematic coding identifies
differences in design knowledge prompted by Concept Bomb pedagogical objectives. The
following table presents a comparison:
Characteristic First Year Students

Third Year Students

Pace and

Enabled twice or thrice in the same

session, several times during the
semester. It focuses on peoples
relationship with objects in everyday
life practices. Use of scenarios allows
quick engagement with new theory.

Three to four times during

Object oriented.
Promotes engagement with
fundamental design process.


Staff-moderated peer
assessment (formative and

Peer assessment (formative).

Promotes engagement with the larger
design project.

Instant gratification.

Promotes rapid ideation skills

Refines rapid ideation skills


Promotes skill development

and confidence

Single-session repetition refines skill

development and confidence

assessment reduces student
Table 2 Comparison of characteristics of Concept Bombs in First and Third Year design


The literature indicates that the notion of students engagement is one with many
meanings (Bryson; 2007), usually referring to: behaviours in the classroom, staff-student
interaction, cooperation among students, and a dynamic relationship between learner and
environment (Chamorro-Koc & Scott, 2012). In our experience student engagement tends
to be viewed as a reflection of learning processes and it is a crucial means of an
educational process that establishes the foundations for successful later year studies
(Krausse & Coates, 2008). As a pedagogical tool to support for students engagement,
Table 2 shows differences between First and Third Year students in each of the four
identified Concept Bomb characteristics. Pace grows in intensity, focus changes from
object to context, feedback shifts from individual gratification to peer pressure through
formative assessment, ideation moves from the facilitation of fast exploration of ideas to
the facilitation of fast exchange of ideas.
As a pedagogical tool to understand how design students conceptualise their design
propositions, the analysis of students Concept Bomb sketches reveal that their work
moves from basic descriptions of features or functions to descriptions of context and
practices. This could be a reflection of students enhanced understanding of social issues
learned through the Second Year Design and Culture unit. For example, hand gestures
showed in Figure 5 indicate a Gen Y form of gestural communication. In this case, this
Concept Bomb reveals the learning from socio cultural issues previously learned from
case studies, and shows how a student might design an object with social considerations
in mind.

Design studio is the context were learning emerges through action; it is distinguished by
emphasis on project-based work, learning through praxis, learning through workshop, and
learning through first hand observation (ALTC, 2011). With the aim to assist students
connecting theory and the application of design principles to design projects, Concept
Bombs are employed as one of the design studio pedagogies in Industrial Design
education at the School of Design at QUT. Besides the importance of industrial design
students enhancing their visual design thinking and communication techniques from the
pedagogical point of view, the practice of fast sketching is critical for novice designers to
become more effective at exploring more ideas in a shorter time, which is a valuable skill
as a practicing designer.
The comparison between First and Third Year design students Concept Bomb sketches
has shown some of the aspects that contribute to promote visual thinking and reflective
process. In this sense, Concept Bomb tasks in design studio environments is a strategy
that assist students learning processes of conceptualising and producing designs.
Understanding the type of experiential knowledge embedded in students design work at
different stages of their education is important to inform design pedagogies and to devise
strategies to attain and support learning objectives.
The analysis and comparison of visuals show that Concept Bomb sketches convey some
references to socio cultural considerations. This suggests that the use Concept Bomb
tasks can provide insights into how our students generation designs for society and for
the future, and therefore, it can help identify emerging challenges for design education.
Although we have indicated instances where this kind of content is observed in our

students Concept Bombs, this aspect has not been fully addressed in our study. Further
research into this aspect and students design processes; require involving observational
studies and retrospective interviews to uncover the various experiential and conceptual
considerations informing students design decisions during Concept Bombs activities.

This paper has described Concept Bomb approaches in design studio that promote
students engagement and visual thinking skills. These practices are adaptable to the
differing needs of students and curriculum demands of different levels and of study.
In the shifting context of educational delivery systems, for example, blended learning
environments, we wonder how could this type of experience take place in future university
contexts? What can be done through virtual design studios? In a virtual studio, the
dynamic of Concept Bombs would certainly change but benefits may remain if the
immediacy of the experience can be duplicated. The process would probably not be as
effective since part of the success is due to peer proximity, short timed duration and
immediate feedback, all which would be relatively compromised in an online scenario
unless teams of students are co-located.

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Marianella Chamorro-Koc
A Senior Lecturer in Industrial Design, she currently teaches at Queensland University of
Technology (QUT) and has taught at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. Her
research work is located within the areas of design, product usability, experiential
knowledge and context of use. Dr Chamorro-Kocs research aims to identify the
contextual aspects shaping peoples interactions with products - technologies - systems,

the experiential knowledge embedded in those interactions, and their influence in peoples
practices of everyday life. She is a member of Design Research Society (DRS) and
Design Institute of Australia (DIA), and a researcher at the Peoples and Systems Lab
(PAS Lab) at QUT.

Andrew Scott
Andrew Scott has been practicing and teaching industrial design for two decades. His
experience as a design consultant has included work in industrial design, ergonomics,
corporate identity and entertainment concepts for clients such as World Expo 88, the Civil
Aviation Authority, Spectra Lighting and other businesses in the Brisbane area. He is
Head of Studies for the School of Design, Queensland University of Technology and
teaches predominantly in the first year of the Industrial Design Course. In 2010 he
received the Australian Learning and Teaching Councils award for Teaching Excellence
for his teaching pedagogies. Andrew completed his masters (research) in touch screen
interface design and his PhD research focuses on product attachment and personal
identity. Other interests include product aesthetics, graphical literacy and information

Gretchen Coombs
A lecturer in research methods and cultural theory in the School of Design, Creative
Industry Faculty, Queensland University of Technology. Her interests include art and
design criticism/activism, specifically recent practices that challenge social structures
within urban contexts. Her doctoral research involved artists, design collectives, critics and
scholars who are immersed in new ways of practicing art that intervenes in social and
ecological processes and which find creative solutions to complex urban challenges.
Gretchens ethnographic research provided deep insights into understanding the socially
engaged art - or "social practices" - in San Francisco, practices that draw on the Bay
Areas legacy of progressive politics and vanguard art practices. She continues to publish
articles and give guest lectures on socially engaged art and design.


Locating the Emerging Design Identity of Students

Through Visual and Textual Reflection
Colin M. Gray, Indiana University, USA

Reflective activities have the potential to encourage students to develop critical skills and
awareness of mental models. In this study, I address the emerging identity of early design
students as they externalize their evolving conceptions of design through visual and
textual reflection. Forty-three students in an introductory human-computer interaction (HCI)
course completed weekly textual reflections on a course blog, and completed visual
reflections at the conclusion of each of three projects. The weekly blog reflections were
intended to document their experience as a developing designer, while the visual
reflections represented their personal conception of design within HCItheir rendering of
the whole game. Through this process of reflection, students externalized their
transformation as designers, including an awareness of the pedagogical, social, and
cultural factors shaping them, and a growing sense of their personal and professional
design identity. Through interviews and additional analysis of eight of these students, a
disjuncture was found between conceptions of design in visual and textual reflections, with
visual reflections forming a professional, generic design identity, and textual reflections
more congruent with the students personal identity. Issues relating to lack of
representational skill and how these forms of reflection externalize a students evolving
design philosophy are addressed.

Reflection; Sketching; Designerly Identity; Design pedagogy; Human-Computer
Interaction (HCI)
Reflection and reflective practice have been at the centre of understanding how design
education encourages professional action since Donald Schn wrote his classic text
describing the interactions between Petra and Quist (1983). While this form of verbal
dialogue in the studio between a professor and student, the social milieu of the studio at
large (Webster, 2008), and informal interactions between students (Gray, 2013a; 2013b)
encourage the development of these metacognitive abilities, less attention has
traditionally been paid to formal modes of reflection. In this work, I describe the use of
textual and visual reflection as tools to externalize the emerging design identity of early
design students, as they move from doing to becoming (Carspecken & Cordeiro, 1995) a

Review of Literature
While little research has been done to represent the shifting identity of students within
design education, there is relevant work surrounding how designers build their own sense
of identity in relation to their personal design philosophy, form representational skill to use
sketching as a communicative act of reasoning, and externalize their tacit assumptions
about design through reflection.


Reflection in Education
Rogers (2001) recognizes the substantial role reflection can play in developing critical
skills and awareness in a higher education context, making the claim: [p]erhaps no other
concept offers higher education as much potential for engendering lasting and effective
change in the lives of students as that of reflection (p. 55). While Schn (1983,1987)
modeled reflection primarily through verbal interaction in a desk crit, other forms of
reflection might encourage other forms of evaluation to occur, moving the locus of
interaction out of the classroom into a more regular, self-initiated act. Some research
within traditional design education suggests using reflection as a way of articulating tacit
knowledge (Ellmers, Bennett, & Brown, 2009) and revealing connections between difficult
concepts (Ockerse, 2012). Within emergent design fields such as human-computer
interaction (HCI), reflection has also been used in a more formal way to document
changes in conceptions of design over time (Siegel & Stolterman, 2008), and more
recently, to frame the role of visual reflection in externalizing a students mental model of
design within a specific disciplinary framing (Gray & Siegel, 2013).

Design Philosophy
In relation to developing an understanding of ones own identity, reflection allows a
student to gain awareness of what they are doing and how they project their future as a
process of becoming (Carspecken & Cordeiro, 1995). Within design, Nelson and
Stolterman (2012) address this process in similar terms, using the concept of ones
individual design philosophy as one of the ways in which this becoming process might be
explored. It is through this lens of the developing design studentas they understand
their own design philosophy and how that philosophy is enacted through their evolving
identitythat reflection might play a role in formalizing and externalizing conceptions of
design over time.

Sketching as Design Reasoning

Sketching has long been regarded as a core skill designers should possess, with
implications for formal representation of concepts, as well as in communicating design
arguments to clients or other designers (Do & Gross, 1996; Verstijnen, et al., 1998). While
students in traditional design disciplines are often taught to sketch or draw as part of their
curriculum, this level of pedagogical concern is not always encouraged to the same
degree in emergent design disciplines such as HCI. Sketching as a way of communicating
is acknowledged in this field (Buxton, 2007), but many students entering this field do not
have adequate representational skill in this area.
In parallel with the formal use of sketching in design education, there have also been
efforts from outside design education to find ways to externalize mental models of
complex systems or processes. Perkins (2010) uses the concept of playing the whole
game to formalize an individuals understanding of a system or process in a more holistic
way, and this method has been used in a previous study (Gray & Siegel, 2013) to
encourage visual exploration of a students conception or model of the discipline of HCI.

Purpose of Research
This study addresses the turbulent period as an early design student is initiated into new
patterns of thinking within the context of an emergent design discipline. While previous
work in this area has relied only on textual reflection (Siegel & Stolterman, 2008) or visual
reflection (Gray & Siegel, 2013) as a way of ascertaining tacit beliefs about design, this
work extends this line of inquiry regarding reflection to more accurately identify the
evolving design student. In this paper, I describe the actions of design students in an
introductory HCI course as they reflect in textual and visual form and externalize their
conceptions of design.


This study was framed by a formal artifact analysis of blog postings and reflection
sketches, which led to a multiple case study design of a selection of the total cases (Yin,

The participants for this study were first year graduate students in a Human-Computer
Interaction (HCI) program that emphasized a design approach. All students were enrolled
in a required early design experience course, in which they were required to complete
reflection in various forms during the one-semester course.
Forty-three students were enrolled in this early design course during the Fall 2012
semester, including strong representation of females (n=17) and international students
(n=16). Additionally, three of the students had taken the course previously as an
undergraduate student. The 43 participants were reduced to eight, with care taken to
maintain a balance of international representation, gender, educational background, and
overall academic progress in the course. The eight cases (summarized in Table 1)
included three international students and two females.

Data Collection
Blog Posts
Students were required to post on a course blog (Figure 1) about their experiences as a
developing designer. In addition to a space for students to reflect, the professor and
mentors also used the blog to reflect, share resources, and answer questions about
projects. The professor included the following prompt in the syllabus describing these
Write a reflection this week [] and every week thereafter! You are expected to
write at least one weekly reflection. A reflection describes your feelings and
thoughts. Again, just be yourself. These are not published essays. Treat them like
casual comments, as if you were writing an email to a friend or colleague.
In all, students made 513 posts on the blog with 909 comments. As noted in the prompt
above, students were required to post at least one reflection post each week. Ethics
approval was obtained for analysis of all reflection materials, and efforts were taken to
protect the identity of participants through assigned pseudonyms.


Figure 1. Course blog, with sections for the professor (left), projects and mentors (center),
and students by group (right).

Whole Game Sketches

Students were required to submit a sketch summarizing their understanding of the whole
gamea holistic understanding of HCI and design as expressed by each studentat the
conclusion of each project in the course, with three out of five projects represented in this
study. The following prompt was provided to students:
I want you to submit a paper sketch of your current understanding of the whole
game of HCI Design.
Important: this will not be graded other than you will lose credit if you do not submit
this sketch. Do not consult any online or book resources. Your drawing is likely to
be somewhat primitive. It will be interesting to see how your drawing evolves
over time.
In total, 105 sketches were turned in for the first three projects. The first sketch was
completed collaboratively with a partner, while the subsequent sketches were completed


Based on factors identified above, eight cases (Table 1) were selected from the 43 total
cases for further data collection and analysis. All sketches and blog posts for these
students were subjected to a close reading, and key themes and issues discussed each
week were summarized. The reflection sketches were associated with the blog to
contextualize the creation of the sketch in relation to the textual reflection. Comparisons
were made between these reflections to identify ideas presented in only one of the
reflection mediums, and overall development noted in both forms of reflection during the

Country of


(by project)




United States




United States












Computer Science





United States

Computer Science










United States






United States

Political Science




Table 1. Summary of eight participants by demographic characteristics, available

sketches, and blog activity. (Participants were assigned a pseudonym.)
After close reading and preliminary analysis, these students were interviewed for 30-45
minutes at the start of the next academic semester. This interview included a discussion
of their sketches over time, feelings about reflection in both forms, and explanation of
differences between the two modes of reflection.

To understand the relationship of the experiences of the selected eight students, a
narrative of all cases will be reported in three segments, representing the period in which
each sketch used in this study was created. While there are numerous ways in which this
evidence might be presented, a chronological approach has been shown to be effective in
previous reports (Gray & Siegel, 2013), highlighting common challenges across multiple
students in the course. Additionally, comprehensive data is not available for all
participants due to lapses in participation on the blog or missing sketches, complicating a
case-centric reporting of data. A representative sample of sketches and quotations from
blog entries and/or the interview support a narrative that describes the evolution of design
thinking of these students and their overall experience of the pedagogy. All quotations
from the reflection blog are indicated by week (e.g., W1), while other non-annotated
quotations are from the interview.


Sketch 1 | Weeks 1-3

The first few weeks of the semester represented a time of transition for many students in
the program, most which were coming from non-design educational backgrounds. There
was a wide range of experiences among the eight students in relation to reflection, with
some like Jack already intimately familiar with journaling and writing as reflection, while
Thomas felt this type of reflection was more forced.
Mei-Xing struggled to find herself in these early weeks, commenting that "...[I] can't be
myself. Maybe I'm too nervous and anxious" (W1), asking basic questions such as whats
the nature of design? (W3) and attempting to learn how to grow as a designer. She
completed a personal sketch and collaborative sketch for the first project, which were not
completely reconciled due to disagreements with the other student about what should be
included. While she frequently discussed group work in her blog reflection, it was not
included in her sketch because she saw this as a separation between her personal and
professional lifethe sketch being professional and the blog being personal. By the
second semester when she was interviewed, she had begun to break down this
differentiation between these modes of reflection.

Figure 2: Zachary, P1 Sketch.

Figure 3: Jack, P1 Sketch.

Zachary felt he was more text-based at heart and had to force himself to think in visual
terms. He explained that his first sketch felt square (in terms of the use of boxes for
representation) based on his background in information architecture and formal workflows.
Like Mei-Xing, Zachary saw the different modes of reflection as discrete, unrelated
activities at this point in the semester. The sketch was more of a formal deliverable for
the class, while the blog was a more natural way to reflect. This first sketch was similar to
many of his colleagues at this stage, focusing on a linear understanding of the design
process, with minimal iteration and a focus on representation of design activities rather
than the designer.


Jack remarked that the first sketch was what he envisioned as a design process based
on what he thought the professor was looking for, and like others, didnt think of this as his
design process. Unlike some of the other students, Jack relied on journaling to reconcile
his feelings: "if I don't journal, I'm likely to explode. I need to cognitively offload"; he
explained that "I can already feel my brain beginning to rewire" (W2). While his blog
reflections offered a rich insight into his evolution of thinking in the first few weeks, such
as his shift in belief that "it's not the destination, it's the quest" (W3), his sketches still
represented a largely linear process.
Thomas had taken the class before, including participating in both of these forms of
reflection. Although he brought in prior experience reflecting, he noted that he has never
been good at reflection assignments (W1/2), and early on, located a "struggle between
[his] personal life and work life" (W3). He also explained that reflecting in this way felt
forcedhaving to reflect and that it was more natural for him to reflect in more informal
ways like Facebook or talking face-to-face; but Thomas also agreed that it was valuable
once he sat down and did it.

Figure 4: Naveen, P1 Sketch.

Naveen did not engage in reflection on the blog as much as others, but explained that a
second year student had warned them you have to suffer to learn new things (W1). By
Week 3, he had come to the conclusion that you shouldnt be attached to your design
ideas, although this theme was not represented in his sketcha linear flowchart. Unlike
many of the other students, he said it was not difficult to sketch his ideas, although given
this early sketch, it is unclear whether a more sophisticated understanding of design
would be equally easy for him to represent.


Figure 5: Isabella, P1 Sketch.

Isabella came into the program from a computer science background, but was impacted
by this designerly perspective, seeing the world through different eyes as experiences
(W1). She wrestled with working in teams and the additional complexity this adds,
alongside deep questioning of what will design mess up? (W3). Despite this substantial
textual reflection, none of these concerns are addressed in her first sketch to any
significant degree. Isabella wanted to draw boxes for the initial sketch but branched out
as she saw examples of sketchnoting from her 2nd year colleagues, resulting in one of the
least linear constructions in this set of sketches.


Figure 6: Parker, P1 Sketch .

Figure 7: Adrian, P1 Sketch.

Parker came into the program with an expectation of failure: "I wholly expect everyone to
fail miserably out of the gate and I welcome it" (W2). Early on he experienced "hectic
schedules and lots of designing in circles" (W3), although this was not represented in his
linear sketch. Even though the assignment called for a physical sketch, he chose a
flowchart format because he liked this organizational paradigm. In reflecting on these
actions in the interview, he thought the design process seemed like a flowchart, and that
it was not appropriate to bring his process into his personal life; Parker explicitly noted that
he was actively trying to limit how much the design experience was affecting him
personally, developing a barrier between his personal and design lives.
Adrian talked substantially on the blog about the importance of group work and the
camaraderie he experienced with his colleagues (W3), but there was no such indication of
group work in his sketch. Interestingly, there was no presence of a designer in his sketch,
although he was actively discussing his personal experience and shift in identity on the
blog. This was likely due to a lack of skill in sketching, as he explained in the interview that
he was trying to articulate his feelings and experiences in a richer way at this point, but
didnt understand how to visually represent his process.


Sketch 2 | Weeks 4-5

By this point in the semester, the goals of the curriculum were starting to take hold, and
the students were being actively confronted with project work that greatly exceeded their
level of ability. This sense of chaos and lack of control manifested in these reflectionsas
an increased complexity in the sketches, and as a sense of letting go on the blog
representing a dramatic shift in how students viewed themselves as developing designers.
Although this milestone in the semester was only two weeks removed from the previous
sketch, the changes in representation were dramatic, with most moving away from a
flowchart mode of representation to a less centralized more iterative conception of design.
In the blog, themes of crisis, teamwork, and letting design concepts go emerged, even
though these themes were not represented in most of the sketches in a substantial way.
Mei-Xing was perhaps the most affected in the cohort by the increase in chaos and lack
of control. While she was initially optimistic, explaining that "crisis for me is like a gift,
because it shows me where I should focus on to improve" (W4), shortly after this, she had
a minor breakdown and was excused from classes for a week. At this point in time, she
felt that her identity as a designer was in questionwhat does designer mean here?
and it is this existential crisis that became overwhelming to her for a short time. Her
experience and subsequent breakdown was perhaps the most extreme of any in her
cohort, but represents the intense personal struggle that many students went through at
this point in the semester.
Zachary represented this transition more optimistically, but with similar feelings of duress:
"I feel as though I'm learning to breathe all over again" (W2). He already had a command
of representing his feelings in textual form: "the design process can be said to bethe
first and the last: a continuous cycle of genesis that stems from problems and the pursuit
of their solutions" (W3); "whether they're yours or mine, any idea is equally subject to the
chopping block: we just have to get to the point where we can let go" (W5). In relation to
this textual reflection, Zachary also saw more of himself beginning to emerge in his
sketches, focusing on the various lenses of design from class, and structuring his sketch
around that learning. While the sketches helped him to distill his formal learning, he
explained that the blog helped him to deal with the chaos of experience; as he viewed
how various students had different transformations, he began to view these tools as a way
to see someones identity unfold over time.


Figure 8: Jack, P2 Sketch.

Jack began the process of translating his reflections on the blog and overall
transformation as a designer to his sketches, actively representing his new-found persona
in a storyboard about his role as fight[ing] for the user. This dramatic evolution from a
flowchart view of design to one where the designer played an active, highly personal role
coincided with his blog reflections, where he increasingly saw himself as a member of a
team"together, design"and noted I can't imagine myself as an individual designer


Figure 9: Naveen, P2 Sketch.

Naveen was relatively inactive during this part of the semester, but externalized his
feelings about this period in the interview, explaining "[the professor] wants us to feel
exhausted and suffocated by the way 'we think' design work is done." His second sketch
shows a substantial shift in his view of design, moving away from a linear flowchart to a
more iterative design process.


Figure 10: Isabella, P2 Sketch.

Isabellas personality began to emerge even more strongly in this second project. In
reflecting on their first formal critiques, she dramatically intoned: Oh, there will be blood
on room 150 by the end" (W5). She also noted the difficulty in "kill[ing] the babies," an
intentionally impactful term used by the professor to describe the need to let design
concepts go, actively working through issues to reform her identity as a designer, rejecting
her old conceptions. Her sketches became more documentary in nature, and she
increased her ability to visualize the things she thought were previously lacking.


Figure 11: Parker, P2 Sketch

Figure 12: Adrian, P2 Sketch.

Parker did not actively reflect in this part of the semester, and his sketch represents few
changes from the previous version. His understanding of HCI and design were limited to
relatively few design activities, with a lack of designer presence and highly linear view.
As the semester progressed, Adrian became more obsessed with the challenges ahead,
wondering in his blog post, What if I fail? (W4). Although this concern was apparent in
textual form, his sketch merely included more arrows of iteration, not representing his
deep concern. It is unclear whether this was a representational issue, or whether an
awareness of how his design identity was changing was not yet clear.


Sketch 3 | Weeks 6-9

These central weeks of the semester proved to be a dramatic period of change for these
studentsas Mei-Xing noted, a journey inward. Students were actively juggling multiple
elements of becoming a designer, including not only their personal identity as a designer,
but also how that intersected with expectations of other designers, conceptions of the
client and user, and the ethical implications of design. The sketches also began to take on
this overall sense of overwhelming complexity and a turn inward, focusing more on the
personality of the individual designer.

Figure 13: Mei-Xing, P3 sketch.

After a difficult few weeks of struggle, Mei-Xing came to the conclusion that "one of the
most difficult things is to be honest with myself" and to "stay quiet and focus, and do the
things that you truly love" (W6). Even though she was emotional during this period, she
felt it was important to follow "a journey inward", with a video on Maya Lin shown in class
moving her to tears and teaching her how she could fight for her ideas. In a sentence, I'm
traveling on a journey inward, past, present, and future [] this is a lifelong journey."
While this dramatic surrender to her new designer identity was taking hold, her sketch was
more clinical, with no representation of her identity, maintaining a professional distance.
Interestingly, she explained that the sketches got easier over time...because I knew what
[the professor] wanted.


Figure 14: Zachary, P3 Sketch.

Zachary felt more empowered at this stage, triumphantly stating: "we are free to forge our
own path if it serves our purpose and accomplishes our goals." Even while he was
confident on the blog, he explained: "I find myself struggling with the cognitive offloading
[of doing the whole game sketch]"; and "I feel paralyzed by my process; that my ideas are
caught in limbo as I unconsciously run through each of them through this stripped book in
the back of my mind before they ever make it onto the page" (W7). Zachary concluded
that design is a conversation between designer, user, and artifact, and that this
conversation includes a substantial ethical component because you can harm with
design. Ultimately, he thought that "in design, people on both sides leave their mark"
(W9), but this dynamic was not present in his sketch.
Jack struggled how to keep mean "designer [Jack]" and "boyfriend [Jack]" separate as he
dealt with his shifting identity (W7). By Week 10, Jack had broken up with his girlfriend,
and he came to the realization that "you're taking a step. you're changing"ultimately, he
needed the "freedom to find [his] core" as a designer. He was the one being designed,
and this epiphany allowed him to change the way he perceived himself.


Figure 15: Thomas, P3 Sketch.

Thomas explained that he saw the sketches and blog entries as two separate activities,
with the sketch in particular not considered a process of reflection, and largely impersonal.
This was visible in this third sketch, with attention largely focused on design activities, and
no relation to him as a designer or how these activities are enacted.
Isabella was increasingly frustrated with the feedback she was gettingshe "felt [her]
spirits falling" when reading the comments from a formal critique, asking "why should we
not defend the design?" (W6). In Week 8, she continued working through issues, noting
that she "hit an inspiration withdrawal last week. Isabella concluded that representing her
process should not take into consideration her personal feelingsI didnt think how I felt
mattered in representing her personality in the whole game sketch. In contrast, she felt
her blog entries could be more personal, but her personality should not be included in the


Figure 16: Parker, P3 Sketch.

Parker was feeling the heat of project work, having had to quit a sports team: I had a little
breakdown in how I was prioritizing my life [...] so I was a little distant" (W8). Despite this
breakdown of prioritization, his sketch retained a flowchart paradigm. Even though he
missed multiple weeks of blog reflections, he explained that he kept some private
reflections in his notebook that were never made public. He felt that the sketches were
more of an assignment, and he didnt internalize this as a deep reflective activity, although
he saw the value of blogging as a reflective tool in a more substantial way.


Figure 17: Adrian, P3 Sketch

As the semester drew on, Adrian focused inward, asking What do designers do? (W8),
while invit[ing] the pain by requesting critique. This deepening focus is apparent in his
sketch, where he addresses many of the issues surrounding his identitysurrender[ing]
to the chaos that he cant represent. One of Adrians most substantial challenges was
that his ability to sketch what he is thinking was not developed enough, which is revealed
in themes of surrender and uncertainty; instead, he addresses his big ideas in the textual
narrative, which is abstracted a step or two beyond the situatedness of his sketches.
Factors such as teamwork or time management did not appear in earlier sketches
because Adrian took these factors for granted.

In triangulating the student experience across several sources of data, additional cues to
their development and shift in identity become visible. While some of the transformations
unique to HCI are already known (Gray, in press; Siegel & Stolterman, 2008), this
evolution of identity provides a fuller picture of how this transformation is felt from a
student perspective. This transformation manifests through the reflection modes chosen
for this course, each of which present a different portrait of what change is being felt. The
contribution of this work is in highlighting the disjuncture between these forms of reflective
representation, understanding some issues surrounding representational skill, and how
the act of reflecting in this way can encourage active awareness of identity.


Disjuncture between visual and textual reflections

Students formed a delineation between modes of reflection early in the semester, creating
constraints around what kind of representation of self was desirable. The most substantial
differentiation externalized by students was between a professional and personal
representation of selfthe blog as a safe space to reveal ones personal identity, and
the sketch as a professional representation of process. This delineation of modes resulted
in certain ideasespecially soft skills such as time management or prioritization,
teamwork, critique, and iterationbeing weakly represented, if at all, in the sketch record.
While some of this may be due to issues of representational skill, there might also be a
level of awareness that is foregrounded when writing that is not similarly triggered when
sketching, or a lack of visual acuity by nave designers.

Issues of visual representation in early design education

As referenced in the disjuncture between sketches and blog posts as forms of reflection,
there was a substantial inability on the part of the majority of students to represent what
was to them is ineffable or tacitat least in visual form. While most participants were able
to adequately express their sense of conflict and shift in identity around becoming a
designer on the blogeven non-native speakers with less verbal skillfew were able to
express this thinking until the third sketch, if at all.
This lack of visual capability has significant implications for developing designers,
particularly as the literature suggests that sketching is a primary vehicle for the
communication of design ideas. In the explication of design thinking or description of
identity formation, this also presents challenges for early designers that do not have
access to these forms of expression, especially early in stages of designerly development.

Revealing individual conceptions of designerly identity

Ultimately, these reflections serve as an individual record of ones experience in and out
of the classroom environment, externalizing a designers depiction of their development of
a design identity over time. Reflection has been raised as a hallmark of professional
practice in a variety of disciplines (Schn, 1983), with this metacognitive ability enabling
an individual to understand and evolve their conceptions of expertise (Lawson & Dorst,
2009) in the context of professional activities. While some attention has been paid to
encouraging reflection in the studio mode of education (Schn, 1987), this has largely
been a verbal exercise with little encouragement to document this reflection through
formal writing or sketching.
The reflections from these developing design students indicate how textual and visual
reflections reveal different conceptions of designerly identity, which might indicate future
use in a descriptive or evaluative way within the studio pedagogy. It is important to note,
however, that some students attempted to game the system by projecting what they
believed the professor would want to see, rather than revealing their true self. This
highlights the secondary value of these reflections in revealing how elements of the
hidden curriculum affect the overall learner experience, including social, personal, and
cultural factors as they are enacted through the studio space and critique.

In this work, I have extended existing knowledge regarding barriers early design students
go through as they evolve into a richer understanding of design (Siegel & Stolterman,
2008) and how visual reflection might play a role in evaluating change in thinking about
design over time (Gray & Siegel, 2013). This paper addresses the developing identity of
early design students through multiple forms of reflection, using these reflections as a way
to understand how these students increase in design ability.


While the visual and textual reflections used in this study were not the only mechanisms
used for metacognitive activity by students, they do appear to be helpful tools in building
knowledge of ones own identity, and tracking changes in that identity over time. In
addition, multiple forms of representation appear to promote a fuller explication of identity,
enhancing skills in textual and visual representation in the process.

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interpretations of social identity and a case study. Qualitative Inquiry, 1(1), 87-109.
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reflection to support the articulation of knowledge and learning from the design experience.
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pedagogical, and epistemological features in an HCI studio. In Critique 2013: An
international conference reflecting on creative practice in art, architecture, and design (pp.
341-355). Adelaide, South Australia: University of South Australia.
Gray, C. M. (2013b). Factors that shape design thinking. Design and Technology
Education, 18(3), 8-20.
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Oxford: Architectural Press.
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teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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(1998). Sketching and creative discovery. Design Studies, 19(4), 519-546.
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Colin M. Gray
Colin is a Ph.D. Candidate in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. His
research focuses on the role of student experience in informing a critical design pedagogy,
and the ways in which the pedagogy and underlying studio environment inform the
development of design thinking. He has worked professionally as a graphic designer, web
developer, and trainer, and previously completed an M.A. in graphic design from
Savannah College of Art & Design and a M.Ed. in educational technology from University
of South Carolina.

This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant Award no.
1115532. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the entire research team or the NSF.


Intention-Centred Design Education:

Beyond Methods and Techniques
Ylva Fernaeus, Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
Anders Lundstrm, Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden

Design work can be driven from a variety of intentions, e.g. to serve users, to generate
profit, to explore a new concept, or to trigger reflection and debate. However, it is not
always clear how such intentions can be addressed concretely in education, and in
specific design domains, such as interaction design, they might easily get lost among
course content related to specific methods and technologies. In this paper, we discuss
how we have addressed design intentions in our advanced course in interaction design,
and also what we see as its main qualities in relation to more conventional course
structure in this area.

Interaction Design; Design Education; Design Intentions.

The acknowledgement of design judgment as a main trait of skillful designers is now
broadly established (see e.g. Nelson & Stolterman, 2003), and also regarded as a skill
which can and should be practiced in design education. In design schools, this skill is
taught for instance through design critique sessions (e.g. Reimer & Douglas, 2003),
through critical analysis of existing products and experiences (e.g. Bardzell, 2011), by
practicing methods for understanding people and usage (e.g. Dourish & Button, 1998),
and through reflective design work using various tools and materials (Schn, 1983). A
common aspect for almost all works in this area at some level concerns
methodological issues, and how to practically develop more grounded and reflective
approaches to design practice.
In this paper, we describe how we have addressed this challenge within our teaching
practice, by placing an increased focus on higher level intentions as a general theme in
one of our master level courses in interaction design. We will also reflect on our
experiences from running this course over a period of three years, along with the values
and challenges that emerged in our specific context, which in essence is a small studiobased design course taught in a school of engineering. While the foundations underlying
this work may already be embedded in knowledge practices, either on the web, in
established design practice, or within other similar courses, we recognize a need to
engage more specifically with these topics in relation to teaching and education within the
design research community.

There are many different frameworks and taxonomies for how design work could be
understood from a more methodological perspective. As an example from the domain of
interaction design, Dan Saffer (2009) has argued that there are five major approaches to
designing products: user centred-, activity centred-, data-driven-, systems-, and what is
sometimes referred to as genius design. These approaches should not be seen as
mutually exclusive, but rather serve the purpose of bringing light to the general
observation that successful design work can be executed in different ways. Depending on
the task, some approaches may be more suitable in a particular situation. A dilemma that


Saffer puts forward, is that user-centred design methods (UCD), which has been the most
actively proposed in HCI and interaction design education, may not always be the most
successful method when it comes to real product design cases. A secondary role of the
framework could also be to emphasise that user involvement can never substitute the
judgments and activities performed by skilled designers. Therefore, Saffers taxonomy
includes different methodological approaches, with UCD as one of many.
While the focus on methodological approaches is relevant to all design work, we will here
instead discuss design judgment within a landscape of different underlying purposes on a
more conceptual level, and how we have addressed this in our own educational practice.
A variety of models elaborate on what aspects might be considered from a certain
perspective, e.g. in terms of action and experience (Fernaeus, Tholander, & Jonsson,
2008), or from a perspective of materiality or form-giving (Vallgrda 2013; Gross, Bardzell,
& Bardzell, 2013). Other higher-level discussions has concerned the characterisation of
design itself, e.g. as the merging of Art, Science and Technology of Bauhaus (Findeli,
2001), or Nigel Cross definition of design as Discipline, as opposed to Science (Cross,
The work presented in this paper is heavily inspired by the four fields of design
articulated in an online article by Bruce and Stephanie Tharp (2009). This framework took
its starting point specifically in the profession of industrial design, but has in our case been
implemented for education in interaction design. The four fields comprises a taxonomy
for design work focused on different types of higher-level purposes, or intentions:

Commercial design: with the general intention to generate profit

Responsible design: intending to do good or serve the unserved
Experimental design: with focus on the process of learning and exploration
Discursive design: with a higher level goal to generate reflection and discussion

While these different intentions typically overlap in parts, the main argument put forward
by Tharp & Tharp was that articulating them could help designers seeing how intentions
might interplay with and sometimes even contradict one another. Thereby they could
guide discussions and potentially help judging the outcome of a design, although a
taxonomy such as this will naturally only articulate partial understandings of certain
The framework was also used to acknowledge the growing terminology of approaches
used within the design field. As put by Tharp & Tharp (2009):
Just try and make sense of the range of the terms floating around out there: usercentered design, eco-design, design for the other 90%, universal design,
sustainable design, interrogative design, task-centered design, reflective design,
design for well-being, critical design, speculative design, speculative re-design,
emotional design, socially-responsible design, green design, conceptual design,
concept design, slow design, dissident design, inclusive design, radical design,
design for need, environmental design, contextual design, and transformative
design. (page 1)
All these terms refer to aspects of importance to design practice, but that go beyond both
the type of product being produced (e.g. mobile, tangible, graphic), as well as specific
design methods. In addition, the academic discourse has been concerned with similar
terms as tools for understanding and shaping design practice, with concepts such as ludic
design (Gaver et al, 2004), design for ambiguity (Gaver, Beaver, & Benford, 2003),
translucency (Dourish & Button, 1998), seamfulness (Chalmers & Galani, 2004), among
others. It has even been argued that the development of such concepts, so called strong
concepts, is one of the main contributions of design-based research (Hk & Lwgren
With this as a starting point, we wanted to explore how the four fields could be used to


guide interaction design projects in a master level course at our university. We will give a
brief overview of the content and structure of the course, how we have implemented
themes and assignments, and a short analysis of how these have played out in practice
during the three years we have implemented this setup. We end with a brief discussion
based on reflections and learnings from these experiences, in relation to our expectations
and experiences from similar courses that use a more methodological course focus.

Case: Intentions in Interaction Design Education

There are many ways to structure interaction design education. A general challenge is to
develop a format that brings in more designerly values to an education that has
traditionally been grounded on engineering and social science. A common way in more
technically oriented contexts, e.g. in computer science schools such as ours, is to provide
themes or course modules based on different types of interaction technologies, e.g.
graphical interfaces, tangibles, mobile computing, sound and haptics. This is in many
ways a logical structure, since it allows students to focus deeply on different technologies
and thereby learn about the broad design space that each of these areas provide, which is
an important part of becoming a skilled interaction designer in a technical domain. These
activities are normally complemented with course content that focus more on theory and
exercises related to general methodological issues, such as conducting field studies,
engaging users in the design process, and methods for ideation, sketching, and working in
a team. However, since there are so many different approaches and settings for the
making of interactive systems, our experience is that it is often difficult to cover all the
relevant aspects in a structured manner. To address this challenge, focus in our advanced
interaction design course has not been on how to practically conduct design work, but
rather on how to develop and judge design as a central part of the design process, based
on its overarching design intentions.
The course has been offered in a similar format during the last three years, covering four
smaller design projects, each representing one of the abovementioned four fields. Each
of the four projects lasts 4 weeks and is conducted in pairs, with students working with a
different partner in each project. The course ends with a presentation of an individual
online portfolio, showcasing all four projects. Important to note is that we have had the
privilege to organise this course in an intimate studio format, with a limited number of 16
students, running at 50% study speed during 20 study weeks. This naturally allows a
structure heavily based on personal supervision, external study visits with the whole group,
and weekly design critique sessions. However, since countries and schools have different
teaching conditions, our focus in this paper will be on the conceptual content rather than
on specific practical arrangements.
It should also be noted that this is an advanced course in the subject, and the students
are therefore expected to already know how to independently drive an interaction design
process, i.e. knowing how to apply established methods for field studies, ideation, stateof-the-art analysis, user involvement, prototyping, and documentation in the form of video
and academic writing. The students are also expected to have an idea of the research
front in the field, and to be familiar with design issues related to different types of
interaction technologies. The focus of the course is thereby almost entirely focusing on
issues related to intentions and fundamental approaches to practical design work. Below
is an overview of the four themes as interpreted and implemented in our course.

Experimental or Exploratory Design

Experimental Design (or what might also be called exploratory design), refers to design
work where the main goal is not necessarily a finished product, based on readily defined
briefs with sketches, plans, or requirements. Its primary intention is instead to explore,
experiment, and discover within a chosen frame, for instance a specific technology or
technique, theme or concept. Typical examples reside within learning contexts and


academic projects following a research-through-design process (Zimmerman, Forlizzi, &

Evenson, 2007). Within technically fast paced domains, such interaction design, this is
also a relevant design approach outside of academia since emerging interaction
technologies, development tools, hardware platforms etc., constantly require new learning.
Experimental or exploratory design work may well result in complete products at a later
stage, but the primary intention is much more open and may even see value in design
failures (see e.g. Gaver, Bowers, Kerridge, Boucher, & Jarvis, 2009). Thus, these types
of design projects value the process almost as much as the resulting product and are
motivated and driven primarily by curiosity and an interest in learning.
In our course, this theme starts off with a design brief asking the students to explore a
topic, concept or technology beyond what they already know. Previous examples in our
case have been to design something based on exploring the functioning of a chosen
sensor of a smart phone, or to work hands on with e-textiles. In our latest course round,
students got a brief to explore new concepts for interaction at a newly set up museum of
dance. The task for the students was to explore possibilities around the general topic of
dance in the museum setting, along with testing out different possible technologies (see
Figure 1).

Figure 1. Conceptual designs on the experimental theme, from left to right: Strike a Pose Visitors are encourage to imitate dancers and thereby explore their own body image in a
playful manner. Design that attempts to catch bypassers attention and spur a curiosity to
visit the museum. Image recognition used in an app to identify artifacts and access richer
descriptions and other media connected to the artifact.
This rather specific brief worked well in this case, since the personnel at the museum
wanted input on what might be possible or not, rather than a solution. The students were
therefore not pressured to develop something fully working, but rather to explore
possibilities. The topic of dance in itself also seemed to force the students outside of their
own comfort zones and encouraged them to work hands-on with technologies that they
were less familiar with from beforehand. Resulting in a range of novel scenarios and
setups, including interaction contexts such as the street outside of the museum, visitors
waiting in line for the toilets, and the use of a medical stethoscope as an interaction device.
In addition, the students explored various ways of interacting in an exhibition space,
ranging from mobile applications to physical exhibits, combining experiences from other
museums and applying it to the topic of dance.
The staff at the museum, who had initially expected to see a presentation of eight different
types of mobile app-based solutions, were excited by the results, and are now considering
to implement several of the designs in some form. But the main outcome of the process
was to open up a design space, explore possibilities, and for all the involved partners to
learn something, which is also from an academic perspective an important purpose of
design work at large.

Commercial Design
Commercial design refers to design aimed at the real economic market. Economy is an
important component of any design work, so what the commercial intention adds is


primarily that the design itself gets grounded much more concretely on what might be
desirable on a market, as well as, how the business model of that product would take form
and in turn shape the design. The goal is thereby to create attractive, useful, and well
functioning products, but with design judgements focusing primarily on potentials for
commercial profit. In interaction design specifically, business models are often very deeply
intertwined with the design of the interactive product itself, as shown in examples such as
streaming media services, ad-sponsored mobile applications, open hardware licensing,
and a broad range of electronic currencies and interactive payment systems. Investigating
how such systems and models work is therefore a very relevant topic for interaction
design students.
In our course, we have let this theme stay as an open brief, placing much focus on the
process of ideation, discussion, and grounding design choices in existing use practices.
The general task has been to come up with a concept for an interactive product or service
that would have a potential of becoming a commercial success. The students are also
asked to make the business model a part of the interaction design and to deliver a
finished design (see figure 2), personas, realistic scenarios for interaction, and a
proposed plan for bringing the product to market. Core to this design challenge is to
develop concepts that are well grounded, in technological realities, be it in research or
what exists on the market.

Figure 2. Screen designs of commercial design concepts, from left to right: A concept that
aims to help customers at a furniture store figure out what furniture would fit in their car.
Tool for turning blogs into physical books. Conceptual design for families to stay in touch
and privately share pictures and videos.
Our impression is that this has been a tough challenge for the students, but they have
also shown much enthusiasm, and some have continued working on their ideas after the
project ended. The serious focus on business models and who might be ready to pay for a
particular product or service highlights the complex realities of interaction business. Being
able to discuss different types of business models and how each of them relate to
interaction design, is a topic that in our experience is often overlooked in ordinary
interaction design education. Ironically, this is core to any successful commercially viable
interaction design work, independent of other higher level intentions. Even systems
designed within other themes, also in research, have been brought to discussion here,
highlighting how the fields often overlap in interesting ways.

Responsible design
The concept of responsible design refers to design that place ethical and humanitarian
aspects at the forefront. May it be to design for people who are ignored by the market,
environmentally friendly products, or otherwise to counteract different types of social or
physical suffering (see e.g. Papanek 1972). While commercial products can and should
take such aspects into accounts, the orientation is different as the main measure for
success is here not framed in economical terms. Rather it is framed in terms of other
values, more in line with what has been referred to as worth (Cockton, 2006) or what
Batya Friedman refers to value in value-sensitive design.


Figure 3. Example screen designs from four passed projects, from left to right: Two
concepts exploring novel ways for foreigners to use public transport. Two solutions for
families with children and teenagers who alternate living with separated parents.
On this theme we let students select and redesign an existing system of their own choice,
and which they would argue being irresponsibly designed in its current form. The
definition of responsibility is then left open for the students to discuss, define and motivate,
with grounding in literature. Making students start with the existing situation to improve on
also reflects a typical interaction design practice, where you would only rarely start out
completely from scratch and spend a large part of the process at the ideation stage. This
have also resulted in a very broad variety of projects, ranging from adapting existing
services for people with special needs, to cater for more sustainable solutions, to
improving poorly working systems in general. This way, the brief also opened up for more
general discussions regarding different interpretations and perspectives on what is
actually meant by responsibility in design, and how it can be practically addressed.
In previous years we have given more narrow design briefs, e.g. to let students design
tools to help foreigners finding their ways through the public transport system in our city,
another year the brief concerned tools for children to manage the situation of living at
alternate places due to separated parents (see figure 3). What we valued in these two
design briefs were that they took a perspective of responsible design that focused on
ordinary issues where interaction design might actually enhance a currently complex
situation. In other projects in similar courses we explored more complex issues, e.g.
designing for alone-coming teenage refugees, which as such brought in a series of higher
level humanitarian and political matters that are difficult to address through the design of
interactive systems alone. Although these projects have been extremely interesting, we
found that the open briefs on this theme seems more beneficial in terms of keeping the
discussion focused on the overarching theme of responsible design.

Discursive and Critical Design

The fourth and final of the four fields concerns designs which might not necessarily be
oriented towards the market, but rather to trigger reflection and awareness around topics
worthy of discussion. Sometimes to make explicit a problematic or ironic issue of some
sort, directed towards the society at large or to a more specific community. Examples
include explicitly norm-critical or speculative designs, design fictions and provocations,
designs that might dwell over into the art scene and where primary measures of success
could be to get exhibited in respectable museum settings or to turn viral in social media.
Rather than mere art projects however, these projects are actively referring to current
design norms by focusing on utilitarian objects and function, while at the same time
carrying ideas and provoke thought beyond the utility of the artefacts themselves. Much
design work within the academic sphere belong in this group (perhaps most notably
Dunne & Rabys Critical Design). Tharp and Tharp (2009) describe critical design as just
one form of discursive design, but since critical design is a more well-known term in
interaction design literature, we like to highlight both terms here.
Interaction design includes many extremely well known examples on this theme,
stretching from gimmicky installations such as the Fun Theory experiments of Volkswagen,
to dark dystopian designs presented in science fiction, as well as a growing range of


examples presented in academia (e.g. Purpura, Schwanda, Williams, Stubler, & Sengers,
2011). Since this type of projects tend to achieve a very broad visibility and popularity, it is
reasonable to argue that educated interaction designers should have an informed
relationship towards these types of designs, even if it might not represent what most
designers get to work with for a living, or what most people will actually get to interact with.
Understanding the value of these designs requires an understanding of intentions as
beyond use and user experience.
However, although some of our students have been seriously excited about this theme, it
has also been the part of the course that most have struggled the hardest with. Parts of
this difficulty could be due to the brief, which we have let stay fairly general and open, i.e.
to articulate and re-think existing norms in interaction design, questioning some what is
might otherwise be taken for granted. This sometimes resulted in design ideas that were
found extremely interesting among the teachers, but that the students themselves
dispelled as silly and irrelevant even before they started the actual design. Our students
all have an engineering background, and working on a design challenge without a given
problem to solve require a slight shift in mindset from what they are used to, which might
also affect this experience.

Figure 4. Snapshots from three discursive design videos, from left to right: A concept that
applies current business models with augmented reality glasses and critiques how it could
intercept our perception of the world. Conceptual design playing with gender roles and lets
girls drink and select clothes for their boyfriends in a game like and social media inspired
fashion. A physical matching game based on ambiguous design terminology.
Parts of the difficulties that we have experienced could also be that we on this theme have
let the students present their designs in the format of video (see Figure 4 for some
snapshots), which in itself has been a new medium of expression to some of the students.
Perhaps influenced by the format, many groups chose to present scenarios of what could
go wrong, using the storytelling genre of dystopian science fiction. Although this is indeed
a perfect way of bringing up discursive matters in the field, our experience has been that
the actual interaction designs sometimes lacked a clear focus in favour of higher-level
narratives. In other cases, the students focused entirely on the humorous aspects of their
scenarios, using irony to the point that the discursive message became difficult for an
outside person to decode. In some cases the students were even reluctant to include their
videos in their public online portfolios, which was a requirement for passing the course.
Although mixing the theme of discursive design with video scenarios was successful in
most cases, it also added extra layers of complexity as it takes time, skill and effort to
make a video. To us, the most interesting part of this theme has concerned discussions
around existing examples and literature, and to engage students with strong engineering
identities in reflections around more conceptual artistic values.

The work presented here is heavily influenced by the four fields of design, as defined and
proposed by Tharp and Tharp (2009). There are surely many other concepts that also
could be valuable for the purpose of articulating the intentions in educational contexts


such as ours. For instance, in our specific case it might be relevant to place more
emphasis on topics and terminologies that are specific to the area of interaction design.
However, we find that the four fields have worked as a solid enough base for structuring
our course.
In our experience, the four fields have shown to at least to some extent help design
students to better understand and focus their projects (Tharp & Tharp 2009). First,
commercial profit, as an intention commonly overlooked in academic design contexts,
proved to spur deep discussions and thereby ensure quality of education in terms of the
broad spectrum of issues and solutions connected to designing something commercially
viable. Second, by shifting the intentions towards responsible design, students were given
the opportunity to discuss and engage with what it really means to be responsible in
design projects, discussions that have often turned out incredibly interesting. Third, the
theme of experimental design have proven to be a fruitful tool to trigger deep
technological engagement and playful exploration among all students. Rather than
working with tools that they already know, which easily gets the case when asking
students to deliver working prototypes, the experimental theme invited students to
discover possibilities that they might not know of yet. Interestingly, the theme of discursive
design has turned out as one of the more problematic themes in the context of our
education. Surely, producing a clever and to the point discursive design can be difficult,
and the process may not be as straightforward as to have commercial, responsible or
experimental intentions. Yet, since it is such an important field in research and art
contexts, and also in terms keeping a reflective stance towards innovation, we will
continue our struggle on this topic with our students.
Most clearly, the framework has been effective in structuring our education so that it
ensures a broader range of design challenges. Without such a structure, our design briefs
and projects have previously tended to get defined in a more ad hoc fashion, based on
what seem relevant in terms of scope, technology, and ongoing research projects. While
that in itself is not necessarily a problem, it might result in student projects unintentionally
ending up very similar in character, with the risk of missing important points for
discussions or aspects of value in a design. The structure of the four fields has also
worked as a useful frame for engaging collaborations between students, researchers and
partners in industry, as we now know well beforehand what types of projects and
perspectives we are looking for.
Apart from being a help in structuring the course as such and to provide a rich variety of
projects, we feel that the four themes help channelling student focus to concentrate on
what is most important for a given design brief. The structure also ensures that several
groups work on different projects but with similar higher-level intentions, thereby also
facilitating a breadth within each theme as students get to dig deeper into the different
problems and areas for investigation.
Another experience from this thematic format has to do with the structure of intellectual
discussions in the classroom. Seeing that interaction design can be driven by different
high-level intentions means that students need to acknowledge that success can be
measured in several different ways, and that a design task is not always as
straightforward as solving a technical or conceptual problem. This brings up interesting
questions to discussion, regarding what we value and take for granted as desired, good
quality, or successful in a specific design process.
The extent to which the students have been willing to discuss such matters is in our case
obviously affected by the intimate course size, but it also seem heavily influenced by the
varying focus of the four themes, which helped guiding discussions in new interesting
ways. The commercial theme brings focus to personal experiences of products, trends,
and markets. The experimental theme brings more focus to what is known about research
and new technologies. The responsible design theme brings in aspects of ethics and how


to approach people and their values. Finally, the discursive theme brings to debate a
discussion around current design norms and political perspectives around the field as a
whole. Without the four themes, these discussions would, again, probably become
structured in a much more ad hoc fashion, grounded much more in specific research
interests of the teachers, or topics brought up freely by the students. This is not to say that
such discussions would necessarily be any less interesting, but probably less varied and
dynamic. The themes thereby open for reflections around the relationship between
education and research, and how we can develop this relationship so that research and
education could benefit as naturally as possible from each other.
Relevant to our specific experience is also that the students that we work with have
undergone a long education that has a strong thread of classical sciences and
engineering, in contrast to design students with more artistic backgrounds. In comparison
to traditional engineering education, we believe that discursive design especially might
have a similar role as mathematics traditionally has had, namely, as an intellectual
exercise with qualities to expand thought. Here, instead of practicing logical thinking,
students are confronted with the challenge of engaging in more conceptual design
thinking. From this perspective of practicing thought, discursive or critical design could be
argued to deserve a strong and natural place in design education, just because it is
difficult and entails so many conceptual challenges.
Finally, our approach to the four themes have been slightly different each year, and we
see many potential ways that this could be structured differently. One interesting approach,
which we have not yet tested, is to connect the four themes more concretely, e.g. by
having the same overarching design brief stretched over the entire course and then
approached using the four intentions.

Concluding Remarks
In this paper we have discussed our explicit focus on design intentions in the last three
instances of an advanced course in interaction design, and what we see as its main
qualities. The work is inspired by a framework that suggests that design is normally driven
by one of four major types of intentions: to serve users, to generate profit, to learn, or to
trigger reflection and debate. In general, the course structure seem appreciated by the
students, and the most positive expressions has concerned the amount of time spent on
reasoning and talking about complicated issues. Although the framework was presented
as a resource for practicing industrial designers, it seems to have some value also in the
education of interaction design, and probably in other design fields as well. In particular,
we see clearly how this approach aids the student in mapping the landscape of underlying
intentions, something that in turn helps to shape and guide their design processes.
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Ylva Fernaeus
Associate Professor in Interaction Design at KTH and researcher at the Mobile Life centre.
Co-responsible for the master program in HCI as well as for the advanced courses in
Interaction Design at the school, including the course discussed in this paper. General
research focus is on crafting within interaction design and new creative practices around
advanced interactive technology, as well as interaction design education. I have been in
charge of the initial structuring the course, but all writing and analysis has been done in
close collaboration with my co-author.

Anders Lundstrm
I am a PhD student in Interaction Design at KTH with a background as Interaction
Designer. In my PhD work I focus on energy and mobility in the practice of driving within
the domain of electric cars. I have been involved in the teaching of our Interaction Design
students at various levels at our school. In the course discussed in this paper I have been
involved in the last course round but have followed and discussed the course format
during all three years of relevance to this paper. The analysis and writing has been done
in close collaboration with the main author of this paper.


Envisioning a Better Design Education: How Language Can

Invite or Discourage Collaboration
Angela L. Dow, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids,
Michigan, USA
Susanna Kelly Engbers, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand
Rapids, Michigan, USA

The possibilities for collaboration among faculty teaching in various disciplines in an art and
design college are often limited by the language we use to analyze, create, and discuss our
work. Although there may, in fact, be a great deal of overlap, our language sometimes obscures
rather than clarifies the possibility of productive and fruitful overlap. Our paperitself the fruit of
a collaboration between a professor of graphic design and a professor of Englishdiscusses
the ways in which various constituent groups at our college talk about visuals (e.g., logos,
advertisements, interiors, photographs, illustrations, etc), noting the ways in which our language
limits cross-disciplinary critique and collaboration and suggesting ways in which it might be
more inclusive and encouraging of both. We share the results of our surveys and interviews
with members of our faculty from diverse disciplines in design, fine art, art history, art education,
and general education. Using the rhetorical triangle as a tool, we then consider the implications
that our results have for improving interdisciplinary dialogue among faculty at the college as well
as for improving our students educational experiences across the curriculum so that we may
better prepare them for an increasingly collaborative work environment and world.

Design Education, Rhetoric, Collaboration, Interdisciplinarity, Language

The authors of this paper are faculty members at a small college in the Midwest United States
offering undergraduate BFA and BS degrees in 17 art and design disciplines, as well as an MFA
in four concentrations and a Masters of Art Education. Coming from the fields of Graphic Design
and Rhetoric and Composition, we have worked on various committees together to help to
shape the college and its curriculum and have had many discussions and even big debates
over the years about what we teach, how we teach, and the commonalities and differences
between our two disciplines as well as among others across the college.
One theme that has emerged over the course of these conversations was the different ways in
which each discipline uses language to discuss, analyze, apply, or create visual objects. After
all, most instructors from across our institutionwhether they teach graphic design, painting,
photography, art history, interior design, visual rhetoric, aesthetics, etcspend a great deal of
time talking about visuals. That led us to wonder: Even though all major disciplines at our
institution engage with visual objects, does the fact that we all have our own discipline-specific
vocabulary stand in the way of valuable experiences in cross-disciplinary collaboration among
both students and faculty?


The Emphasis on Collaboration at our College

Institutionally, our college believes in collaboration and goes so far as to reference it in our
mission, vision, and core values statements. The college has supported the development of
courses and even a standalone program around the ideal of multiple disciplines working
together to solve complex problems and create innovative solutions through art and design. Our
mission states that we provide an innovative, collaborative education, and part of our vision
statement is that we be recognized for encouragement of, and opportunity for, collaboration
across disciplines and throughout the college. In our conversations, however, we found this
ideal of collaboration to be the exception rather than the rule, and we wondered what factors
had hindered cross-disciplinary collaborationamong studio majors and, particularly, between
studio and general education coursesas well as what factors might invite collaboration more
As a professor of graphic design, who has had experience running interdisciplinary projects over
the years and who researched interdisciplinary collaboration extensively for her graduate thesis
ten years ago, Dow has learned and seen firsthand that one of the keys to effective
collaboration is communication, and in her experience, this is the main area in which students,
and even faculty, struggle. We often havent been taught how to collaborate or communicate
with other disciplines, nor have we been encouraged to get outside of our disciplines to work
with other artists and designers and learn how to communicate better through direct experience.
One example of this came up in a survey of graphic design and interior design students that
Dow conducted after the students had completed an assigned interdisciplinary project. Students
that were placed in cross-disciplinary teams were asked what they felt were the worst things
about the project, and the most common answers were unreliable group members, wasted time,
and miscommunication.
And as a faculty member in rhetoric and composition, Engbers is always working in classrooms
that are collaborative experiences, because her classes include students from many majors.
So throughout the ten years she has been teaching at the college, she has sought ways to bring
students into fuller and richer conversations with one another. In any of the classes that she
teacheswhether its writing, visual rhetoric, or literatureshe tries to find common ground
through the ideas, images, and activities used. She attempts to bring students together in
conversations that ask them to draw from their disciplinary expertise and apply it to a wider
conversation about visual texts, narratives, or other suitable areas of common inquiry for artists
and designers of various sorts. But Engbers frequently wonders how much of what she tries to
do to support collaboration actually follows students out the doors of my classroom and
influences the rest of their academic lives. Further, how can we encourage more collaboration
among the disciplines once theyre no longer trapped in the same classroom?

Support for Collaboration

The authors attempts at encouraging collaboration are supported by recommendations by U.S.
accrediting agencies as well; in particular, the North American Schools of Art and Design
(NASAD) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) both include statements on the value of
collaboration, particularly as it relates to general education. NASAD recommends that General
Studies programs teach students to respect, understand, and evaluate work in a variety of
disciplines and to have an understanding of and experience in art forms other than the visual
arts and design. In addition, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
essential learning outcomes note the need for skill in collaboration to help prepare students for
21st-century challenges. The AAC&U suggests that essential learning outcomes should include
synthesis and advanced accomplishment across generalized and specialized studies and
intellectual and practical skills such as teamwork and problem solving. Noble goals indeed, but


the realistic truth is that too often general education courses end up being ghettoized, devalued
as mere hoops through which to jump and distractions from students real work in their major
disciplines. With this project, the authors hope to find ways to help faculty and students see the
possibilities for productive collaboration and synthesis among all the parts of their education
general education, art history, and their art/design studio work. Faculty in general education
want to see this collaboration because, naturally, we want our students to appreciate the value
of the material that wein English, history, math, the social sciences, and so onteach them
and its real and vital relationships with their studio majors.
And certainly art and design faculty at the college also value this skill of getting students to think
outside of their own experiences and disciplines. The well-known American design magazine
Metropoliss 2004 Survey of North American design schools, which was focused on
interdisciplinary collaboration, illustrates this, as most faculty surveyed said that they believed
collaboration was an essential skill for any complex assignment requiring a deep understanding
of environmental sustainability, universal access, craft and technology, and sensitivity to local
cultures in a global market. In fact, 71% of teachers surveyed said that they felt that
interdepartmental collaborations were an important part of their curriculum. Conversely, when
asked how often they initiate collaborations with other design departments, 50% of design
professors said sometimes, 28% said never, and only the minority, 22%, said they initiated
collaboration on a regular basis (Szenasy, 2004).
In that same article, when asked to describe an interdepartmental collaborative project and to
comment on whether or not it was fruitful, one student said, There was a huge learning curve
for everyone at the outset because we couldnt communicate, our vocabularies and experiences
were too specialized. The author of the article also claimed that students, when asked, spoke
freely about the difficulties of collaboration and the obstacles of language use, referring to the
fact that every discipline has its own jargon.
It seems that we all crave greater collaboration; that desire itself is not a big debate. But how
we get to that improved collaboration is the subject of debate. With that question in mind, we
decided to use the common practice of visualization as a starting point, knowing that every
major program at our college used or discussed this practice of talking about visuals in some
way, and that selected general education courses did so as well. We hoped to explore the ways
in which the language of visualization might help our students to engage with one another
through meaningful collaborative experiences.

Defining Discipline-Specific Visual Language

To find out how our colleagues spoke about visuals in their classrooms, we sent an email to the
entire college faculty explaining that we were investigating the ways in which the colleges
faculty and our students used language when creating, applying, analyzing, or discussing
visuals. We explained that we were curious to know the ways in which our use of terminology
connected and/or divided us and gave them the following three questions:


Please list the kinds of visual objects/artifacts that your students create, choose and
apply, analyze, and discuss in your class(es).
When you have students look at a visual object for the purpose of analysis/learning
and/or application, what are some of the questions you encourage students to
consider or what kinds of things do you want them to notice? (Perhaps you could tell
us the top 3-5 things?)
What are some key phrases or words associated with visual analysis and/or


We received responses from about a dozen faculty from a range of disciplines including art
history, drawing, visual rhetoric, graphic design, interior design, painting, and photography, to
name a number. We observed a number of common threads in the responses. To cite just a
few: many faculty noted the need to have students share their first impressions or
visceral/emotional impressions upon first seeing a visual object. Many focused on the need to
discuss the materials used to create the visual object under scrutiny and the design or artistic
principles evidenced by it, such as scale, materiality, line, color, and so on. Many faculty cited
the need to discuss the users/viewers/audiences experience. And finally most respondents
noted that they would want students spending time understanding or investing the images
contexthistorical, geographical, cultural, artistic, and so on (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Selected words faculty from various disciplines used to discuss visuals.

Using Language for a Specific Visual Image

Although we observed some common themes and language, we theorized that we could,
perhaps, get even more revealing responses if we had faculty respond to a common visual


image. We chose this image (see Figure 2) of the Seattle Public Library, in Seattle,
Washington, because we thought it was a provocative image but not one that any faculty
member would necessarily be accustomed to showing in his or her classes.

Figure 2: Seattle Public Library, Seattle, Washington, USA (photo:

We asked faculty whether they would be able to use this image fruitfully to lead discussion in
their classes. We asked What analysis or questions could you engage in with this visual
image? What would you point out to students? What could you want them to notice/ask? (Even
if you are critical of this image/place, can you think of ways to engage students in a discussion
of some of its features that would--perhaps--relate to the general content/focus of your
course?) We asked faculty to set aside what they might already know about the place, if
anything, in order to reduce the number of very similar responses on the buildings contextual
details, since those kinds of details were not our primary area of research interest.
We received responses from another dozen or so people in a similar variety of disciplines, many
of whom we heard from in the first round of questions. And as we studied the responses
without even speaking to each other firstwe both observed four categories of comments
namely, comments about context, audience, maker, and the object itself.
First, regarding context, an art historian said: I would place the image into a period context, at
the least note that it was done recently, say, and then, presuming the class has some
background, ask what stylistic evidence is there to mark it as a "post-post-modern work (or even
just plain old post-modern). An interior designer said that she would discuss the buildings


context in a city, with the street, with humans, with the neighboring buildings, and so on. And
drawing faculty member said that she would ask students about What makes this structure
unusual in relation to other buildings. Similar kinds of responses were echoed by almost every
other respondent.
Regarding audience, a digital media professor said that he would ask students to find 2-5
words to describe how they think the building would make them feel if they were to walk up to it
from across the street in anticipation of going inside. An industrial design professor said that he
would ask them to pick a specific market (or target consumer group) that they feel would be
attracted to this visual theme. A faculty member who teaches visual rhetoric said that he would
ask students what visually attracts you about the place? What about the design makes it
inviting, or might perhaps turn some people off. Most faculty made some reference to having
students share their own first, visceral, or emotional responses to the place.
Next, regarding comments about the maker, a photography professornaturally responding
more to the photo than the building as the primary object of analysissaid that she would ask
students what they thought the purpose of the photo was, what the photographer wanted to
communicate. Another faculty member who teaches visual rhetoric as well as aesthetics said
that he would ask students to consider if they believe[d] [that] the architect intended to direct
[their] experience of the work in a particular way. Other faculty talked not so much about the
maker and his/her intentions but instead about the personality of the building. For example, a
visual rhetoric faculty member said that she would talk about how ethos (the character of the
speaker/maker) is expressed in the design and execution of the building. And an industrial
design faculty member said that he would ask whether the building presented a masculine
theme? Does it communicate ruggedness? Durability? Safety? Aggressiveness?
(Interestingly, discussion of the maker was clearly the least represented element of the four we
Finally, many faculty discussed the formal properties of the object itself. Nearly all of the
respondents said that they would discuss the buildings use of line, scale, pattern, use of
materials, scale, color. For example, an art history professor said that she would have students
discuss [w]hat is contemporary about its form, materials, use of line, color, scale. An interior
design professor said First, I'd ask the students to identify the elements and principles of
design they see (e.g., repetition, form, pattern, scale...). A graphic design faculty noted that he
would have students notice details of the buildings shape, scale, geometric angle[s], as well as
its materials (e.g., glass, metal, landscaping), among other formal properties that he listed.
Notable about theseand mostof the responses from faculty is that they noted this formal
properties first (or, at least, very early) in their responses, indicating the value they place on this
aspect of the analytical process.

Mapping the Conversations

We considered those four elements and looked at them as separate categories (see Figure 3),


Figure 3: The categories created to reflect faculty responses.

and we realized that they made a very natural fit with various and more inter-related models of
verbal (written and/or oral) communication as they have been presented visually by
communications scholars over the past century or so. Examples of such visual maps abound,
but some of the most notable include the Shannon-Weaver 1949 Mathematical Model, which is
a linear model that leads a message from an information source to an encoder, a channel, a
decoder, then a destination; Schramms 1954 Model of Communication, which is a circular
model that also maps a message from an encoder to a decoder; and structural linguist Roman
Jakobsons 1960 model of interpersonal verbal communication, which considers the context,
contact, addresser, and addressee of a message in an inter-connected manner, to cite just
three. To examine the complexities of each model would beand has beenthe subject of
other articles.
We were interested to find a workable visual model that would allow us to map our findings
because we were beginning to see the possibilities for showing our colleagues and students
visually the points of intersection among our academic and studio disciplines. We theorized that
if we could present these points of overlap visually, we could help faculty and students think
about ways to transfer concepts and ideas from one realm to another and, thus, enhance
understanding among disciplines and promote better conversations and collaboration.
To present our findings visually, we liked an older and simpler model thatwhile it surely does
not capture the detail of these modelsdoes succeed in mapping key aspects of the
communications process that we see replicated in our colleagues discussions of visuals. The
simplicity of this model, in other words, suits our purpose (see Figure 4).


Figure 4: The Rhetorical Triangle

Our model is one with roots in Aristotelian rhetoric. James Kinneavy, well-known rhetorician and
author of A Theory of Discourse (1971) among many other works, developed an image (similar
to the one presented here) that could be used as a visual metaphor for the so-called rhetorical
situation (or communication situation). It presented visually the relationship between writer,
audience, and text as well as the surrounding context. It points to the ways in which writer,
audience, and text (or creator, viewer, and object, to recast it in terms more appropriate to visual
objects) necessarily affect one another and shape the objects creation and reception. For
example, a speech on gun control (a text) is necessarily different (either in its creation or its
reception) when given to gun owners than when presented to peace activists (audience). And a
monument designed by Maya Lin (writer/creator), for example, for a specific occasion also
reads differently to viewers than one designed by an artist unknown to the art world, freshly
graduated from college. It is an image that now appears commonly in many texts on the study of
composition and rhetoric; students in writing and speech classes at both the high school and
colleges levels would likely see this image reproduced quite frequently. The four major elements
could also be recast as: creator/encoder/author, audience/decoder/reader, text/object, and
context. We embraced the simplicity of this model because, although it doesnt get into the fine
details of the communications process, it does help us point to common threads that unite our
various inquiries and practices of written, oral, and visual communication (see Figure 5).


Figure 5: The rhetorical triangle with key words from faculty responses integrated.
We certainly do appreciate that discipline-specific language is vitally important to the individual
majors; interior designers, painters, art historians, graphic designers, and so on, have disciplinespecific vocabulary, history, and concepts that necessarily employ as part of their developed
intellectual and practice expertise. We dont intend to diminish the need for that specialized
discourse. Nor do we intend to put forth a prescriptive document or image of a common
language that is necessary to collaborate. Rather, we hope that this kind of visual map might
simply illuminate some of the points of intersection among our disciplineswhether they be
design, fine art, art history, or general education courses such as writing, visual rhetoric,
aesthetics, and so on.

Were theorizing that, for our next step, if we can offer this visual tool to a few of our colleagues
in various disciplines, we can learn (a) what comments they have on it, and (b) how students
might start to use it to transfer knowledge and skills (and an understanding of inter-relatedness)
between classes. We expect that once our colleagues see this map, they may have suggestions
for how it could be revised and improved. Were eager for that kind of criticism. If many of them
would actually contribute to the writing and rewriting of this visual map, then there would
naturally be more ownership of it and, correspondingly, more engagement with it and use of it.
In sum, we hope that a visual map like this one might serve first to spark conversationsand
even big debatesamong faculty as to the points of connection as well as key distinctions
among disciplines. We are mindful of the need to do this in a positive and encouraging spirit to
minimize any perceptions that were preaching to our colleagues or overlooking key and
important distinctions that define their disciplines. From those conversations, our hope is to
create positive connections and conversations among faculty, which in turn may lead to them


thinking more about how to effectively collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines and, in
turn, how to help their students cross boundaries as well.
One specific result we hope to see is that students would be better equipped to transfer learning
from class to classboth within and across disciplines. If students see faculty collaborating and
creating connections between the disciplines and then encouraging student to do so as well,
then students will surely learn better the value of all of the parts of their college education
including their general education. As a result, they will better equipped to collaborate with others
outside of their disciplines once they reach the workplace, which in turn will make them a more
valuable asset to organizations seeking to innovate and succeed in our widely connected global

Jakobson, Roman. (1960). Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics. In Thomas A.
Sebeok, Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 350-77.
Kinneavy, James (1971). A theory of discourse: The aims of discourse. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall.
Schramm, Wilbur (1954). How Communication Works. In The Process and Effects of
Communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. 3-26.
Szenasy, S. (2004, August/September). School Survey: 2004. Metropolis. August/September
2004, 88-91.
Weaver, Warren and Claude Elwood Shannon (1963). The Mathematical Theory of
Communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Susanna Kelly Engbers
Susanna Kelly Engbers, Ph.D., is Professor of English and chair of the General Education
program at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Grand Rapids,
Michigan, USA. She teaches courses in rhetoric, writing, and literature, and her research
focuses on rhetorical strategies of nineteenth-century American suffragists as well as the
intersections of visual rhetoric and design. Her work has been published in Rhetoric Society
Quarterly, the College English Association Forum, and most recently in Art, Design, and
Communication in Higher Education (forthcoming).
Angela L. Dow
Angela L. Dow, M.Ed., is Professor of Graphic Design at Kendall College of Art and Design of
Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. She served as Graphic Design
program chair from 2001 to 2010. She has led a number of collaborative projects with other
design disciplines at Kendall and co-developed a four-course concentration in Design and
Innovation Management. Angela serves as a consultant evaluator for the Higher Learning
Commission and has also served as President of the Board of Directors for the American
Advertising Federation of West Michigan and as Mentorship Chair on the Board of the AIGA
West Michigan.


Framing behaviours in novice

interaction designers
Nicole Lotz,, The Open University, UK
Helen Sharp, The Open University, UK
Mark Woodroffe, The Open University, UK
Richard Blyth, The Open University, UK
Dino Rajah, Botho University, Botswana
Turugare Ranganai, Botho University, Botswana

Some recent findings with expert designers relate problemsolution co-evolution and
analogy use to framing practices. We wanted to understand if novices also use coevolution and analogies to frame their thinking. Furthermore we wanted to see if there
are any differences across cultures. The paper reports an analysis of data gained from
protocol studies with novice interaction designers in the UK and Botswana. Novice
interaction designers in the UK and Botswana show some similarities in framing
behaviours using co-evolution and opening analogies to develop metaphorical themes in
framing. But within these observations we also found differences across the cohorts. The
implications are discussed in the light of adopting appropriate design pedagogy for
novices in different cultures.

Co-evolution, framing, analogy, design novices, culture

Two related aspects of expert designer behaviour have attracted increased attention
from researchers: framing and co-evolution of problem and solution. During framing,
designers create a particular view on the design problem. Cross wrote: designers
appear to explore the problem space from a particular perspective in order to frame the
problem in a way that stimulates and pre-structures the emergence of design concepts.
(Cross, 2007 p. 94). The way designers frame a problem implies certain early solutions.
Several design researchers have found that problems and solutions co-evolve over time
(e.g. Maher, 1996, Dorst & Cross, 2001), and that there are two types of episode in this
behaviour: parallel co-evolution of problem and solution, and bridge building between
these two spaces. The first type of episode involves a progression of parallel thought in
both solution and problem spaces. In the second, intermediate solutions talk back to the
designer to help understand and frame the problem. The talk back situation is
understood as a shift in focus between problem and solution spaces (Dorst & Cross,


2001). It can also be understood as a bridge being built between the two spaces.
Bridges can be built in both directions. Bridges seem to be built to reconsider the
suitability of the current frame and to devise a new solution if the original solution does
not satisfy the evolving problem conceptualization. Parallel episodes seem to progress
solution and problem criteria without major shifts in either space. Other than this, little is
known about the different functions that parallel co-evolution and bridges between these
spaces play in the development of a design solution. What we do know is that problem
solution co-evolution as a whole helps experts to frame their design thinking.
Building on this seminal work in problemsolution co-evolution and framing, a new
intensification in research around this topic has emerged. Recent studies look at expert
designers use of framing strategies. Dorst (2011) argues that the activity of framing
open and complex design problems is at the heart of design thinking. Experienced
designers can be seen to engage with a novel problem situation by searching for the
central paradox, asking themselves what it is that makes the problem so hard to solve.
They only start working toward a solution once the nature of the core paradox has been
established to their satisfaction. (Dorst, 2011, p. 527).
Dorst and Tomkin (2011) then found that metaphorical themes act as bridges between
problems and solutions in a co-evolution process. A theme is a central metaphor, which
creates a rich mental image and steers the designers thinking about the situation in a
particular direction. They are neither problem nor solution but neutral ground between
problem and solution. The neutral ground seems to be the bridge between problems and
Similar to the idea of a metaphorical theme in framing, Wiltschnig, Christensen and Ball
(2013) found independently that analogical reasoning is linked to co-evolution. Analogies
occur more frequently in problemsolution co-evolution episode than outside of coevolution episodes in expert designing. Metaphorical themes and analogies seems to be
core drivers for framing experts design thinking. However, little is known about analogy
use in either parallel co-evolution or bridging. Wiltschnig et als analysis didnt focus on
the distinction between parallel and bridging co-evolution episodes.
In previous work we have made this distinction and could demonstrate how interaction
design novices in the UK and Botswana use problemsolution co-evolution in the sense
Maher (1994), and Dorst & Cross (2001) have observed in experts (Lotz, Sharp,
Woodroffe, Rajah & Ranganai, 2013). We have also identified a new type of co-evolution
in novices from Botswana, in which co-evolution does not start from a detailed
decomposition of the problem. Instead, a solution is used to first co-evolve both spaces
in parallel before bridges are built between those spaces. Wiltschnig et al (2013) have
observed a similar change in directionality (solution attempts spark off the analysis of
requirements and possible changes to those requirements (p. 529)) in expert designers
Dorst and Tomkin (2011) have argued that understanding framing in more detail is
desirable in the study of radical innovation. We believe that understanding framing in
novices is also desirable to study and improve design education. Almendra and
Christianns (2011) found that students had difficulty with framing their designing. Also,
Lindner (2011) has shown that helping students to frame problems leads to more diverse
solutions. This paper investigates framing behaviour in novice interaction designers.
Specifically, we examine how novice interaction designers in the UK and Botswana use
analogy and metaphorical themes in co-evolution and framing. Two questions are
addressed here:


1. How do novices in the UK and Botswana frame interaction designs?

2. How are analogy, co-evolution and metaphorical theme used in framing designs in
Based on our findings, the paper discuses some implications for design pedagogy in
both settings.

The Setting and the Module
The research built on a five-year teaching partnership between the Open University in
the UK and Botho University in Botswana. The two cohorts of participants studied the
same self-contained module, called Fundamentals of Interaction Design, consisting of
a main textbook (Sharp, Rogers, & Preece, 2007) and wrap-around materials. Both
cohorts were given exactly the same materials, the same study path, and the same

Protocol Study
The protocol study sessions were run just after the students had completed the modules
design assignment. Each session lasted about 2 hours, and was structured as follows:
introduction, warm-up activity, main study task (lasting about an hour), design
presentation to a facilitator. Materials provided were: module books, design method
summaries (usability and user experience goals, scenarios, storyboards, card-based
prototypes and interface sketches), paper, pencils, refreshments, and a participant
booklet each. The participant booklet contained: study background, consent form, warmup activity (Towers of Hanoi), and design brief. The design brief described the problem
and implications around forgetting to take medication and asked students to design an
interactive product that will help ensure sick people living at home take the right
medication at the right time.
The sessions were recorded using audio and video equipment, and a facilitator was
present in the room throughout.

Data Collection
Data collection was adjusted to the way students in each location would usually work.
Data collection in Botswana used constructive interaction, i.e. students were paired
(OMalley Draper, & Riley, 1985). Constructive interaction helps overcome problems of
concurrent verbalization including silence and inhibition; in addition, students in
Botswana usually worked together. We decided against using think-aloud in Botswana
because of the possible cultural influence in concurrent protocols reported by
Clemmensen, Hertzum, Hornbaek, Shi, & Yammiyavar (2008). Participants were allowed
to choose a preferred local language. Eleven sessions were conducted in Setswana and
two in Kalanga. The participant booklet was translated, and local staff members
facilitated the sessions.
In the UK, participants used the think-aloud technique and worked alone. A facilitator
was present throughout the session. To maintain consistency, facilitators in both
countries worked from a common guide. In Botswana, 30 participants were chosen from
70 volunteers, making 15 sessions. Two sessions were not usable because the


participants were too quiet. In the UK, 7 participants were recruited. One session was
not usable.

Data Analysis
The transcripts were analysed using a modified and extended version of Valkenburg and
Dorst (1998)s notation to identify the processes in Schn (1983)s design and reflection
cycle: naming, framing, moving and reflecting. The extended version includes signature
frame matrices to more clearly identify frames (Blyth, Lotz, Sharp, Woodroffe, Rajah &
Ranganai, 2012) and a more detailed notation that highlights the distinction between
thinking in the problem space and in the solution space (Lotz at al, 2013). The notation
allows visualising exactly when problem and solution space co-evolve in parallel and
when bridges between the spaces are built. We also coded the use of analogies
(Christensen & Schunn, 2007). An analogy helps to transfer elements from the familiar
(a source) to use it in constructing a novel idea. Ideas can be transferred from similar
problems or solutions to the current situation. The coding was completed by two
researchers independently and challenged by two others on a regular basis. This
produced 21 annotated transcripts, 6 from the UK and 13 from Botswana.
Based on these detailed annotations we extracted all episodes that showed parallel coevolution and bridging within and outside of a frame. We split co-evolution into two
separate types of episode: parallel co-evolution and bridging between problem and
solution spaces. We also tabulated analogies that occur within and outside of frames,
and within and outside of co-evolution episodes. In addition to this, and in line with Dorst
and Tomkins (2011) definition of themes, we summarised the main theme for each coevolution episode and analogy. While the frame column is a representative word,
shorthand for talking about the frame, the metaphorical theme column gives a
description of both the problem criteria and solution ideas that frame the designers
thinking. An exemplar table for Botswana pair 8 with all the extracted episodes is shown
below in Table 1. Each row in the table 1 represents one unit of analysis.
Table 1 Episodes of co-evolution and analogy use in the framing behaviour of pair 8. A
blank cell indicates non-occurrence. P = problem, S = solution. Bridges can go from
Problem to Solution (P S ) or reverse S P).
Pair 8:
8: 5 - 18


Patients with AIDS

Analogy S, P

8: 19


Caring for patients

with AIDS

Bottle Feeding (P)

Mobile phone
alarm (S)

8: 70 97


using an alarm

8: 98 113


Complexity of drug

8: 115


Flexibility for a
variety of

8: 224 232


Flexible for various



Parallel coevolution

Anti Retro Viral (P)


Mother (P)
Caregiver (P)
Watch (S)
Auto off Alarm (S)
All people (P)
Disability (P)
Alarm (S)

Phone (S)


All stakeholders
Phone (S)
Text (S)
Voice (S)
Nurse (P)
setting (S)

Deaf (P)
Text (S)
8: 233 237




Finally the individual tables were compiled into one overview table for each cohort the
UK and Botswana as shown in Tables 2 and 3. Through this analysis we were looking
for novice framing practices in both locations and trying to understand the role of
analogies and co-evolution episodes in novices framing behaviour.

Our main findings are presented in Tables 2 and 3. Column 1 shows the participant or
pair number, column 2 displays the overarching theme that is developed and column 3
shows the frames and their names. Column 4 describes several details about the
analogies used. To further investigate relationships between co-evolution and analogy
use within framing, we have divided it into 7 sub-columns: the name of the analogy;
whether a solution (S) or problem (P) analogy was used; whether the analogy was used
within a frame (F); whether the analogy opened the frame (O); whether the analogy
occurred during a co-evolution episode (C); and whether it occurred during a bridge
building episode (B). Opening a frame means that an analogy was the starting thought
around which the thinking was focussed and framed.
Column 5 counts the numbers of parallel co-evolution episodes, and column 6 counts
the number of bridge building episodes, and in which direction.

How do novices in the UK and Botswana frame interaction designs?

Columns 2 and 3 in Table 2 give a descriptive summary of the framing practices in the
UK. UK novices generate between 1 and 3 frames (2.2 on average) in the 1-hour
session. Participants 1, 4 and 7 have frames dedicated to parts of an integrated system,
e.g. a PC application used by doctors and a handheld device or tablet used by patients.
The ideas of Apps and handheld or portable devices are dominant in UK sessions.
However, participant 3 and 7 refrain from specifying exactly what kind of device they
envisage. Universal usability and appropriate interaction design for the elderly or lessabled users are important framing thoughts throughout, except for participant 5.
Table 2 UK novices framing practices where S = solution, P = problem, O = opening of
frame, F = in frame C = during co-evolution B = during bridge building. X = observed in
this category

Metaphorical theme




The elderly needs are

satisfied by notepad and
doc can connect to it.

Doc PC



Appropriate input design for

varying user expertise.















Doc App

Alarm clock
Alarm clock
Alarm clock
Dosset box
Mobile app
Home button
Phone alarm
Alarm clock








Universality of devise for

reminding at night and
while being out.

Complexity of medicine
taking requires detailed
input and output design.

User perception, i.e.

intrusiveness of alarm and
ease of use guide design.

Universal and integrated

system of PC app and
watch-like device.

Home alarm
at night
Doc PC

App input







4.3 0.2 3.5 0.5 1.5 2.2










Columns 2 and 3 in Table 3 show a descriptive summary of the framing practices in

Botswana. Botswana novices have between 1 and 4 frames with an average of 2.
Similarly to the UK, handheld, worn or portable solutions are dominant frames. However,
the frames become much more specific in defining the handheld device, e.g. pairs 1, 2,
4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 have watch as frame. Likewise, mobile phone is a dominant design,
which is used as a frame to stimulate the students design process. Universal usability
and reducing complexity is a recurrent theme. A recurring metaphorical theme to
address complexity is taking away control from the user, e.g. through preprogramming
(pairs 5, 7, 10) and putting it in more literate and educated hands, such as doctors. The
needs of illiterate and poor users are brought to the fore. We see service design frames
and themes in Botswana, such as education, training of users and volunteering aspects.
We observe less integrated systems than in the UK.
Both cohorts frame the interaction design problem in similar ways: they suggest
handheld devices. Botswana students become more specific in defining the handheld
device, but both cohorts pay attention to user behaviour in their framing.
Table 3 Botswana novices framing practices where S = solution, P = problem, O =
opening of frame, F = in frame C = during co-evolution B = during bridge building. X =
observed in this category




A watch for
impaired and
less abled.


Mobile phone
Wall watch

Simplicity of use
is reached

Alarm system









interaction when
setting alarm.

Watch with
Mobile for

Mobile phone
User manual


remind elderly
and the youth is
educated to set
mobile alarm as
Wearable object
for all

Education and
mobile phone

Home care
Anti Retro Viral
Mobile phone
Home care
Mobile phone





device given to
Device needs to
be portable to
not be forgotten.


Mobile phone
Cattle Bell





and serviced
device by doctor.

Call system



Flexibility of
device for


Designing a trial
of a device to
specify it further.
bracelet that is
borrowed from
and serviced by

Button device

Anti Virus Scan

Mobile phone
Anti Retro Viral
Bottle feeding
Mobile alarm
Mobile alarm
Mobile alarm
Mobile phone
Mobile phone



Due to
complexity a
service provider
initiates the
house alarm.
There is a need
for training
instead of
reminding, but
the first solution