New article: On designing open-ended interpretations for collaborative design exploration

The article is written together with Tuuli Mattelmäki and Kirsikka Vaajakallio both from Aalto University. It is published in the latest volume of the CoDesign Journal, 7:2, 79-93.

Keywords: user-centred design; co-design; communication; design empathy; user Representations

Abstract: User-centred design is a widely acknowledged practice. Much attention has been paid to the methods, tools and processes on how to conduct design research and field studies with and about ‘users’ and existing or possible ‘contexts of use’. The underlying driver is that the design team will be better at designing if they have an empathic understanding of the people to design with and for. Currently, more effort is invested in engaging various stakeholders in collaborative design activities that nurture an attitude of human-centredness as a strategy. Empathic design approaches are essential in such strategies as they value subjective and experiential perspectives in design. The objective of this paper is to illustrate and discuss different kinds of formats that can be used to work with representations of field research findings and insights in ways that can be open-ended. Being openended means that they can allow and inspire new individual interpretations for various participants in the collaborative design processes, which include users, designers and other stakeholders. What is argued for here is the value of incompleteness of field study outcomes as it invites sense-making through making new interpretations which lead to empathic understanding and engagement. Rather than communicating the final results, design in supporting collaboration is applied in a process of exploring what it is that will create value for specific people.

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