Design processes Research

Workshop at DIS 2016: Documenting Design Research Processes

This workshop at Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) 2016, June 5 2016, will examine and discuss how design research processes can be documented, and what the implications, potentials, and limitations of different approaches to, and types of, documentation. Documentation in design research projects can serve many purposes, both in terms of design activities, research activities, and auxiliary activities such as communication with external parties. From a design research perspective, the establishment of reliable and structured ways of capturing and documenting the data generated by the research is a central concern. In this workshop, we will therefore examine central themes in design research documentation on the basis of the participants’ hands-on experiences. The goal of the workshop is to advance both the theoretical and practical understanding of design process documentation, and to share and discuss strategies for and findings from doing so. The workshop will be highly participatory with short and concise presentations and several group work sessions.

To participate

The workshop is unconventional in that participants must commit to capturing and documenting a design process for a period in time in order to participate. This documentation forms the basis for the presentations during the workshop and grounds the subsequent discussions. In order to participate, interested parties must therefore do the following:

  • Submit a proposal (2-4 pages SIGCHI Extended Abstracts Format) describing the design process to be documented, the project or institutional/organizational frame (e.g. at which institution or company is it carried out and what partners are involved), the focus of the documentation (for instance, how design concepts arise and are manifested through the project, how collaboration unfolds, how sources of inspiration inform the design process), and the tools and and strategy for documenting the project.
  • Participants must then document the design process as outlined in their proposals. This work forms the empirical data for the workshop.
  • Please send your proposal via email on or before 10 April to

More information

For more information about the workshop, please see and


Peter Dalsgaard, Aarhus University, Denmark,

Kim Halskov, Aarhus University, Denmark,

Jeffrey Bardzell, Indiana University Bloomington, USA,

Shaowen Bardzell, Indiana University Bloomington, USA,

Andrés Lucero, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark,

Design processes Interaction design Research

Dissertation on Performance and Materiality in Interaction Design

Via Experientia I came across Elizabeth Sarah Goodman’s PhD dissertation Delivering Design: Performance and Materiality in Professional Interaction Design. Goodman sets out to examine the question of how interaction design “demonstrates a special form of human thought”; a theme that resonates with the ongoing dicourse on design thinking as a special paradigm of knowledge. What really piqued my interest is that she approaches this question through the lens of performativity and practice, rather than the cognitive approach, which is still predominant in studies of design and creativity. From the abstract:

“This dissertation argues that performance practices organize interaction design work. By “performance practices,” I mean episodes of storytell- ing and narrative that take place before an audience of witnesses. These performances instantiate — make visible and tangibly felt — the human and machine behaviors that the static deliverables seem unable on their own to materialize. In doing so, performances of the project help produce and sustain alignment within teams and among designers, clients, and developers.
In this way, a focus on episodes of performance turns our concerns from cognition, in which artifacts assist design thinking, to one of enactment, in which documents, spaces, tools, and bodies actively participating in producing the identities, responsibilities, and capacities of project con- stituents. It turns our attention to questions of political representation, materiality and politics. From this perspective, it is not necessarily how designers think but how they stage and orchestrate performances of the project that makes accountable, authoritative decision-making on behalf of clients and prospective users possible.” (p 1)

Rather than answering the ones we’re already struggling with, this change of perspective leads us to consider new questions when studying design:

“a focus on episodes of performance turns the concerns of study from cognition, in which artifacts represent what individual designers are thinking, to one of practice, which sees documents, spaces, tools, and bodies as actively participating in producing and removing responsibilities, capacities, and agency.” (p 208)

Creativity Design processes Publications Research

The Productive Role of Material Design Artefacts in Participatory Design Events

Another paper here at the Nordichi conference, this time presented by my colleague Nicolai Brodersen Hansen: The Productive Role of Material Design Artefacts in Participatory Design Events.
Physical design artefacts are employed in a wide range of participatory design events, yet there are few comprehensive discussions of the properties and qualities of them in the literature of the field. In our work, we examine the productive role of material design artefacts in participatory design events. By productive, we refer to the ways in which participants in design events employ physical materials and artefacts to create momentum and move forward in the design process. We offer a theoretical foundation for understanding material artefacts in design, on the basis of pragmatist philosophy. Then, we employ this theoretical perspective to analyse a case in which a range of physical design materials was employed to envision and explore a future building, the Urban Mediaspace in Aarhus, Denmark. We use examples from this case to articulate a series of design considerations for employing material design artefacts in collaborative design events.

The Productive Role of Material Design Artefacts in Participatory Design Events from Nicolai Brodersen Hansen

Hansen, N. B., Dalsgaard, P. (2012): “The Productive Role of Material Design Artefacts in Participatory Design Events”. In Proceedings of NordiCHI 2012, Copenhagen, Danmark.

Architecture Design processes Event Learning

Media Architecture Student Competition

As part of the Media Architecture Biennale, we will host a 24 hour student design competition on 1 October 2012 beginning at 20:00 CET (7 pm GMT). The design competition is open to bachelor’s, master’s and PhD students in the fields of interaction design, human-computer interaction, architecture, urban design, etc. from around the world and it will not be necessary to be in Aarhus to participate.

The design challenge will begin on 1st of October when the design brief is made public on the MAB website as well as per email to participants who have signed up. To demonstrate your solution to the design challenge, you are asked to submit a video. This can be either a video prototype or a concept video. Anything from animation through screen capture to acting is valid. Note that this means that you will not have to implement the system. Participants will be required to keep a design blog throughout the 24 hours – this blog should record any major stages for your design. We don’t expect you to share any ideas or results before the end of the 24-hour challenge, but what we want to be able to follow is the methodology you used to come up with your final design.

The winning team will receive a travel scholarship for attending the Media Architecture Biennale 2012 in Aarhus to the amount of 1,000 EUR as they will be invited to present their conceptual work at the biennale. The top three entries will be awarded certificates of recognition.

Creativity Design processes Interaction design Research

Pragmatism, constraints and design creativity

Currently in Glasgow for the International Conference on Design Creativity, at which Michael Biskjaer and I have just given a talk about our paper Toward A Constraint-Oriented Pragmatist Understanding Of Design Creativity (PDF). The paper explores the potentials of pragmatist philosophy to enrich the discourse on design creativity in general and the concept of constraints specifically. We argue that pragmatism can inspire and inform the study of constraints in design creativity by offering a coherent and well-developed frame of understanding how designerly inquiry unfolds as a complex interplay between the designer and the resources at hand in the situation, which may continuously alternate between constraining and enabling roles, or even take on both roles simultaneously.

The slides from our talk are embedded below:

Design processes Interaction design Research Visualisation

Talk: Tools for prototyping hybrid interactions

An upcoming talk for all of those in the neighbourhood who share an interest in spatial interaction design: Next week, Alexander Wiethoff from University of Munich gives a talk on tools for prototyping hybrid interactions here in Aarhus:

“New forms of interfaces that facilitates interactions of tangible og intangible nature also demand new prototyping methods. But formal design processes, such as are available for screen-based interactions, have yet to be elaborated in this realm. An approach that is accommodating low and high fidelity prototyping methods can help designers facing domain-specific challenges in a quite large design and opportunity space.”

One of the outcomes of this work is the Sketch-a-TUI, a toolkit for sketching tangible user interfaces on capacitive screens using physical objects of almost any material as user interfaces.

Time and place: August 30, 14:15 — 15:30, the Peter Bøgh Andersen auditorium, the Nygaard Building, Aarhus University.

Aesthetics Design processes Inspiration Research Visualisation

Inspiring reads, July 30th through August 6th

Interface Aesthetics – An Introduction from

Ethnography for user experience – three essays by John Payne

What Is Design – Discussion btw Don Norman and John Maeda

The ethnographer’s reading list – User experience practitioners discuss what's on their list

Paper Prototyping – 5 Analog Tools for Web and Mobile Designers

Smartphones and identity – “The first company to fully execute on embedding your identity into your phone wins the next decade”

“I Draw Pictures All Day” – On the benefits of sketching as an embedded part of work

Design processes Interaction design Research Visualisation

Inspiring reads, June 25th through June 28th

Sketchnotes from DIS2012 – Great work by Mie Nørgaard brings selected talks from DIS 2012 to life

Future InteractionsNordiCHI 2012 workshop on critical design approaches to explore urban data transactions

Aesthetics Reloaded – Conference on the aesthetics of digital technologies in Aarhus, December 11-13.

Design processes Inspiration Interaction design

Inspiring reads, June 20th

David Barrie on ‘Open source’ place-making – A collective approach to the development of cities

Digital Placemaking – Integrating social media into placemaking practices at the Project for Public Spaces

Creating together – Examples of how participatory design increases the understanding of the design space and main issues as well as the quality of the solution


Can We Please Move Past Apple’s Silly, Faux-Real UIs? – Critique of skeumorphism in interface design

Why "Just Enough Is More" is not Enough – Erik Stolterman weighs in on the interface skeumorph debate:
“To be designerly means to be able to understand what is appropriate for a particular design. It means to be able to make the required judgments about all aspects involved and about how they come together as a whole in an adequate composition….The key to good design is not Metro design language or any other language or principle. The key to good design is to be able to execute good design judgment.”

Design processes Interaction design Publications Research

Reflective Design Documentation

One of the crucial aspects of conducting interaction design research is the establishment of reliable and structured ways of capturing and documenting the data generated by the research, so that it can be subjected to analysis and reflection. Documentation may serve the double role of supporting reflection, thereby serving as a source of insight, and providing evidence that supports the insight gained. Given the inherent complexities of design, this process of capturing and documenting design projects can be daunting, especially since there are few resources and tools developed for this particular purpose.

During the past couple of years, my colleagues and I have developed and employed a system designed for the specific purpose of documenting design projects and prompting reflection about design events, called the Project Reflection Tool (PRT). Kim Halskov and I have written a paper entitled Reflective Design Documentation about the insights from our use of this system, and I’m currently at the Designing Interactive Systems conference in Newcastle to give a talk about the paper. The paper is available for download here, and I’ve attached the slides from my talk below: