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Design togetherness – How designers relate to each other when they collaborate

PhD project Imagine you enter a design studio where designers collaborate in teams. You probably experience people engaged in dialogues while at the same time interacting with design materials. Design material has been generated from co-design workshops with users and stakeholders, and it is now brought into the studio and for the designers’ ongoing process. Imagine that someone asks you to describe what kind of collaboration designers are involved with here? What concepts and notions would you use?

I aim to go back to the foundations of design and investigate designers’ intrapersonal conditions and how they relate to each other in collaborative design? The project is carried out via practice-based design research. I develop a theoretical framework and lenses distinguishing between ‘what and ‘who’. The lenses are applied to documented empirical material for a second analysis.

Head of project

Monica Lindh-Karlsson
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2014-09-01 2022-04-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Umeå Institute of Design

Research area


Project description

When designers collaborate, how do they come together?

I aim to go back to the foundations in design and investigate how designers relate to each other when they collaborate. What different perspectives and opportunities would that open for what design can do, and what discussions can design have?

Motivations for an investigation on how designers relate to each other emerged in my pedagogical design practice. I initiated a pedagogical development project with students to develop ways to learn collaborative practices in project courses. A series of five projects were set up with pedagogics, conditions, and circumstances for exploring ways to collaborate. The empirical written material in the form of reflections from students contained something hidden about ways to relate to each other in collaborative design.

My research is framed as practice-based design research. I reuse the empirical material generated from the series of project courses for a second analysis. I develop a theoretical framework for analysis and interpretation, distinguishing between 'who' and 'what, and apply the lenses on the empirical material in an iterative reading and interpretative process.

My synthesis reveals two ways of relating to each other in collaborative design:

The two ways do not exist simultaneously, and while one comes to the forefront, the other way withdraws. Then it is possible to point to a difference between ways of collaborating based on distinguishing 'what' and 'who'.

In design togetherness, designers come together through action, dialogue, and argumentation starting new beginnings. Design togetherness creates a web of human affairs and opens a potential political space.

I reflect on what perspectives and opportunities design togetherness open up for collaborative design by setting the notion in dialogue with theoretical perspectives from thinkers and scholars and other intrapersonal concepts.

Latest update: 2021-11-22