The development of design strategies that promote the engagement of users in the authorship process

PhD thesis

Cruickshank, L. 2006. The development of design strategies that promote the engagement of users in the authorship process. PhD thesis Middlesex University School of Arts
TypePhD thesis
TitleThe development of design strategies that promote the engagement of users in the authorship process
AuthorsCruickshank, L.

Underlying all the ideas articulated in this thesis is a political challenge to the designer's innate right to occupy a hierarchical position in the designer/user relationship. Equally, where these relationships have been superseded (in for example Desktop Publishing and web page design) the designer still has an important, but quite different, role to play.
In contrast to some community design-led initiatives, the aim here is not necessarily to welcome users into an aspect of the conventional design process on terms determined by the designer by helping users conform to practices established by the designer. The aim is the development of strategies in which the designer and user can influence each other without dominating, going beyond conventional strategies of consultancy or feedback.
My determination is not to turn everyday users into mouthpieces of surrogate design sensibility, in the way that 'makeover' TV programs, and their DIY predecessors, promote a particular aesthetic as good design, leading to a rejection of direct communication between designer and user. This places the designer in a position of power; users will skew their responses towards what they think the designer is looking for. Also designers could never work so inexpensively as to engage in bespoke design activity for more than a fraction of the population.
This view has been achieved through the interplay of my own design practice and a spectrum of theoretical (broadly post-structural) influences, although most individuals referenced here would reject this (or any category), including Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, and the Situationists.
My responses to these ideas influence and are influenced by the production of a range of design proposals, and the promotion of the colonisation, modification and even hijacking by others, including designers, users and educators. These have developed in a number of phases:
1 Modular/Adaptive proposals for office furniture, and product design;
2 CAD/CAM proposals in which users select and modify 'design methods' to help them exploit the more technical expert systems available to help them create their own artefacts;
3 Flexible communication systems, which are designs populated and modified by users in ways beyond the control or knowledge of the designer.
These stages show an evolution in my creative responses from producing designed artefacts that promote interaction with users, to systems in which the designer and user have to contribute jointly for the systems to function. It is organic, uncontrolled development by the user that determines the development and configuration of these systems guided by the initial conditions and processes determined by the designer. This allows the interreIationship of designers and truly user-led creative activities.

Department nameSchool of Arts
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print22 Jul 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Jul 2013
CompletedMar 2006
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Additional information

A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

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