Prototyping histories of
Scandinavian user-centered design

Maria Göransdotter

Potential pasts, possible futures: Making transitional design histories (PhD Project)

The overall research questions guiding this study are how histories of design could be told, if we were to take a starting point in today's practices of designing and explore the foundations of and conceptual changes within these in relation to past, current and future ideas and contexts of design? And further: Could such historical inquiries allow us to broaden the perspectives on the past in order to not only make sense of the present, but to critically question core concepts, methods and frameworks in design in order to open up for other possible future trajectories in design education and practice? 

In my ongoing dissertation work, I prototype transitional design histories by tracing concepts and contexts that made possible and shaped Scandinavian user-centered design. This is done through an idea-focused analysis of Swedish practices and discourse around the design and use of everyday things, based on 20th century texts and archival material.

The early 20th century ideas and practices that were influential in forming the Swedish design discourse came to be highly present not only in the industrial design profession, as it emerged in Sweden, but also in state policy and goverment intitiatives aiming to reform everyday life in different ways. There was a societal consensus that things, homes and domestic life were crucial elements in building a modern society with thoroughly modern citizens. I investigate ideas and methods that today are an integral part of a 'Scandinavian user centered design', and discuss how these still carry with them norms, values and practices linked to the specific historical contexts that these once emerged in. 

My supervisors are Johan Redström, UID, and Kjetil Fallan, University of Oslo.

Areas of interest

Design history, design theory, design studies, user-centered design, participatory design, material culture, semiotics, aesthetics.


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