Stories & Projects

Expressions of PhD Research at UID


During a recent exhibition, PhD students at UID created physical manifestations of their ongoing projects. The task of materializing abstract concepts and ideas turned out to present a real challenge.

Text: Jens Persson, October 2018

"When I heard it was not going to be a traditional oral presentation with a written report, I honestly got a bit scared. I asked myself, how do I actually translate this into an exhibit?", says Xaviera Sánchez de la Barquera Estrada, who joined UID as a PhD student in January this year.

"In the end my experience has been really helpful for my research process as a whole, it has made me think about my research from a different perspective. It has helped me to boil down what is essential for me in my PhD project"

Xaviera's research revolves around designing for sustainability. Before she ended up in Umeå she was putting her design ideas to the test through an NGO, where she was a co-founder, focusing on participatory design in her native Mexico. The goal was to bring in the people, often indigenous societies, that she was designing for to be part of the solution. However, after a while Xaviera realized that her design processes weren't truly inclusive but that she was instead projecting a lot of her pre-conceived ideas about design at the outset of each project.

"That realization made me really uncomfortable. And that's what led me to my current area of research which concerns feeding participatory processes with elements from world views that aren't primarily concerned with economic growth, in order to create a more sustainable future."

Take part of the exhibit of the UID PhD students' projects below. _____________________________________________________________

The Exhibition: Expressions of PhD Research at UID

Xaviera Sánchez de la Barquera Estrada / Worlds within the world: Co-design for Resilience


I aim to explore the possibilities of co-design as a means to find other ways of existing and relating to the world, ones that are more fair and balanced for instance.

My argument is that designers could learn from already existing worldviews in order to imagine post-capitalist futures with a wider variety of references, coming from both the global South and North.

My starting point is inspired by the approaches of degrowth (D'Alisa, et al., 2015) and the epistemologies of the south (Sousa, 2011). Both visions have an emancipatory purpose to transcend current hegemonic social interactions and may work as a basis in the search for alternative and more sustainable ways of understanding, making and living the world, other ways of designing.     _____________________________________________________________

Maria Göransdotter / Looking for/at histories of Scandinavian user-centered design


Design history has often focused individual designers, significant objects and styles. But what happens if we take another perspective, and look for histories of designing instead?

Depending on where we stand today and what we look at, we can trace other histories than the usual of how Scandinavian user-centered design emerged. Methods and tools used to support participation and co-creation in today's design processes - such as mock-ups and prototypes - were introduced already in 1940s Sweden. The aim then was to investigate, understand and reform everyday life, in order to design a completely new kind of society.   

Understanding the historical contexts in which our design methods came about, we gain insights into assumptions, values and norms embedded in our ways of designing.   _____________________________________________________________

Monica Lindh Karlsson / Conceptualization of contemporary design doing 


My research addresses collaboration in multi-disciplinary teams in industrial design and explore ways to come together in doing design that embrace differences and diversity.

Presented here are two kinds of games (in relation to images) that represent, at least, two different ways of collaboration:

• Collaboration structured from out-side in, participants come together as 'what' they are and play as a means-to-an-end. Characteristics are that players have different roles; some players participate only in some stages of the game while others are the key-player.

•Collaboration emerging from an inside-out perspective and participants come together as 'who' they are. Characteristics are that players are shared accountable for inventing the path for their game through discussions allowing for some things to stick while things are left.

The games intend to open up shared discussion about how underlying structures affect the way we collaborate in design and what implications that have on ways to acknowledge e.g. differences and diversity in design.     _____________________________________________________________

Nicholas Baroncelli Torretta / Anti-oppressive and decolonial design for sustainability - learning to become together


This PhD research explores anti-oppressive and decolonial approaches to Design for Sustainability. The overarching frame is of learning (to) design from a Gaian perspective (Lovelock 1995, Latour 2015), asking "how do we do things together since we are together anyway?".

If we do not pay attention to design and its situatedness, we may sustain structures and practices of oppression and colonization. Seeing pedagogy as a way of being with/in and as the world, I use critical pedagogy (Freire, 1996) and de/post-colonial discourses (Mignolo, 2000; Escobar, 2018) as a frame to explore how design for sustainability can support diversity and emancipation.   _____________________________________________________________

Catharina Henje / Designing for Diversity


Designing for Diversity is the topic for my PhD studies, and my aim is to explore various aspects to consider when designing for inclusion.

Inclusive Design involves people, addressing different individuals with various needs within the design process. Inclusive design is about us designers crafting sustainable, equal, democratic, accessible civilizations, with a view to reach the UN Global Goals.

Parallel names used for Inclusive Design are Design for All and Universal Design. Maybe, in the future, we will only need one term; good design. Yet, we will still require ways of understanding aspects to be considered for creating an equal society in terms of inclusion.

The aim for this exhibition is to probe how challenging norms can be a means for broadening the perspective when designing for inclusion.     _____________________________________________________________

Morteza Abdipour / Design Arrangement


Design arrangement describes the quality of change when we use digital wallpaper within domestic environments. Digital wallpaper could be an E-paper with interactive features that can present multimedia content on wall surfaces. Design arrangement is a descriptive result of empirical studies of users' behaviours of exposure to big displays in a living lab.

In my studies, experiencing of big displays reveal two types of arrangements, tangible and imperceptible. The implications of tangible arrangements, mainly, are seen in everyday physical spaces and objects. Meanwhile, imperceptible arrangements draw attention to invisible changes.     _____________________________________________________________

Marije De Haas /   Provoking the debate on euthanasia in dementia with design


My research addresses ethical dilemmas present in the debate on euthanasia in dementia by creating speculative designs as thought experiments. These thought experiments are used as a qualitative research method to explore what options should be considered for receiving euthanasia in dementia in conversation with selected experts.

Presented here is a "what if a reliable early diagnosis for dementia was possible?" scenario, leading to questions such as:

• What factors, other than patient autonomy, should be considered for end-of-life decisions in dementia?

• Who should be involved in making end-of-life decisions?     _____________________________________________________________

Maja Frögård / Societal Fabric(ation)s


The tensions I explore are shaped through my work with public participation in community planning processes. Trying to understand my role as a designer in these processes of negotiation I experienced very diverse interpretations of democracy. In the Rule by the People zine-stand I present understandings of democracy from political theory related to these interpretations. Seeing democracy as ongoing navigation between tensions I invite you to browse and assemble your position.

Two of the tensions I materially engage with are presented in their current state; negotiating conditions of freedom and equality (floor) and we are in this together (wall).