When users think about design

Tuesday 19/03/2013 14:15 - 15:15
Location: Brunel Design, Tower A, DEC Space, Room TA045
Speaker: Dr Nathan Crilly, Lecturer in Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge

Human-centred design approaches typically emphasise the attention that designers give to the people who will use (or otherwise be affected by) the products, systems and services that are designed. In attending to people in this way, designers are encouraged to develop an understanding of how people relate to designed artefacts, how they interact with those artefacts and how they feel about those interactions. In this talk, I argue that people are capable of engaging with artefacts in the knowledge that those artefacts have been designed. This can include knowledge that those artefacts have been designed with people like them in mind, and with the intention to elicit a particular set of responses from them. For some people in some situations, this orientation towards the design of artefacts might be the most important aspect of their engagement. This has important implications for how we consider people’s relationship to artefacts, their interactions with them and their feelings about those interactions. The argument will be supported by reference to the various theoretical, empirical and applied disciplines which study the way in which the reader of a ‘text’ (meant in the broadest sense) may orient towards the supposed intentions of that text’s author. In concluding the talk, I suggest that for human-centred design approaches to become more complete, we should study the knowledge that people have about design and the influence of that knowledge on their engagement with designed artefacts.

Dr Nathan Crilly is a Lecturer in Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge. Nathan's research interests are in the areas of design, creativity and communication. He employs an interdisciplinary approach to studying designed products and systems. In particular, he studies how these artefacts are conceived and developed, the properties they exhibit and the ways in which users respond to them. Nathan leads the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre's ‘Design Practice’ theme, the purpose of which is to understand and represent design in ways that inform research, practice and education. He is also part of the Crucible research network, the purpose of which is to encourage collaboration between technologists and researchers in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Nathan’s primary methodological expertise is in qualitative research and conceptual development. This involves identifying, consolidating and integrating multiple perspectives to form coherent representations of the subject matter. The outputs from such work have been published in leading interdisciplinary design journals, especially Design Studies, but also Design Issues, International Journal of Design and other more specialised outlets. Nathan holds a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Design Research. He is a Fellow in Engineering at Clare College, Cambridge, a member of the Design Research Society and he serves on the International Editorial Board of Design Studies.