Towards user design? On the shift from object to user as the subject of design

Johan Redström
Interactive Institute



If design used to be a matter of physical form, its subject the material object, it now increasingly seems to be about the user and her experiences. A central problem with this development is the confusion between what we are designing and who is going to use it‹the shift towards user design. Trying to optimise fit on basis of knowledge about use and users, we risk trapping people in a situation where the use of our designs has been over-determined and where there is not enough space left to act and improvise.

Keywords: design theory; philosophy of design; technology; user participation


In: Design Studies, Vol. 27, Issue 2, pp. 123-139. Elsevier 2006.
[Science Direct Link]


Winner of the 2006 Design Studies Award.
(The Design Studies Award is made annually, jointly by the Design Research Society and the journal publishers, Elsevier Science. It comprises a certificate and a prize of GBP500. The criteria for the Award, in order of priority, are: contribution to the development of the field of design research, originality of research or scholarship, breadth of relevance, and clarity and style of presentation. Votes for the Award are cast by the journal Editors and a group of Officers of the DRS.)


© 2006

johan redström