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The Design Landscape: A Phenomenographic Study Of Design Experiences

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering Design: Implementation and Evaluation

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1189.1 - 14.1189.19



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Paper Authors

author page

Shanna Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Design Landscape: A Phenomenographic Study of Design Experiences Key Words: design, phenomenography, professional experiences

Abstract Design is central to engineering education and practice. Thus, it is important to investigate aspects of design that can be applied to facilitate engineers in becoming better designers. Designers’ experiences impact their views on design, which then impact the ways they approach a design task. Design approach then impacts new experiences, and the cycle continues. To investigate experiences and analyze the results in a way to understand key differences in a broad range of experiences, a particular research method was utilized, that of phenomenography. This paper explores and explains phenomenography as a research method through an example of phenomenography of design experiences. For this study, the outcomes included six qualitatively different ways that design has been experienced. Represented in a hierarchical form, from less comprehensive to more comprehensive, these categories of description included: Design is 1) evidence-based decision-making, 2) organized translation, 3) personal synthesis, 4) intentional progression, 5) directed creative exploration, and 6) freedom. An additional outcome of this study was four themes of expanding awareness, including the role of the problem, the role of ambiguity, the task endpoint, and the task outcome. This paper describes the path from the beginning to the end of a phenomenography, contextualized in a study on design experiences of professionals from diverse disciplines.

Introduction What does it mean to design? There are theoretical answers to this question. For example, Visser1 described design as consisting of the act of “specifying an artifact, given requirements that indicate — generally neither explicitly, nor completely — one or more functions to be fulfilled, and needs and goals to be satisfied by the artifact, under certain conditions (expressed by constraints)” (p. 116). While I could continue to present definitions of design, it is more interesting to point out that none of these definitions that could be presented come from professionals who design on a regular basis as a part of their careers. The lack of understanding design from this perspective prompted the research study presented in this paper. My search to find a research approach to address this question of how professional designers understood what it means to design lead to investigations on an approach called phenomenography. This approach yielded results that contributed to understanding the broad picture of what it means to design. The intention of this paper is to emphasize the design and outcomes of phenomenography as a research approach. Presenting the research design and summarizing the outcomes of a phenomenography of how design professionals experience design allow for an example of what a phenomenography looks like as it goes through the development stage and is analyzed for outcomes.

Research Approach Phenomenography is grounded in the idea that what people remember and aspects on which they reflect about concrete experiences are related to the meanings they associate

Daly, S. (2009, June), The Design Landscape: A Phenomenographic Study Of Design Experiences Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5113

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