Design as Sensemaking: An Autoethnography on the Early Phases of Product Development

DS 81: Proceedings of NordDesign 2014, Espoo, Finland 27-29th August 2014

Year: 2014
Editor: Miko Laakso, Kalevi Ekman
Author: Kettunen, Ilkka
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: University of Lapland, Finland
Section: Design theory and practices
Page(s): 480-489
ISBN: 978-1-904670-58-2


This paper provides an autoethnographic account of my personal journey through the early phases of a design process in a product development project that took place in an SME company. I reflect on my story as a design manager of a small team of designers by using Karl Weick’s theory of sensemaking and its properties as a methodological and theoretical perspective. The main themes of the paper are the identity construction of designers, pursuit of plausibility rather than accuracy, and producing part of the environment the designers face. I conclude with a definition of socio-historical practices that are the culmination of the everyday sensemaking efforts of a designer: construction of equality, discussion about a brief, incubation, drawing, presentation, construction of workspace, collective composition, claiming ownership of a concept, retention, handing over a concept, and storytelling.

Keywords: Design process, professional organizations, sensemaking, autoethnography


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