Re-thinking designing


The objective of the research presented in this thesis was to explore human experiences as ground for workplace design. The aim was to develop pragmatic tools and guidelines for work and workplace design based on a reflective design tradition. The study was undertaken between 2008-2010 in a research project called the ‘Future Factory’, which can be characterized as an experiment in change-by-design. The project background was a number of reports on young people opting out of industrial work and women being in the minority within the Swedish industry sector. Therefore, in this project the ambition was to particularly explore and emphasise young people’s and women’s ideas about future work and workplaces.

The research involved exploring alternative solutions for a future factory through a series of design-for-change interventions with a variety of actors, through a so-called ‘design lab’ approach. The initial phase of this approach consisted of context mapping, as explorations of different actors’ experiences through interviews and observations. The resulting material was portrayed in the form of ‘Personas’. In this project, these fictional characters were used both to communicate and explore various actors’ perspectives in subsequent collaborative activities. Also, a group of young people contributed with Future scenarios. The scenarios were characterized as an idealized positive ‘Utopia’ and an idealized negative ‘Dystopia’, used as tools to discuss implications and alternative solutions. Both Personas and Scenarios were subsequently used in a series of Future Workshops with various project-related interest groups, such as industrial managers and employees and trade union representatives. In this project, a group of women and one of young people were also especially invited to explore visions of a future factory.

The research presented in this thesis contributes to practice with methods, tools and guidelines for a reflective and innovative design. The theoretical research contribution is the correlation between theories and concepts of change, learning by doing, doing gender, and a reflective design practice.



Doctorate type

PhD in Design

Year of completion


Case study type

Impact case study

Institution details