Getting it Right: Lessons Learned in Applying a Critical Artefact Approach

BOWEN, Simon (2009). Getting it Right: Lessons Learned in Applying a Critical Artefact Approach. In: Undisciplined! Design Research Society Conference 2008, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July 2008.


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“Critical artefacts”, the products of critical design (Dunne 1999), prompt reflection rather than satisfy obvious user needs. The author is developing an instrumental use of critical artefacts as part of a human-centred design process. Earlier work showed the effectiveness of this approach in allowing stakeholders to engage with novel product ideas. This paper describes a project, Living Rooms, developing the approach with a broader group of stakeholders and devising the critical artefacts with other designers. Although providing insights into the design context (Bowen & Chamberlain 2008), this application of the approach was less productive than in earlier projects and suggested factors that could affect its efficacy. Implications for future applications of the approach are noted: the type of contexts it is appropriate for; the characteristics of effective stakeholder participants and the need to educate them in the context and enable them to think imaginatively.

Von Hippel’s ‘lead users’ (1986, 1988) could provide a framework for selecting stakeholders likely to engage effectively with critical artefacts. The second part of the paper summarises lead user theory and discusses how the two characteristics of lead users, motivation and capability (Luthje & Herstatt 2004), tend to make them suitable participants for the critical artefact approach. A second project, Digital Mementos, is described – in particular how lead-user-based selection and the above implications have been applied.

The paper concludes by reviewing the progress in developing generalisable methods exploiting the critical artefact approach, noting the need to position the approach within wider design activity and points toward future work relating it to the entire product design process.

Critical Design; Human-Centred Design; Innovation; Design Methodology

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (-)
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2009
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 13:53

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