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More notes from Prototype 2010 Dundee: Liz Sanders

Elizabeth Sanders from make-tools gave a talk about how she uses prototyping as a participatory activity in the design process. She started her talk by laying out the challenges (as she sees them: global, environmental) facing mankind in the future. The point of this seemed to be to highlight the differing nature of these challenges compared with those faced by mankind in the recent past.

These new challenges seem to be the motivation for the development of new design tools. She made this point by listing traditional areas of design and emerging areas of design:

old’ traditional design disciplines:

visual communication design

industrial design

interior space design


interaction design

‘new’ emerging design disciplines

design for experience

design for service

design for innovation

design for transformation

design for sustainability

These changes in the nature of design problems require a shift from the studio to the real world and from being concerned with the needs of the individual to the needs of the collective.

Sanders talked about ‘making sense of the idea’ as a transformation from object to purpose, invention to intention and from application to implication - The latter being attributed to Dunne.

A graphic was introduced that represented the design process as a complex activity that, through the application of a design process, moved from ‘idea’ to an understandable ‘solution’. On to this she mapped co-design activities and explained the traditional use of co-design, i.e., consultation with users at the front end of the design process, followed by a period of evaluation and development of an design outcome.

“Design is an inquiry into the future situation of use.”

In her work sanders uses prototyping as a participatory activity. Saunders introduced her participatory prototyping cycle: make-enact-tell. It is worth mentioning here that these three activities can be performed in any order depending on the context they are used in.

“it is only through collective thinking and acting that we will be able to use design to address the social issues we face today”

“we know what it looks like to use prototypes to help us see the future. But what dose it mean to use prototyping to make sense of the future?”

The latter part of the talk consisted of example of the make-enact-tell method of participatory design. I intend to write this up properly in order to give an indication as to when and how these design methods can be used.