An Integrated Analysis of Collaborative Design Processes

Peter, Andreas Wilhelm (2015). An Integrated Analysis of Collaborative Design Processes. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis makes a contribution to the understanding of designerly ways of solving problems by exploring the central question of how different prototyping materials affect collaborative design processes, especially with regard to the co-construction of knowledge and the social dynamics manifested in verbal and non-verbal behaviour. The thesis also contributes to the existing knowledge by offering a new method to analyse the role of prototypes in collaborative design activities: Proxemic Motion Trace Analysis.

Understanding the relationship between prototypes and design processes is important in the light of an increasing interest in using design-based approaches to develop innovations, and thus to better understand the design process itself. However, what role prototypes and prototyping materials play in collaborative design processes, particularly in verbal and non-verbal interactions, remains an under-researched area.

The thesis comprises two main studies: a series of unstructured field observations, conducted at four design studios, and an academic institution, and a series of 23 controlled experiments consisting of 99 individual design tasks conducted with design students at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design.

The key findings demonstrate that: (1) different prototyping materials affect qualitative aspects of verbal and non-verbal behaviour in collaborative design activities in distinguishable ways; (2) specific materials allow for a more connected co-construction of knowledge; and (3) the research undertaken has produced a new and design-specific method of analysing collaborative design processes, especially the verbal and non-verbal behaviour of designers.

It is suggested that these findings have implications for design practice and design education, as well as other professions using designerly ways of solving problems. In addition, the newly developed visual method of analysing design collaboration provides potential for future design research by providing a method that addresses the full complexity of interaction in design collaboration.

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