Design Knowledge Intermediary
The Eighth Annual Conference of the German Society for Design Theory and Research (DGTF)

Opening: Closed
Closing: Closed

Who designs design? Practice, theory and history of participatory design

Conference Venue: Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd

Participation advanced to an influential concept in matters of design and planning by 1970 at the latest. The interest in equal participation in design was founded on a complex mixture of system and planning theories, futurology, cross-disciplinary methods discourses, civil rights and student movements, and a general change in environmental and social consciousness. This contrasted with an increasingly hostile perceived world of things, technology-oriented product development, automation and computerization. The wish to have a say in the planning and design of the future (environmental) world emerged.

As a result, a series of productive design practices developed, as well as theories in which the participation of all stakeholders was the focus. Thereby, the role of the designer was questioned in a productive manner. While approaches such as “user-centered design” were still content with placing concrete user needs in the center of design processes, which were nevertheless carried out by designers and other experts, participatory design required the involvement and mutual decision-making of users and other “stakeholders.” The discipline has subsequently developed in theory and practical methods, which should facilitate such participation in the design process.

 This initiative is currently receiving new opportunities, e.g. via the global network, crowd-sourcing, open-source and open-innovation movement, or via customizable mass production and rapid manufacturing. Simultaneously however, the participatory design approach is confronted with the accusation of being based on an idealized, occasionally unreflected understanding of democracy and social participation. For example, alleged collectively made decisions are marginalized in that they can be the results of unequal power relations. The perhaps substantial role of the client in the design practice is also rarely examined, whose objectives sometimes greatly differ from the interests of the users. Also, the profession of the designers claims to be able to anticipate and design concepts that satisfy future needs more appropriately than others. Accordingly, the wish for equitable design is not only afflicted with high hopes but also with a series of ambivalent questions: By which mechanisms will users of design products become stakeholders? How will implicit imbalances in power in participatory design be addressed? Who may participate in the design of the world and environment? Or to paraphrase Lucius Burckhardt: Who designs design?

The 8th annual DGTF Conference would like to combine and present contributions on the practice, theory and history of participatory design, and discuss them in reference to current design research. Within this context, projects from a research-based design practice are also especially welcome.

We are looking for high quality, innovative contributions on the following (and other) aspects:

* On current theory formation in the field of participatory design
* On specific practices, methods and strategies that are applied in participatory design
* On the significance of participation in practice-based design research
* On the relationship between participatory design and user-centered design
* On the historical development and intellectual, social and technical influences, which shaped the concept and practices of participatory design.

Abstracts (4,000-6,000 characters including spaces plus bibliographical references) on the topic, as well as brief details about your professional and/or academic career, can be submitted on our conference website www.dgtf.de/conference2011 from April 6 until May 9, 2011.

A publication of the chosen contributions in book form in the DGTF theory-series (http://www.transcript-verlag.de/ts1463/ts1463.php) is planned for 2012.

Research projects, PhD projects and initial research results related to the conference theme may also be presented as a poster (DIN A0: 841 × 1189 mm). Please submit an abstract of your poster (2000-3000 characters including spaces plus references) until May 9, 2011.


April 6: Submission of abstracts on the conference website opens (www.dgtf.de/conftool)
May 9: Submission of abstracts ends
July 4: Notification of acceptance/rejection
September 5: Registration for the conference opens (www.dgtf.de/conftool)
October 21-22: DGTF Conference

The main conference language is German. We welcome contributions in English.


Bianca Herlo
German Society for Design Theory and Research (DGTF)
Universität der Künste Berlin
Designforschung, Fakultät Gestaltung
Einsteinufer 43
D-10587 Berlin