Embodying, enacting and entangling design: A phenomenological view to co-designing services

  • Yoko Akama School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Alison Prendiville LCC, University of the Arts, London, UK
Keywords: Phenomenology, co-designing, service design, methods


What is holding back service design from making a distinct departure from a product-centred to a socio-material human-centred framework? We have a concern for co-designing that is often discussed as a generic method to develop empathetic connections and understandings of people and their contexts. In this use, mastering the craft of co-designing had inadvertently isolated the method from the practitioner, fragmenting its process as a series of static events or a tool for deployment in staged workshops. Contributing to current debates on co-designing and design anthropology, our paper seeks to re-entangle co-designing back into its lived and enacted contexts. We see co-designing as a reflexive, embodied process of discovery and actualisation, and it is an integral, on-going activity of designing services. Co-designing can catalyse a transformative process in revealing and unlocking tacit knowledge, moving people along on a journey to 'make real' what proposed services might be like in the future. Co-designing plays a critical role especially when it involves the very people who are enmeshed in the realisation of the proposed services itself. As such, our case study of a weekend Ordnance Survey Geovation camp pays closer attention to how this took place and discusses the transformative process that was central to it. By taking a phenomenological perspective and building on a seminal anthropologists' work, Tim Ingold, our paper counters the limitations in service design that tends to see its process as a contained series of fixed interactions or systemized process of methods. Through Ingold, we see 'the social world as a tangle of threads or life-paths, ever ravelling here and unravelling there, within which the task for any being is to improvise a way through, and to keep on-going. Lives are bound up in the tangle.' Similarly, we view co-designing as being and becoming, that is constantly transforming and connecting multiple entanglements.


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How to Cite
Akama, Y. and Prendiville, A. (2016) “Embodying, enacting and entangling design: A phenomenological view to co-designing services”, Swedish Design Research Journal, 9(1), pp. 29-40. doi: 10.3384/svid.2000-964X.13129.
Research articles