Design as the resolution of paradoxes: An exploratory study

Thea Morgan, Chris McMahon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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This paper presents an ethnomethodological case study of a student engineering design team during their final year design project. The results were analysed with reference to a theoretical framework, based on Dorst's (2006) model, in which a design problem is taken as a paradox, made up out of the clash of conflicting discourses and the nature of creative design is the forging of connections between these discourses . Three key discourses emerged from the data, that of the commercial sponsor', the university , and the student group . It is suggested that the commercial sponsor and university discourses were in conflict, forming the central paradox at the heart of the design problem. The student group failed to resolve this paradox, and went on to significantly underachieve in their design project.

The aim of this research was to explore and describe the complex ways in which design emerges in practice, using Dorst's model of design problems as a theoretical framework. The framework has proved a useful and insightful way of considering how design occurs naturally in interactions between people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDS 80-11 Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 15) Vol 11
Subtitle of host publicationHuman Behaviour in Design, Design Education; Milan, Italy, 27-30.07.15
EditorsC Weber, S Husung, G Cascini, M Cantamessa, D Marjanovic, Monica Bordegoni
PublisherThe Design Society
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781904670742
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2015

Publication series

PublisherThe Design Society
ISSN (Print)2220-4334


  • Ethnomethodology
  • Human behaviour in design
  • Design problems

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