Designing with non-designers. Lab experiences of communicative artefacts co-design

This is the title of my PhD thesis that I defended March 28, 2013. I hope to have soon a full translation of the text in English, for the time being here the abstract.


The relationship between professional and amateur has always been characterized by a mutual distrust. While the first is worried about defending his professionals skills the latter claims the self-determination of his own artefactual environment. In this conflictual relationship, a relevant role is played by technological innovation, whose use has facilitated the access of non-professionals to professional tool.
Communication and product design is nowadays compelled to face this relationship and it is offered two possible solutions: reconstruct or dismantle the border between the terms professional and amateur or better designer and user. This thesis supports the importance of a professionals’ collaborative opening to non-professionals in order to improve the quality of designed artefacts and to create learning experiences useful to both figures.
Co-design methodology starts from the artistic and participatory experiences of the ‘70s and it nowadays has the possibility to be successfully used also thanks to technological progress. Collaborative experiences between designers and non-designers, aimed at the production of communicative artefacts, have to be structured with awareness: this research intents to give useful advice to the designer who decides to behave as the enabling professional, to open up the design process to the final user so that the produced artefact responds to the real needs of the user.
From the study of learning pedagogy techniques, the concept of the emancipating function of co-design experiences has been drown up. The knowledge and competence exchange that occurs in the lab experiences enhances both the professional designer and the non-professional, and its effectiveness is directly proportional to the active inquiry of participants.
The outcomes achieved in this research are: the elaboration of the concept of the educative-emancipative approach for the laboratory practices; a proposal of cataloguing co-design lab experiences; the definition of operative tools for the project of a co-design laboratory followed by the description of an experimental lab expericences of editorial co-design.
This results are aimed at the design community but they also intend to show and illustrate the importance of co-design experiences to a larger public.