CHI 2007 Workshop

Converging on a "Science of Design" through the Synthesis of Design Methodologies

April 29, 2007; San Jose, California, USA


Design has emerged as a fundamental topic for the CHI community and it is an intellectual activity of greatest importance for the world in the 21st century. This is recognized by research communities in different domains (e.g.: software design and software engineering, urban design, design in the creative arts, design of learning environments, and collaborative design efforts). New design approaches and practices (such as social knowledge construction in open source and collaboratively constructed content environments) have gained importance and prominence and have created new challenges for the CHI community to understand, support, and evaluate them.

The need to gain a deeper understanding of design practices by analyzing success and failure stories, and to create more coherent and systematic bodies of knowledge and conceptual frameworks for design has been recognized not only by the research communities but by funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which recently established a program focused on creating a "Science of Design".

This one-day workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners who are exploring issues related to design from a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives. It will synthesize a new understanding of design and make a contribution to the establishment of design as a science. It will explore issues, trade-offs, and synergies related to different design methodologies including: professional-dominated design, user-centered design, participatory design, interaction design, collaborative design, learner-centered design, and meta-design and the development and assessment of socio-technical environments in support of design. It will identify the educational implications integrating and synthesizing different design methodologies for curricula in HCI and software design


The following sections briefly characterize the different design methodologies that will be the focus of the workshop.

User-centered design
User-centered design approaches [10] have been a major step forward in HCI to transcend professional-dominated design which ignored real user needs and capabilities. User-centered design approaches need to be complemented by new design methodologies which will be described in the following sections.

Participatory design
Participatory design approaches [11] seek to involve users more deeply in the design process as co-designers by empowering them to propose and generate design alternatives themselves. Participatory design supports diverse ways of thinking, planning, and acting by making work, technologies, and social institutions more responsive to human needs. It requires the social inclusion and active participation of the users.

Learner-centered design
Learner-centered design (LCD) focuses on creating artifacts that support human understanding as opposed to task achievement [12]. LCD is an inherently multi-disciplinary design specialty, requiring an understanding of HCI, pedagogy, collaboration, and the psychology of motivation. LCD draws from a variety of methods including

Collaborative Design
Design activities are knowledge-intensive work, and the knowledge required for solving complicated design problems rarely resides in the head of one designer. Effective designers need to find their way around the world, through interaction and collaboration with tools and people in their sociotechnical environments [5]. Design, therefore, is inherently collaborative. Collaboration in design could take place along several dimensions: spatial, temporal, technological and social [13]. The success of many Open Source Software systems and open contents environments such as Wikipedia has demonstrated that given the right sociotechnical conditions, design through the collaboration of many can flourish as a distributed knowledge system. However, it remains a great challenge to understand what the right sociotechnical environments for collaborative design are and how to design such sociotechnical environments in a systematic way. Different social structures such as community of practice, community of interest, dynamic community, intensional network, and knotworking have particular capabilities for supporting different aspects of collaborative design through their distinct organizing principles that structure the flow of knowledge, divide work, and coordinate individual design activities. We still lack a comprehensive theory of understanding the essences of collaborative design and guidelines for creating a distributed and yet coherent knowledge system to approach complicated design problems collaboratively [8].

Meta-design [1, 2] creates open systems that can be modified by their users and evolve at use time, supporting more complex interactions (rather than linear or iterative processes). Open systems allow significant modifications when the need arises. Participatory design has focused on system development at design time by bringing developers and users together to envision the contexts of use. But despite the best efforts at design time, systems need to be evolvable to fit new needs, account for changing tasks, deal with subjects and contexts that increasingly blur professional and private life, couple with the socio-technical environment in which they are embedded, and incorporate new technologies [4].

Design in the creative practices
Design approaches in the creative practices usually imply a focus on intuition and aesthetics; a greater incorporation of political, social, and ethical considerations; and more qualitative research methods [9]. Creative practices promote collaborative and transformational practices of design aimed to support new modes of human interaction and sustain an expansion of the creative process. Their design space is multidimensional and concerned with accommodating forms of interactivity that put the user in control of the interaction itself in a non-trivial and open-ended manner. Such an approach informs not only specific design methodologies but also forms of cultural intervention informing and integrating different domains. Rather than a new “model” of design, creative practices promote a more flexible and contextual “mode” of design: an enhancement of human creative processes and conversations at the convergence of “art” and “science”.

Additional Themes
In addition to the different design methodologies the workshop will explore: (1) identification of appropriate design methods, practices, and evaluation methods; (2) sources for research partnerships and funding; and (3) North American vs. non-North American perspectives and approaches to developing cognitive technologies.


Participants should have done research in one or several design methodologies including: professional-oriented design, user-centered design, participatory design, learner-centered design, collaborative design, meta-design, and design in the creative practices.

Participant should submit a position paper to describe their research experience or insights on one or two design methodologies, and the position paper will be reviewed by the workshop organizers for relevance and appropriateness. Position paper should be 2-4 pages in standard CHI format, and be submitted before 19 January 2007, 5:00 PM (1700) PDT by sending a PDF file to

Participants will be notified of acceptance by 1 February 2007.

Requirement for Registration. At least one author of accepted position papers needs to register for the workshop and for one day of the conference itself.

Please contact or if you have further questions.