Is the ‘user’ term adequate? A design anthropology perspective on design for social welfare services

DS 85-1: Proceedings of NordDesign 2016, Volume 1, Trondheim, Norway, 10th - 12th August 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Boks, Casper; Sigurjonsson, Johannes; Steinert, Martin; Vis, Carlijn; Wulvik, Andreas
Author: Kvelland, Live M. L.; Høiseth, Marikken
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Section: Healthcare and Welfare Design
Page(s): 247-257
ISBN: 978-1-904670-80-3


hange within a social context. Although service designers are increasingly considering people involved as ‘partners’ or ‘co-producers’, the term ’user’ remains widely applied. This article aims to explore how the term ‘user’ fits within the context of design for public services. It argues that a design anthropology perspective can help designers become more aware of people as actively shaping services and that the ‘user’ term in public welfare services could be reconsidered through concepts such as contextualization, human-centeredness and design as grown. Designers might then facilitate for infrastructures where design happens through people’s participation in services, rather than services pre-designed for ‘consumption’. In light of the shift toward human-centered design, this exploratory review builds on a timely question and discusses concepts and considerations that are relevant for design researchers and practitioners alike.

Keywords: User, service design, social welfare, design anthropology


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