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New dissertation from DESMA on the value(s) of design(ing)


Ulises Navarro Aguiar, a DESMA researcher, defended his thesis “Negotiating the Value(s) of Design(ing) – an organisational inquiry” at the School of Business, Economics and Law on 20th October 2017. Opponent was Jens Rennstam, School of Economics and Management Lund University. Supervisor has been Professor Alexander Styhre, School of Business, Economics and Law and co-supervisor Anna Rylander Eklund, project leader of DESMA and ass. Professor at HDK.

Ulises spent three years at Volvo Groups studying the changing role of design and how the design department at a large multi-national manufacturing company, where services are becoming strategically more important, are dealing with these changes. Design in general is increasingly recognized as a strategic asset and at the same time moving more and more into the field of service, without giving up the role as product designer. The role of being product designer is of course still a core in a company like Volvo trucks. “Organisations are increasingly calling upon design as a strategic asset to generate innovation as part of a wider fascination with ‘design thinking’ in business. This renewed cultural cache around the idea of design extends beyond the form and function of manufactured goods into services, experiences, and organisational cultures. In short, design is a fashionable idea whose time seems to have come.” (Ulises Navarro Aguiar, 2017)

Ulises has done an ethnographic study where he followed the practices of the in-house designers “who undertake efforts to ‘sell’ design and become strategic actors” at Volvo Group, a company that is recognized for its high quality and successful design. The research demonstrates that it is not an easy process to move from hardware to software design and in that context become part of the strategic dialogues that forms the future of the company. The study is a rich story of how designers navigate and what they need to mobilise in this also politically sensitive field of management.

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