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What Negative Space has to do with Design Fixations in HCI Research

Conference paper
Authors Sara Ljungblad
Maral Babapour Chafi
Published in Addressing designed form - demarcating design.
ISBN 978-87-93416-32-1
Publisher Design School Kolding
Place of publication Kolding
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Computer Science and Engineering (GU)
Language en
Keywords Negative space, design fixation, figure ground, design skills, design process.
Subject categories Interaction Technologies, Human Computer Interaction, Design


Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is a design-oriented research field, articulating and contributing to design knowledge. This research field has its own perspective of what a relevant design solution is or which design methods that are suitable, which does not necessarily match how for example industrial designers would understand or describe design. We aim to extract the core of design as an activity, in order to clarify what design skills may involve. This paper describes design activities, and articulates how negative space as an artistic skill is a prerequisite to achieve re-framing a design situation and to facilitate successful co-creation of wicked design challenges. The notion of negative space is traditionally associated to art and perception, for example used in professional practices in music, art and design. We illustrate how making use of negative space supports avoiding design fixations, and increase the chance of successfully addressing wicked design problems, such as sustainable solutions for societal challenges. We argue that HCI research would benefit from understanding and applying negative space in design challenges and illustrate how this can be done.

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