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EXTERNALIZING
NORMATIVITY IN 

DESIGN REVIEWS:
INSCRIBING DESIGN 

VALUES IN DESIGNED
ARTIFACTS
COLIN M. GRAY
IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
CRAIG D. HOWARD
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
NORMATIVITY, ETHICS, 

AND VALUES
• Issues relating to production have been discussed in the
design and technology communities (Borgmann, 2010;
Verbeek, 2006)
• But the link to design character (Nelson & Stolterman,
2012) and the developing identity of design students is
less established
• How is design character inculcated in the educational
process, particularly through the design review?
McCoy (1990)
“We must educate our new designers for
this larger ethical view if design is to be
more than the servant of commercialism.”
STRUCTURES
COMMUNICATIVE ACTS
ROLES
INTERACTIVE SETTINGS
OBJECTIVE
multiple access
“the world”
SUBJECTIVE
limited access
“my world”
NORMATIVE
should/ought to be
“our world”
OBJECTIVE
multiple access
“the world”
SUBJECTIVE
limited access
“my world”
NORMATIVE
should/ought to be
“our world”
OBJECTIVE
multiple access
“the world”
SUBJECTIVE
limited access
“my world”
NORMATIVE
should/ought to be
“our world”
CONTENT INFERENCE
FIELD(S)
COMMUNICATIVE
ACT
MEANING FIELD
VALIDITY HORIZON
OBJECTIVE
FOREGROUND
INTERMEDIATE
BACKGROUND
SUBJECTIVE
—— IDENTITY ——
NORMATIVE
AND
OR/AND
Gray (2014)
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. How does a student’s externalization of their process
through formal review/critique reveal their assumed
normative concerns in relation to the end user or final
designed artifact?
2. Is there a relation between early emergence of
normative concerns in the design process, as
externalized in review with a professor, and as
inscribed in the final designed artifact?
DATA
R1 R2 R3 R4 R5
ID-J
Todd X X X X
Sheryl X X X X
ID-G
Julian X X X O
Mylie X X X O
ANALYSIS
1. Setting analysis
2. Meaning reconstruction
3. Locating normative concerns
4. Tracing normative concerns
● Formal qualities [2]
● User characteristics [3-11]
○ Average income level [3-9]
○ Justification of data source [10-11]
● Student team’s approach to doing (empathic) research in this space [12-28]
○ Student experience with vaseline covered glasses [14-28]
■ “fingers kind of fought with ___” [15-17]
■ Difficulty reading words [18-28]
● Document structure/communicative flow [29-39]
○ Formal qualities: redundant image [33-39]
● Other team research [40-72]
○ Student experience using a dog zapper to make them shake [43-51]
○ Data sources overview: three subjects [52-59]
○ Formal qualities: red on gray and bouncing text [60-72]
■ Professor’s personal experience [62-67]
■ Scientific/academic explanation of why values bounce [68]
■ Professor’s personal experience [69-72]
● Document structure/communicative flow [73-97]
○ Example of learning something new v. redundant information [79-83]
○ Appropriateness of generic picture (“pop[ping] out”) [84-97]
■ Formal qualities: colors not present elsewhere in the document/type bouncing [86-97]
● Differences found in interviews [98-150]
○ Themes: common problems [102]
○ Formal qualities: cropped top of page [103-107]
○ Themes: increased problems with age [108-110]
ASIDE: professor request to dig deeper [111]
○ Additional themes [113-121]
■ Users not measuring detergent [115-118]
■ Users don’t use a basket or have to transport their supplies [119-121]
○ Formal qualities: redundant image [123-133]
○ Additional themes [134-145]
■ Detergent pods [134-143]
● Limited budget of elderly [136-137]
● Product marketing for better use of pods [138]
● Misuse of pods [140-143]
■ Folding spaces and associated difficulties [144-145]
ASIDE: student notes this interview was shorter and a phone interview [146-147]
■ Stain treatment [148-150]
● Top five problems/summary [151-176]
○ Bending over; stain treatment; storage; legibility of products; messy/dirty spaces [153-156]
○ Possible marketing/product opportunities in this space [157-163]
■ Branded stain treatment to work with GE’s washing machines [161-163]
○ Summary in document [163-167]
○ Formal qualities: type too small to read well [168-176]
● Deliverable type as PDF [177-207]
○ Is the image resolution high enough? [181-184]
○ Technical issues in getting high enough resolution [185-206]
○ Technical solution from professor [207]
● Wrap-up [208]
1. Setting analysis
■ Professor’s personal experience [69-72]
● Document structure/communicative flow [73-97]
○ Example of learning something new v. redundant information [79-83]
○ Appropriateness of generic picture (“pop[ping] out”) [84-97]
■ Formal qualities: colors not present elsewhere in the document/type bouncing [86-97]
● Differences found in interviews [98-150]
○ Themes: common problems [102]
○ Formal qualities: cropped top of page [103-107]
○ Themes: increased problems with age [108-110]
ASIDE: professor request to dig deeper [111]
○ Additional themes [113-121]
■ Users not measuring detergent [115-118]
■ Users don’t use a basket or have to transport their supplies [119-121]
○ Formal qualities: redundant image [123-133]
○ Additional themes [134-145]
■ Detergent pods [134-143]
● Limited budget of elderly [136-137]
● Product marketing for better use of pods [138]
● Misuse of pods [140-143]
■ Folding spaces and associated difficulties [144-145]
ASIDE: student notes this interview was shorter and a phone interview [146-147]
■ Stain treatment [148-150]
● Top five problems/summary [151-176]
○ Bending over; stain treatment; storage; legibility of products; messy/dirty spaces [153-156]
○ Possible marketing/product opportunities in this space [157-163]
■ Branded stain treatment to work with GE’s washing machines [161-163]
○ Summary in document [163-167]
COMMUNICATIVE ACTS
• All acts emerge with the three formal worlds fused
together; each act includes normative validity claims
• Focus on normative claims that move beyond the
hegemony of capitalist, market-driven design
• We are specifically selecting a critical perspective and
questioning assumptions about how students should
relate to production
[J1:7-11]
Simon: That’s – isn’t that sad?
Amie: Yeah.
Simon: The average income $21,000.00.
And it’s like, you know, think 

about that.
Product Stewardship
Environmental Preservation
Green Building Development
Regulatory Compliance
Social Accountability
Economic Responsibility
Aurora
Product Stewardship
Environmental Preservation
Green Building Development
Regulatory Compliance
Social Accountability
Economic Responsibility
Aurora
JULIAN
JULIAN—RESEARCH
• Low-income audience
• Unequal access to laundry for elderly
• Increasing sales through vendor lock-in
[J1:7-11]
Simon: That’s – isn’t that sad?
Amie: Yeah.
Simon: The average income $21,000.00. And it’s like, you
know, think about that.
[J1:327-327]
Simon: Okay, yeah. So one of the interesting things I’m
thinking about with like the legibility issue and just
understanding a lot of those are to do with the laundry
products, like the consumables, and it’s historically
something that GE hasn’t done. I’m trying to think what
consumables they make. I know with they’re fridges now
they’re starting to sell like the filters as a consumable and,
um, I just – I’m trying to think when they sell a laundry
machine, they really don’t get to sell any consumables
with it. And one thing we might look at pitching to them
is, you know, GE washer and dryer and GE consumables.
Amie: Mm-hmm.
Simon: Whether it be special stain things; things that are
like possibly designed to work perfectly with their
machines.
MYLIE
MYLIE—RESEARCH
• Laundry as gendered or sexist
• Intersection of play and responsibility for children
• “Green” laundry behaviors
Client: Ya’ know, we talk about the dryer is, is – it is very
much an energy hog. It uses a lot of energy to move all
that moisture out of clothes.
Mylie: Right.
Client: And anything we can do to promote air drying is, is
a definite benefit.
Mylie: -- for the kids. Cool. And then the last one is so it’s
after the laundry is done, where do you put your clothes.
Not all clothes can be, uh, machine dried and increasingly
there is also a trend of people wanting to have their, um,
uh, clothes dried in a – in a natural layer, but also from a
research – uh, I mean, some of the – some of the, uh,
participants were based in Europe. So their – the drying
machines are not that common.
[M3:37]
[M3:86-88]
1 3 4 5
Barriers to access 

(especially elderly)
X
Designing for low-income X
Market-driven design X O
Vendor lock-in X O
Hedonic qualities O
Laundry as gendered O
JULIAN
1 2 3 5
Laundry as gendered X O O
Intersection of play and responsibility 

for children
X X
Being “green” X X X
Visibility of laundry X X X X
Nature and indoor space X X X X
Spouses doing laundry X
MYLIE
DISCUSSION
• Normative concerns appeared from the d-search phase,
and only in the graduate context
• Professors were not active agents in foregrounding
areas of normative concern beyond “re-telling”
• While some normative concerns were inscribed in final
designs, their did not seem to be high awareness for
their presence
• Early foregrounding of normative concerns did not
guarantee inclusion into final design concepts
IMPLICATIONS
• Questioning the potentially hegemonic role of industry
partnerships in the classroom
• Supporting the foregrounding of normative concerns in
more explicit, systemic ways in design curricula
• The development of design character as including an
ethical as well as technical ability

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Normativity in Design Communication: Inscribing Design Values in Designed Artifacts

  • 1. EXTERNALIZING NORMATIVITY IN 
 DESIGN REVIEWS: INSCRIBING DESIGN 
 VALUES IN DESIGNED ARTIFACTS COLIN M. GRAY IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY CRAIG D. HOWARD TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
  • 2. NORMATIVITY, ETHICS, 
 AND VALUES • Issues relating to production have been discussed in the design and technology communities (Borgmann, 2010; Verbeek, 2006) • But the link to design character (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012) and the developing identity of design students is less established • How is design character inculcated in the educational process, particularly through the design review?
  • 3. McCoy (1990) “We must educate our new designers for this larger ethical view if design is to be more than the servant of commercialism.”
  • 5. OBJECTIVE multiple access “the world” SUBJECTIVE limited access “my world” NORMATIVE should/ought to be “our world”
  • 6. OBJECTIVE multiple access “the world” SUBJECTIVE limited access “my world” NORMATIVE should/ought to be “our world”
  • 7. OBJECTIVE multiple access “the world” SUBJECTIVE limited access “my world” NORMATIVE should/ought to be “our world”
  • 8. CONTENT INFERENCE FIELD(S) COMMUNICATIVE ACT MEANING FIELD VALIDITY HORIZON OBJECTIVE FOREGROUND INTERMEDIATE BACKGROUND SUBJECTIVE —— IDENTITY —— NORMATIVE AND OR/AND Gray (2014)
  • 9. RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1. How does a student’s externalization of their process through formal review/critique reveal their assumed normative concerns in relation to the end user or final designed artifact? 2. Is there a relation between early emergence of normative concerns in the design process, as externalized in review with a professor, and as inscribed in the final designed artifact?
  • 10. DATA R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 ID-J Todd X X X X Sheryl X X X X ID-G Julian X X X O Mylie X X X O
  • 11. ANALYSIS 1. Setting analysis 2. Meaning reconstruction 3. Locating normative concerns 4. Tracing normative concerns
  • 12. ● Formal qualities [2] ● User characteristics [3-11] ○ Average income level [3-9] ○ Justification of data source [10-11] ● Student team’s approach to doing (empathic) research in this space [12-28] ○ Student experience with vaseline covered glasses [14-28] ■ “fingers kind of fought with ___” [15-17] ■ Difficulty reading words [18-28] ● Document structure/communicative flow [29-39] ○ Formal qualities: redundant image [33-39] ● Other team research [40-72] ○ Student experience using a dog zapper to make them shake [43-51] ○ Data sources overview: three subjects [52-59] ○ Formal qualities: red on gray and bouncing text [60-72] ■ Professor’s personal experience [62-67] ■ Scientific/academic explanation of why values bounce [68] ■ Professor’s personal experience [69-72] ● Document structure/communicative flow [73-97] ○ Example of learning something new v. redundant information [79-83] ○ Appropriateness of generic picture (“pop[ping] out”) [84-97] ■ Formal qualities: colors not present elsewhere in the document/type bouncing [86-97] ● Differences found in interviews [98-150] ○ Themes: common problems [102] ○ Formal qualities: cropped top of page [103-107] ○ Themes: increased problems with age [108-110] ASIDE: professor request to dig deeper [111] ○ Additional themes [113-121] ■ Users not measuring detergent [115-118] ■ Users don’t use a basket or have to transport their supplies [119-121] ○ Formal qualities: redundant image [123-133] ○ Additional themes [134-145] ■ Detergent pods [134-143] ● Limited budget of elderly [136-137] ● Product marketing for better use of pods [138] ● Misuse of pods [140-143] ■ Folding spaces and associated difficulties [144-145] ASIDE: student notes this interview was shorter and a phone interview [146-147] ■ Stain treatment [148-150] ● Top five problems/summary [151-176] ○ Bending over; stain treatment; storage; legibility of products; messy/dirty spaces [153-156] ○ Possible marketing/product opportunities in this space [157-163] ■ Branded stain treatment to work with GE’s washing machines [161-163] ○ Summary in document [163-167] ○ Formal qualities: type too small to read well [168-176] ● Deliverable type as PDF [177-207] ○ Is the image resolution high enough? [181-184] ○ Technical issues in getting high enough resolution [185-206] ○ Technical solution from professor [207] ● Wrap-up [208] 1. Setting analysis
  • 13. ■ Professor’s personal experience [69-72] ● Document structure/communicative flow [73-97] ○ Example of learning something new v. redundant information [79-83] ○ Appropriateness of generic picture (“pop[ping] out”) [84-97] ■ Formal qualities: colors not present elsewhere in the document/type bouncing [86-97] ● Differences found in interviews [98-150] ○ Themes: common problems [102] ○ Formal qualities: cropped top of page [103-107] ○ Themes: increased problems with age [108-110] ASIDE: professor request to dig deeper [111] ○ Additional themes [113-121] ■ Users not measuring detergent [115-118] ■ Users don’t use a basket or have to transport their supplies [119-121] ○ Formal qualities: redundant image [123-133] ○ Additional themes [134-145] ■ Detergent pods [134-143] ● Limited budget of elderly [136-137] ● Product marketing for better use of pods [138] ● Misuse of pods [140-143] ■ Folding spaces and associated difficulties [144-145] ASIDE: student notes this interview was shorter and a phone interview [146-147] ■ Stain treatment [148-150] ● Top five problems/summary [151-176] ○ Bending over; stain treatment; storage; legibility of products; messy/dirty spaces [153-156] ○ Possible marketing/product opportunities in this space [157-163] ■ Branded stain treatment to work with GE’s washing machines [161-163] ○ Summary in document [163-167]
  • 14. COMMUNICATIVE ACTS • All acts emerge with the three formal worlds fused together; each act includes normative validity claims • Focus on normative claims that move beyond the hegemony of capitalist, market-driven design • We are specifically selecting a critical perspective and questioning assumptions about how students should relate to production
  • 15. [J1:7-11] Simon: That’s – isn’t that sad? Amie: Yeah. Simon: The average income $21,000.00. And it’s like, you know, think 
 about that.
  • 16. Product Stewardship Environmental Preservation Green Building Development Regulatory Compliance Social Accountability Economic Responsibility Aurora
  • 17. Product Stewardship Environmental Preservation Green Building Development Regulatory Compliance Social Accountability Economic Responsibility Aurora
  • 19. JULIAN—RESEARCH • Low-income audience • Unequal access to laundry for elderly • Increasing sales through vendor lock-in
  • 20. [J1:7-11] Simon: That’s – isn’t that sad? Amie: Yeah. Simon: The average income $21,000.00. And it’s like, you know, think about that.
  • 21. [J1:327-327] Simon: Okay, yeah. So one of the interesting things I’m thinking about with like the legibility issue and just understanding a lot of those are to do with the laundry products, like the consumables, and it’s historically something that GE hasn’t done. I’m trying to think what consumables they make. I know with they’re fridges now they’re starting to sell like the filters as a consumable and, um, I just – I’m trying to think when they sell a laundry machine, they really don’t get to sell any consumables with it. And one thing we might look at pitching to them is, you know, GE washer and dryer and GE consumables. Amie: Mm-hmm. Simon: Whether it be special stain things; things that are like possibly designed to work perfectly with their machines.
  • 22.
  • 23.
  • 24. MYLIE
  • 25. MYLIE—RESEARCH • Laundry as gendered or sexist • Intersection of play and responsibility for children • “Green” laundry behaviors
  • 26. Client: Ya’ know, we talk about the dryer is, is – it is very much an energy hog. It uses a lot of energy to move all that moisture out of clothes. Mylie: Right. Client: And anything we can do to promote air drying is, is a definite benefit. Mylie: -- for the kids. Cool. And then the last one is so it’s after the laundry is done, where do you put your clothes. Not all clothes can be, uh, machine dried and increasingly there is also a trend of people wanting to have their, um, uh, clothes dried in a – in a natural layer, but also from a research – uh, I mean, some of the – some of the, uh, participants were based in Europe. So their – the drying machines are not that common. [M3:37] [M3:86-88]
  • 27.
  • 28.
  • 29. 1 3 4 5 Barriers to access 
 (especially elderly) X Designing for low-income X Market-driven design X O Vendor lock-in X O Hedonic qualities O Laundry as gendered O JULIAN
  • 30. 1 2 3 5 Laundry as gendered X O O Intersection of play and responsibility 
 for children X X Being “green” X X X Visibility of laundry X X X X Nature and indoor space X X X X Spouses doing laundry X MYLIE
  • 31. DISCUSSION • Normative concerns appeared from the d-search phase, and only in the graduate context • Professors were not active agents in foregrounding areas of normative concern beyond “re-telling” • While some normative concerns were inscribed in final designs, their did not seem to be high awareness for their presence • Early foregrounding of normative concerns did not guarantee inclusion into final design concepts
  • 32. IMPLICATIONS • Questioning the potentially hegemonic role of industry partnerships in the classroom • Supporting the foregrounding of normative concerns in more explicit, systemic ways in design curricula • The development of design character as including an ethical as well as technical ability