Conference article

A designerly-way of conducting qualitative research in design studies

Nina Costa
INESTEC, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto,Portugal

Lia Patrício
INESTEC, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto,Portugal

Nicola Morelli
Aalborg University, Denmark

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Published in: ServDes2018. Service Design Proof of Concept, Proceedings of the ServDes.2018 Conference, 18-20 June, Milano, Italy

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 150:13, p. 164-176

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Published: 2018-07-05

ISBN: 978-91-7685-237-8

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


Design studies focuses on explaining the human activity of design, and is fundamental to design research. It frequently involves the use of qualitative research approaches such as case study, with the collection of a considerable amount of heterogeneous data (e.g. observations, interviews, documents, artifacts). Multiple sources and heterogeneous data can be hard to analyse. Within social sciences, qualitative analysis is undertaken through the process of coding (e.g. grounded theory) which can be supported by computer-assisted software such as Nvivo. However, this type of analysis works better for textual data and is not so effective to analyze more heterogeous and visual data sets. Moreover, the process of open, selective and axial coding in traditional qualitative research do not have a good fit with the more visual, iterative, and participatory approaches of service design researchers. To address these challenges this article presents a case study research, where a more visual and participatory designerly approach was used to conduct qualitative research in design studies. The results show that the approach enabled a richer data triangulation and analysis; and also triggered more multidisciplinary discussions, enriching study’s results.


design research, design studies, qualitative research, service design, case study


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