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Ileana Maris

On design as liberal art: The art of advancements


This dissertation illustrates the process of designing for online and offline interaction in a museum context. The project consisted of the design and development of an online community platform for the museum visitors as well as of interactive, participative exhibitions inside the museum. Theoretical insights were drawn from extensive field work consisting of observations of designers’ daily work, qualitative interviews and document analysis.
The nature of designing without a product is examined empirically and theoretically. Design without a product is concerned with discovering what would make a new design work for the people engaging in or with it. In their practice, designers develop and are guided by a set of design theories of what they think would make a new design work. These theories are independent of the object of design. The same theories can be equally applied to the design of a new online community as well as of an offline participatory exhibition.
The findings illustrate that in practicing design without a product, designers deal with problems that are too complex and dynamic to be solved once and for all; they can only be advanced one step at a time. Second, designing without a product is a distributed practice. Design for interaction is constantly evolving and emerging out of the work performed by designers, community members and others. Third, in designing without a product, design is appropriated as a liberal art. In contrast to the scientific art where theories are tested, in design as liberal art, theories are employed for achieving practical, life-changing outcomes