How should designers approach the task of designing for complex high-risk contexts, like the bridge of an offshore service vessel?

What do we need to make sense of to make good design judgements?

In what ways can systems thinking be of help when designing for such environments?

This PhD blog addresses these and other questions and is about my search for and research on design for sensemaking.

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    Doctoral thesis defense coming up

    Illustration by Jesper Egemar.I will defend my Ph.D. thesis “Systemic design in complex contexts. An enquiry through designing a ship’s bridge” at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) on Friday 22nd of January. The trial lecture starts at 10:00 and the disputation starts at 12:00. For more information, see AHO’s calendar.

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    Making use of field data in design: Layered Scenario Mapping

    In a paper published in CoDesign I introduce Layered Scenario Mapping, a mapping technique we developed in the Ulstein Bridge Concept project to address issues we had with coping with vast amounts of data from field research. The technique was developed to meet the needs we faced when designing a ship’s bridge, however, it may also prove valuable when designing for other contexts where the spatial and/or temporal dimensions are of importance. A guide enabling others to use the technique is available online.

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    To make designs that make sense marine designers must have sea sense

    In A seaman’s pocket-book from 1943 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty wrote that

    The seaman must develop sea sense, just as the driver of a motor vehicle develops ‘road sense’. He must be alert continually to visualize what is happening, and to anticipate what might happen next.

    In a recent paper presented at RINA's Marine Design conference Kjetil Norby and I argue that marine designers must acquire their own kind of sea sense to be able to make good design judgements when designing for the maritime domain.

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    Designers’ experience with the offshore industry

    Due to busy times it’s been a year since I updated the blog. Since my last post I have had several papers published and also submitted my PhD thesis (currently under review). I will in the next couple of weeks post some blog entries dedicated to the published papers. I start out by presenting an article discussing designers’ experience with designing for the offshore industry written with Margareta Lützhöft and Birger Sevaldson and published in the International Journal of Design.

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    A model for design-driven field research

    Based on our experiences with field research at the Ocean Industries Concept Lab and in the Ulstein Bridge Concept design research project, we have proposed a model for design-driven field research. This model suggests focus areas we believe are important when doing field research at sea. We particularly emphasise that the designer should engage in design reflection while in the field. In this regard, the model expands on the more traditional concept of field research in design, which emphasises field studies as efforts that take place before designing.

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    RSD3: A call for action to the systemic design community?

    I haven’t updated this blog for a while because I have been on maternity leave, but now I am back working on my PhD again. Last week I attended this year’s Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) symposium, which was a great way to get back into work. At the first two RSD symposia I was a speaker (read my summary of RSD1 here, and see my presentation and working paper from RSD2 here), while this year I was in the audience listening to insightful presentations given by others interested in the crossing point between systems thinking and design.

    One of the things that caught my attention at the RSD3 was what seemed like a call for action to the systemic design community to consciously design systemic design. This was more or less touched upon in several presentations, but I found the last two speakers of the symposium, Hugh Dubberly and Dr Harold Nelson, to be the most explicit in their calls.

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    A glimpse of the work of the Ulstein Bridge Concept

    Last week at the Design Day, a meeting place for businesses and designers organised by the Norwegian Design Council, the Ulstein Bridge Concept project and Ulstein Group's commitment to design were thoroughly covered. First speeches about using design in the maritime industries were given by Tore Ulstein, Chairman and Deputy CEO, Ulstein Group, and Skule Storheill, R&D and Innovation Programmes, Norwegian Design Council. Special emphasis was put on the design-driven innovation programme, which our project has been a part of. Then a video presenting the work the Ulstein Bridge Concept project was shown, in which my Project Manager Kjetil Nordby was interviewed, and even I got to say a couple of words.

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    Systemic design symposium: Relating Systems Thinking & Design #2

    Last year a highly successful symposium on the interrelationship between systems thinking and design practice took place at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (read my summary of the event here). This year my supervisor Professor Birger Sevaldson, together with his co-chairs Dr. Peter Jones from Toronto’s OCAD University and Dr. Harold Nelson from the School of Computer Science at the University of Montana, are organising a follow-up symposium taking the discussions further with the aim of developing new, interrelated practices based on systems thinking and design practice.

    There is currently a call for abstract out with a deadline May 1. There will also be workshops the day before the symposium, e.g. a workshop run by Dr. Alex Ryan for PhD fellows with projects where looking at the relation between systems thinking and design is important. Hope to meet many people interested in systems thinking and design in Oslo in October!

    For more information, please visit


    Overlapping discussions on the topic of Risk

    The picture above is from the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu in New Mexico, USA. In the beginning of January I spent a weekend here with the most interesting crowd of people I've met in a while, the so-called "Overlappers", for the Overlap:Risk. Overlappers are people who believe that we need discussions across and between disciplines to meet and solve important challenges of today, and who see such overlaps between disciplines as the core of innovation. But why did I travel 11 000 km to spend a weekend with these people at this secluded and dry mountainous place? What did this event taking place 1400 km from the coast and 2000 m above sea level have to do with my work on designing ship's bridges?

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    Why do I do a PhD?

    Lately I've got some questions about why I chose to start a PhD. I didn't really need a PhD, I had no ambitions of becoming an academic. I already had a good job at DNV and nice colleagues I enjoyed working with. And with the Norwegian job market, I was lucky to have the opportunity to change jobs if I wanted to do something else. I had developed valuable experience and was well recognised for my expertise within my company. And if I started a PhD I would have to work more hours on a considerably lower salary. Why on earth would I want to do that?

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