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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    Ulstein Bridge Vision: Can a video be research?

    1 1/2 week ago Ulstein launched a video presenting the Ulstein Bridge Vision, an outcome of the Ulstein Bridge Concept (UBC) project which I am part of. The vision presented is the result of more than one year of development work and shows new interaction design, product design and technical solutions.

    Ulstein Bridge Vision from Ulstein Group on Vimeo.

    Showcasing research

    Although Ulstein Bridge Vision is a presentation of novel design solutions, it can also be viewed as research in itself. The UBC project follows a Research by Design-approach to research, which is a "special research mode where the explorative, generative and innovative aspects of design are engaged and aligned in a systematic research inquiry"1. This means that the design researcher is also a practitioner, but that the practice needs to be complemented with reflections to qualify as research.

    Research by Design is an example of what Koskinen et al. denotes constructive research, which "refers to design research in which construction - be it product, system, space, or media - takes center place and becomes the key means in constructing knowledge"2. Koskinen et al. discuss how design can be studied in the lab, in the field and in the showroom. The UBC project qualifies for all, I guess, but the film presenting Ulstein Bridge Vision gives associations to the showroom. The showroom is influenced by for example critical design and more artistic movements in design. Clearly some aspects of these approaches are not of direct relevance in our case. But in my opinion two characteristics of the showroom as design research are of relevance to the Ulstein Bridge Vision presentation: How the designs reach a lot of people because the film is made available online, and how the film has caused some interesting discussions.

    Opening up for discussions

    I can't wait to just gesture in front of the console to change screens. It's like a huge iPhone! I'd probably take a (slight) pay cut to play with those toys full time.

    User on gCaptain forum

    Ulstein Bridge Vision has got a lot of attention. The video has been discussed and shared in both paperbased and digital newspapers, on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs etc. Mariners have expressed their opinions on the design in comment fields of online articles, e.g. Teknisk Ukeblad's article, and discussions devoted to the film have been carried out for example in the user forum of gCaptain, a leading news website for maritime professionals. Some of the remarks expressed are of real value to us.

    Koskinen et al. state that doing design at a highly professional level is a powerful tactic when doing showroom design research. The high quality of the designs in the film and the film itself seem to have enabled designers to offer us their opinion on the designs, rather than comment on the quality of renderings etc.

    All this feedback, both from the maritime community and from the design community, is interesting and motivates our further work. Now we need to take the discussions into the research arena to get feedback from the research community as well.


    1 Sevaldson B. Discussions & Movements in Design Research. FORMakademisk. 2010;3(1):8–35. Available from:

    2 Koskinen I, Zimmerman J, Binder T, Redström J & Wensveen S. Design Research through Practice: from the lab, field, and showroom. Waltham, USA: Morgan Kaufmann; 2011.

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