Becoming an interaction designer (PhD project) (completed)

The topic of this PhD-project is how interaction designers learn and develop professional competence through structured educational settings and in their work

About the project

Two main questions are investigated - the first being the role of computerized tools in design work and competence development.  The second centres on how understandings of core concepts in interaction design thinking are developed through iterative work on a student project.

Supervisors: Leif Chr. Lahn, Institute for Educational Research, University of Oslo, and Tone Bratteteig, Department of Informatics, UniversityofOslo.

Stipendiat Annett Hillestad.



The point of departure is a view of design as a social, historical and cultural activity. This means that the unit of analysis is defined broader than just intrapersonal processes. Drawing on Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Engeström, it is through the study of the interaction of two or more activity systems, that one can understand expansive learning. When studying development of design competences and knowledge, this means that attention needs to be directed towards social situations in the learning milieu, and movements between different activity systems, as well as mediating artefacts. It also means that a broader context than the classroom is relevant. For instance, the student's involvement with design activities outside of school, and the movement between school and these other arenas is of interest.


Ethnographic case study research has been carried out in a class of master level interaction design students. Empirical data consists of sound recordings from student presentations with comments from teachers and professional designers, unstructured interviews with teachers and students, video recordings of student presentations showcasing project proposals and prototypes, as well as document analysis. Additional data is to be collected later from workplace settings.


The analysis tries to capture how design concepts develop through dialogue between designers with different levels of experience while working on design projects, and how today's computerized technologies with their capacity to move design work from concrete and tangible tools and materials, to non-tangible representations and symbols influence knowledge building.


Faculty of Education, University of Oslo. 


Published Sep. 20, 2010 1:22 PM - Last modified June 23, 2011 11:03 AM


Annett Hillestad