A workshop at NordiCHI 2022 organized by Minke Nouwens, Amos Blanton and Peter Dalsgaard

How can we study the emergence and evolution of ideas throughout a design process?

The theme of the workshop is the real-life impact of time on the emergence and development of design ideas. The main focus of creative research, including on design ideas, has been on getting a creative idea and on the idea itself. As a result, the ways in which ideas are developed, presented, and interpreted has been left underexplored. Yet, creative action is by definition temporal, as designers often take on projects that last a long time. Not only that, the few studies that have taken a longer temporal approach have shown that creative ideas are “born” after long periods of time spent internalizing what has already been done in one’s field, and master-level performances only come after years of extensive deliberate practice. To apply a model like Wallas’ four-stage model of preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification, to one brainstorm meeting thus overlooks the many years of practice that designers have already put in. Without this recognition of the real life impact of time on creative ideas, it might seem as if these ideas sprung up “spontaneously” in that event, but the reality is very different. The underrecognition of time on creative processes has also led to a lack of recognition of what the analytical ‘cuts’ of these models do.

Creativity is always in the making, and the imposition of artificial boundaries between stages prevents us “from developing a dynamic and integrative understanding of creativity”, including design ideas. In this workshop, we want to bring time and the temporality of creative design processes to the forefront, so we might develop a greater sensitivity to time in our design research and a better understanding of its impacts.



Any method applied to a specific moment in time imposes artificial boundaries on time, which leaves the risk to obscure rather than reveal temporal practices like creative design processes. As aforementioned, design research is dominated by a focus on the emergence of ideas and the idea itself. Consequently, studies using ethnomethodology, cultural probes, protocol and discourse analysis in brainstorm sessions have provided us with a better understanding of how ideas are birthed and under what conditions. Yet, this analytical and methodological ‘cut’ has also led to a lack of understanding of what happens in the long nonlinear and asymmetrical preparation phase before an idea emerges, or what is done with these ideas from brainstorm sessions.

How can we expand our research to include the development, presentation, and interpretation of design ideas? What methods are needed for that? And how can we apply these methods with a sensitivity to the ‘cuts’ we make?

Topics for the workshop

In this workshop, we explore the complexities of time and the methodological questions it brings in the study of design processes. We invite participants to discuss specific cases and contexts of design creativity from their research relating, but not limited to, the aforementioned ways that time is a central part of our everyday lives and experiences. To ensure a productive workshop, we will provide an empirical example of the three-year long design process to start off the method discussions, but we also invite participants to contribute with their own case examples.

Participants are invited to use their expertise and background to workshop with us which methods can support the study and analysis of this case, what the benefits and blindspots of each of these methods are in temporal design research, and how we might tackle this issue in the future using what we learned from our discussions. The outcome of the workshop is a preliminary toolbox with tips and tricks for researchers that are sensitive to the effect of time on their research in design processes and/or that study time in ideation processes itself.


How to attend

We seek position papers that are 2-4 pages long (including references), submitted in the CHI Extended Abstract format, and describe work or discussion related to topics outlined above. Admittance to the workshop will be based on the overall quality, novelty, and relevance of the submission, and the ambition of bringing together a set of participants that represent different methods and approaches to studying ideation and design processes. We will pay particular attention to under- served regions or universities. Papers should be submitted to Minke Nouwens ([email protected]) by September 2. At least one author of each accepted paper must attend the workshop.



Minke Nouwens is an anthropologist and multimedia artist with a research specialization in design creativity and ideation processes. Currently, she is conducting an ethnographic study on how ideas are practiced and negotiated in the entanglements between designers, analogue and digital tools, materials, organizational policies, cultural perceptions on creativity, and time at different design studios for her PhD at Aarhus University. Minke has held a junior researcher and lecturer position at the University of Amsterdam (2013-2018) and St. Joost School of Art and Design (2020-2021), a Research Fellowship at the Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology (2019-2020), a Summer Sessions Residency at V2_ Lab for Unstable Media (Rotterdam) and POINTS Center for Contemporary Art (Kunshan) (2019), and visiting scholarship at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (2012, 2014-2015). Her work includes both academic research papers and multimedia presentations and has, among others, been shared at ISEA’20, Council for Museum Anthropology Spring Symposium’22, EASA’18 and ‘22, Eye Filmmuseum (NL), POINTS gallery (CH), DutchDesignWeek’20, and thecurrent.is.

Amos Blanton is an educator specializing in the design of open-ended creative learning experiences and environments, and is currently researching collective creativity as a PhD Student at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University in partnership with Aarhus Public Libraries. He ran the Scratch online community at MIT Media Lab, designed learning through play spaces and activities with the Exploratorium, the Reggio Children Foundation, and LEGO, and helped land the FujiFilm Blimp.



Peter Dalsgaard is a full professor of interaction design at Aarhus University. His work explores the use and design of digital systems from a humanistic perspective. He is founder and co-director of the Centre for Digital Creativity, which studies real-life use of digital systems in creative processes, develops and experiments with prototypes of new systems and services, and develops theories to understand the role and nature of digital media in creative processes. He has has previously organized workshops at venues such as CHI, DIS, and Creativity and Cognition, and been program chair at DIS, Creativity and Cognition, and the Media Architecture Biennale.