My top three books about meaningful design

1. The Designer’s Atlas of Sustainability

The first book that inspired me to create meaningful design is by Ann Thorpe. I read quite a while ago. I used the book for the course Sustainable Product Design. Before I read this book, no book has crossed my path with such to the point tips for designers.

The Designer’s Atlas of Sustainability: Charting the Conceptual Landscape through Economy, Ecology, and Culture

2. Designing Things

When I started my research project, I loved to go to the university library to find books about meaningful designs and designing with values. I found a book by Prasad Boradkar. This book is easy to read and loaded with examples and theory. That was the book that helped me formulating what values are and how to use them as a designer.

Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects

3. Innovation Design

Another book that helped me through the first period of trying to understand the topic is by Elke den Ouden. She not only included design theory in her work, but also perspectives from psychology, sociology, and business. It a great resource for theory.

Next to that her book provides two concrete tools you could use in teams or networked innovation to get insight  in all value perspectives of project stakeholders and value flows between them.
Innovation Design: Creating Value for People, Organizations and Society

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Overview of coping strategies

Are you struggling with a conflict? It may sometimes be hard to figure out what action you should take next to resolve the conflict. Check out what other designers did to tackle their issues. Based on our research, we identified 11 ways of coping with value-based conflicts. Is there a tip or strategy that may be useful for your situation?

#DesignerFrustration Instagram course

I have been transferring my research insights into an online course called #DesignerFrustration. This afternoon the course will launch, so I am exited how it will be received. Do you want to participate? Join now via:

I choose a to build the course on Instagram. It is an unusual platform for an online course, but I choose it because it had two advantages. First of all, Instagram is an upcoming platform especially popular for a young audience. I want to reach out to junior design professionals, so this seemed a good match. Secondly, I also wanted to reach out to an international audience. Social media is easy accessible from all over the world.


Finally, the platform gives different opportunities Continue reading “#DesignerFrustration Instagram course”


Last week, I followed a discussion on the sacrifices people make for gaining a PhD. I was shocked. I did not share their feelings as for me it was such a dream to pursue a PhD that I do not feel like I am sacrificing everything. Another person who had similar feelings her/his comments were used as he/she was blaming others for sharing their sacrifices. I did see it differently.

I think this is a matter of perception and maybe your values? Some time ago you have made the decision to pursue a PhD. If in doing so you follow intrinsically motivated values, such as stimulation or curiosity, you might not feel strongly in making sacrifices. Others might be pushed by others (e.g. power of parents or profs) or pulled by extrinsically motivated values (e.g. achievement). Of course, these are valid values, but they are anxiety based. These might give you a feeling of making sacrifices all the time.

My advice is not to focus  Continue reading “Sacrifices”

Swimming​ in data

In the past few months, I have been up to my ears gathering data and developing tools to support junior designers reflecting on value-based conflicts. This was amazing! The next step is to consolidate all this data in a paper. I have so much data that I almost do not know where to start. I have collected pictures, drawings, notes, chats, interviews, videos, survey data, emails… to name a few.

Data collection
Data collection (pic by Jens Gijbels)

In my first study, I conducted 22 interviews which were transcribed. I added a few more data sources for triangulation, but my main source of data were interview transcriptions. Since my last interview in 2016, I have been analyzing with my supervisory team. We have been working through this rich material. I am happy to announce our first journal article is finished. I submitted it to a journal for review yesterday.

To come back to my second study, you may understand my worry. As I have been working over 1,5 year to have something publishable for my first study, I start to feel some stress for my second study. This is a much wider collection of data. I have to be pragmatic and get a grip on this fast. I have 1,5 year left to finish my thesis, so although it may sound a lot, I do feel some pressure building up.

Income or going for your values?

Today, I met a junior designer with a freelance business. One of the frustrations he had experienced, was about what is a fair price? He was asked by a friend of a friend to do a job. She thought his rate was high and had expected to give some discount for work he did. Sadly, it is a typical confrontation freelance designers experience. Long time ago, I have myself also been struggling with balancing free or low priced jobs and getting enough income to support myself.

It is unfair choice to ask junior designers to deliver things for free or under market value. Yes they are passionate about their job, and yes they need experience. But how on earth is it fair to expect from them to put a lot of time for free into something you cannot do yourself? They will create something with high talent and quality of deliverables, so you will get in more clients. It is not a direct one-on-one pay back for you, but I am sure it has effect! You want it right?

Ok, so far my preaching, as many of you who read this are probably designers. You know all this? You have probably experienced it, right? What was your strategy? How did you deal with it? Please share your story 🙂

For future projects, you could use this chart to find your answer. A tip from the designer I talked with today.


The ‘afterlife’

Yesterday, my prof asked me what my ambitions are. I have been thinking about what to do after my PhD, but it seemed still so far away. I realized however, I might be finished in 1,5 years. You never know what happens along the way, but ideally, I should be finished somewhere beginning 2019.

It had been such a journey to obtain a PhD position. Continue reading “The ‘afterlife’”

Designer Identity

Today, I participated in an (semi-)international seminar for Industrial Design Engineering programs of University of Applied Sciences. I joined a session on Identity Education. We shared how identity education played a role in our programs and what questions we had that we wanted to tackle in this session. As an answer to these questions, we created a vision on how identity support could be for 2025. We envisioned a student who steered in a cabriolet through an ever-changing landscape full of challenges.


Remarkable for me, was Continue reading “Designer Identity”

Vacation time

One of the treats of academia are the long vacations.


Especially in the summer. In the Netherlands, we generally have 5 weeks without any teaching obligations or related tasks. I usually make some resolutions for these vacations:

visit friends & family, travel, relax at the beach, read good books, write blogposts, spend extra time on my PhD, do more workouts, make some delicious healthy meals, prep barbecue parties, do some house renovations, etc. This year another thing was added to the list. Spend time with my little boy. While I am writing it down here, I notice the large to-do-list I have created for myself to do in the summer vacation.

Usually reality hits me.

Continue reading “Vacation time”

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