People Place Process

People Place Process - A self-reflection tool to become a professional in design thinking, based on Pedagogical Action Research



The nature of design thinking projects requires a great capacity to solve situated-inquiry problems (versus technical problem solving – Schön). Design thinking requires practitioners to become reflective professionals. This piece of research provides a protocol and tools to guide their journey of self-reflection:

  • A new action research protocol (derived from Pedagogical Action Research) for design thinking practitioners,
  • A conceptual framework (People Place Process) to guide design thinking development, in both academic and business environments,
  • A scale-up model to develop design thinking pedagogy at the scale of an individual educator, a university and a government,
  • An activity framework for both academic and business users to identify competences developed with (and required for) design thinking projects

Pedagogical action research represents the oldest strand of action research, reaching back to the Science of Education movement in the late nineteenth century (Bain, Boone) and revived in the early twentieth century by the work of John Dewey. The ultimate goal of reflective teaching is to develop teachers’ skills in ‘‘reflection-in-action”, i.e., their ability to frame and reframe problems, find solutions instantly on the basis of their interpretation and analysis of the situation, and construct new meanings and directions for future actions (Schön). The protocol and tools developed in this research have been adapted to design thinking projects, both in academic and business contexts.

Experiential Design Landscapes

PhD work



This thesis takes on a combined approach, from societal and business development angles, to explore the question of ‘how to design for an active and healthy lifestyle. It follows a Research-through-Design approach, which generates new knowledge through the act of designing. A design-driven research method called Experiential Design Landscapes (EDLs) is developed together with accompanying tools and techniques. With the EDL method, the design process is taken into society by creating infrastructures where designers work together with stakeholders in jointly creating experienceable propositions that can evolve over time. These propositions, Experiential Probes, are intelligent, open, sensor- enhanced, and networked products service systems that enable people to develop new and emerging behaviours, and in parallel enable detailed analysis of the emerging data patterns by researchers and designers as a source of inspiration for the development of future systems.
dr. ir. Michel Peeters and dr. ir. Carl Megens

Perceptive Qualities in System of Interactive Products

PhD work


Thesisnews at TU/e

This doctoral project investigates whether and how to design for perceptive qualities in systems of interactive products from a phenomenological point of view. It sets out to form and frame a new perspective on designing an artefact’s intelligence from a quality- and action-centric approach, rather than a functional approach. Artefacts and the systems they create become increasingly intelligent and disappear to the background of our environment. How do we understand all these intelligible connections that systems create in our environment when they are invisible and highly flexible? Moreover, how do we design for such systems of intelligent and interactive artefacts? I am convinced that if we want to design for successful intelligent systems that are perceptible to and evolve around its user, the artefact’s intelligence has to build on the direct interaction with its user(s). It is shown that, by designing for perceptive qualities, the system’s activity becomes meaningful to its users. Moreover, the user activity becomes meaningful to the system in the course of the interaction.

The work is inspired by and directly synthesises from theory. The theoretical starting point and the generated design-relevant knowledge, in the form of design notions, are a leitmotiv through this work. Three main chapters are structured around this connecting thread. In each of these chapters, designing plays an essential role. The first chapter follows a minimalist approach in context and in implementation to bring forward fundamental knowledge for designing. The second chapter investigates the added value of the generated knowledge for designing, and a step is made towards design practice. In the third chapter, a third-person perspective corroborates the first-person approach and findings. It is crucial that these three chapters feed into each other to inform, inspire and validate.

Rights through Making – Skills for pervasive ethics

This thesis starts with a Manifesto, bold, passionate and ambitious. Goals are set high, as to commit to a major endeavour: how can design contribute to a new civilisation. The first version was written in 2006 in Bertinoro, Italy, where Caroline Hummels, Kees Overbeeke and I were giving a workshop on Aesthetics of Interaction for the University of Bologna. In this Manifesto, we declared our belief and proposed a vision, concerning how design can change Western thinking towards pervasive ethics. By pervasive ethics I mean a social praxis aimed at justice and freedom, which pervades society in a capillary way, becoming a Universal attitude that makes people aware of their own rights, able and willing to contribute to seeing their own rights and those of all people fulfilled. I called this approach Rights though Making. The manifesto stated a mission1, which was later applied and validated. The main lines of thoughts of the manifesto have been respected and enforced through several actions. This thesis will describe these actions, the underlying theory and the related reflection both on the approach and on the outcomes. The Manifesto integrated the points of view of the writers, united by a common drive, in a world riddled with all sorts of social uncertainties. In the Manifesto we declared our intention of preparing and doing workshops with students of different nationalities, stimulating the integration of skilful points of view among future designers. When the Manifesto was written, there was not yet a concrete strategy on how to empower people towards pervasive ethics. The only anchor point was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We wanted the values contained in this document materialised, embodied in (intelligent) products or systems. Both the outcome of what we were envisioning (intelligent products or systems empowering towards the realisation of human rights) and the process of realising it (workshop) had to work towards ethics. This was all I knew at that point. Later I designed the way to do it, based on this solid and enthusiastic shared vision.

Throughout the years, the underlying theoretical framework started to acquire its own body. Only after the realisation of the first 5 workshops (out of 7 in total), was I able to explicitly structure and describe the platform of theory that was supporting my endeavour. These actions (the workshops), contributed to the formation of a body of knowledge, of which the potential strength and soundness until then had exclusively been perceived through intuition. This tacit knowledge was dredged out, reflected upon and refined, through iterations of reflection-on-action, in which the “active” parts were the individual workshops.

Thus the forming of this theoretical platform, the refinement of the research quest or design challenge and giving the workshops were overlapping in time and closely intertwined. For clarity, in this thesis I chose to position them in the following order:

  • Part 1: defining the design challenge / research quest and the Rights through Making Approach;
  • Part 2: illustrating the theoretical framework underlying the whole work. This theoretical framework is formed by three elements: (1) Ethics (2) Making and (3) their integration, i.e. how Making empowers towards Ethics: the core of the RtM approach.
  • Part 3: describing how this theory is applied in design workshops and how the Rights through Making (RtM) approach evolved;
  • Part 4: reflecting on the overall research experience and the underlying personal motivations.

Before this central body I placed and introductory part, containing acknowledgments, rights of the readers, synopsis (this chapter) and tables of contents. After the fourth part, I positioned a part called “Annexes”, which is composed of two main sections:

  • In the first section I present the RtM workshops in detail, in regard to both the process of each RtM workshop and their evolution;
  • In the second section, I illustrate the direction in which I envision the diffusion of RtM in the future, through the realisation of an Internet platform.