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Meaning and Interpretation: An analysis of two theoretical perspectives in product design

Martina Keitsch , Viktor Hjort af Ornäs

Experiences gain increasing attention in design research, but theories are inconsistent, and the foundations of different methods are rarely discussed. Design research has sui generis no fixed epistemology, and is open to methodological eclecticism. However, as paradigms successively change from positivistic towards more comprehensive views, discussions on how underlying theoretical assumptions influence approaches are needed. This paper examines and compares axiological, epistemological and methodological aspects of two perspectives: Kansei engineering, and a postmodernist framework. Both frameworks aim to match designers’ conceptions of product symbolism etc. to those of the user group, but they evolve from different theoretical starting points. Analyzing the contents of underlying theories and their influence on methods and expected results is an important part of theory development that may also support designers in making methodological choices.


Design epistemology, design methods, negotiating meaning