Maja Frögård

Negotiating Tensions – Designers' responsibilities in democratic entanglements

Workshop participant sketching on a design proposal for a shared space in a residential area. Photo: Bo Westerlund

Maja Frögård defends her thesis 15 October 2021, 13-18, Svarta Havet, Konstfack, LM Ericssons väg 14, Stockholm

My PhD project concerns the roles and responsibilities of designers when we design workshops with democratic ambitions. Reflecting on my experiences from making co-design workshops for citizen participation to support sustainable urban development in municipal planning processes, I inquire into designers' societal entanglements and explore these from democratic, social, political and designerly perspectives.

Designing workshops in municipal planning processes made me curious about the diverse interpretations and practices of democracy. Seeking to make sense of my role in relation to these, I trace intertwinements between design and democracy and reflect on how industrial designers' roles are historically entangled with market-driven relations, formed by production and consumption.

I propose three concerns to support designers, design students and design researchers in orienting their practices, arguing that it is important to reflect on the concerns of entanglements tensions, and responsibilities. These concerns focus on designers' potential of making, on tentatively engaging with and curiously proposing things. My contribution and making of theory are thus for designers to make sense of and take responsibility for in relations shaped through our own particular practices.

Maja Frögård is a designer with an MFA in Industrial design from Konstfack. Her research materially and critically explores what designers design and aims to support designer abilities to grapple with the existential and political dimensions of today's societal challenges. By creating workshops for co-designing proposal for common areas and activities, local and particular design proposals are made in correspondence with our global entanglements. The politics of designing proposals includes engaging relevant participants to materially debate fundamental questions of meaning making – to practically negotiate the realities we collectively can imagine.

Principal supervisor: Bo Westerlund, Senior Professor in Industrial design at Konstfack
Assistant supervisor: Jonathan Metzger, Professor in Urban and Regional Studies at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Moa Matthis, Senior Lecturer at the programme of Visual Communications at Konstfack
Admitted to KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Project period: 2015-2021