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A Framework for Transitioning Designerly Ways; Interrogating 50 Years of Inclusive Design for Paediatric Mobility


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Inclusive paediatric mobility (IPM) design is a growing field in need of critical and foundational designerly transitions in order to better deal with a wicked problem. This article adopts an illustrative mapping review method to interrogate the past 50 years of IPM design, aiming to identify alternative designerly ways that could help transition the field towards a more desirable long-term future. IPM Design contributions between 1970 and 2020 are mapped chronologically across Theoretical, Methodological, Empirical, and Interventional categories. A Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways is developed to identify existing and alternative designerly ways, through categorising key insights from the mapping review. The framework consists of five interrelated dimensions, including Designerly: Investigations, Processes, Contributions, Collaborations, and Contexts. Proposed alternative designerly ways include: exploring high-level narratives and social imaginaries; shifting focus towards problem-framing, child-centred design and transdisciplinarity; improved documentation and sharing to build a body of knowledge; and exploring extended design contexts.
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A Framework for Transitioning Designerly Ways; Interrogating 50 Years of
Inclusive Design for Paediatric Mobility
Cara O’Sullivana*and Farnaz Nickpoura
aDivision of Industrial Design, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
*Corresponding author e-mail:
Inclusive paediatric mobility (IPM) design is a growing field in need of critical and
foundational designerly transitions in order to better deal with a wicked problem. This
article adopts an illustrative mapping review method to interrogate the past 50 years of
IPM design, aiming to identify alternative designerly ways that could help transition the
field towards a more desirable long-term future. IPM Design contributions between 1970
and 2020 are mapped chronologically across Theoretical, Methodological, Empirical, and
Interventional categories. A Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways is
developed to identify existing and alternative designerly ways, through categorising key
insights from the mapping review. The framework consists of five interrelated dimensions,
including Designerly: Investigations, Processes, Contributions, Collaborations, and
Contexts. Proposed alternative designerly ways include: exploring high-level narratives
and social imaginaries; shifting focus towards problem-framing, child-centred design and
transdisciplinarity; improved documentation and sharing to build a body of knowledge; and
exploring extended design contexts.
Keywords: designerly ways; inclusive design; mapping review; reflective practice;
transition design; inclusive paediatric mobility; child-centred design; assistive technology.
Before being able to effectively tackle wicked problems, designers should first reflect on and
question their designerly ways (Schön, 1983; Tonkinwise, 2015). This article aims to reflect on
and improve the current state of design practice by observing and questioning the history and
heritage of designerly ways within a specific context i.e. design for inclusive paediatric mobility.
Within the study of design, the term ‘designerly ways’ represents a vast and well-established
body of literature, first discussed by Cross (1982) in his paper ‘Designerly Ways of Knowing’,
with the aim of establishing the criteria which design must satisfy in order to be treated as a
coherent discipline of study. Over time, this body of literature has grown, alluding to multiple
distinctive types of ‘designerly ways’ including: ‘Knowing’ (Cross, 1982), ‘Thinking’ (Oxman,
1999; Laursen & Møller Haase, 2019), ‘Acting’ (Cross, 2006), ‘Doing’ (Self et al., 2013),
‘Researching’ (Grocott, 2012), ‘Being’ (Tenenberg et al., 2014), and more recently, ‘Futuring’
(Joseph, 2019). In this article, the term ‘designerly’ is used in a sense which pertains to the
academic design research tradition of studying design practice and linking it to design theory, as
distinguished by Johansson-Sköldberg et al. (2013).
Rather than focusing on a specific type of designerly way from the outset, various designerly
ways are explored and interrogated within a field-specific context; the case study of design for
inclusive paediatric mobility (IPM) is chosen as an area of design which presents a wicked
problem in need of designerly changes in order to transition towards a more desirable long-term
future. Designerly contributions to IPM are used as a starting point to analyse design principles,
practices, and techniques (Carlgren et al., 2016) and curate a narrative account (Grimaldi, 2013)
of designerly ways in the field over the past 50 years. This article maps and synthesises findings
to highlight gaps, issues and patterns and to propose alternative designerly ways to improve IPM
Design Meets Childhood Mobility
Inclusive Paediatric Mobility (IPM) design is the application of an inclusive design approach to
create mobility interventions such as wheelchairs, walking aids and exoskeletons, with the
fundamental goal of optimising the experience of childhood. IPM design unifies various design
elements and high-level approaches, making the content of this article pertinent to various
neighbouring fields. Nesting within the wider field of inclusive design, IPM design draws
heavily from Design Research, Child-centred Design, Design for Disability, and Mobility
Design. The field is rich with technological, sociocultural and commercial considerations and
inherits contradictory and permutable opinions and knowledge from a variety of disciplines,
stakeholders and subject areas. The overarching problems that exist within IPM design are
consequently wicked; they are ill-defined, complex, and are reframed whenever sociotechnical
imaginaries transform (Taylor, 2003; Jasanoff & Kim, 2013) or societal narratives evolve
(Venditti et al., 2017). For example, in the late 1970s, the widely accepted narrative used to
address paediatric mobility disabilities began to evolve from the goal of ‘normalising’ children's
movement, with walking being the ultimate achievement, to the goal of encouraging children to
use their ‘most efficient mobility approach’ to optimise their experience of childhood (Butler,
2009). This directly influenced the design of ensuing IPM interventions, and highlights the
importance of interrogating societal narratives when reflecting on how and why designers arrived
at their end products.
The contemporary landscape of IPM design materialised shortly after this, with a breakthrough
in design thinking that embodied the new societal narrative; in 1983, the first paediatric power
wheelchair was designed. The stark lack of independence-promoting IPM interventions other
than walking aids up until this point was simply a reflection of society’s conventionally
acknowledged narratives (Wiart & Darrah, 2009). New developments and knowledge in the field
have since continued to grow, yet there remain myriad issues with the design of IPM
interventions (Livingstone & Paleg, 2014).
The ‘I’ in IPM Design
Inclusive Design centres on the diversity of users' physical and psychosocial needs (Lim et al.,
2020), often starting with considering ‘extreme’ users (Newell & Gregor, 1997), before
exploring how further substantial structures of intersectional disadvantages such as race, gender,
income and class, come to bear on design (Konstantoni & Emejulu, 2017). In the context of
commercially available mobility interventions, young children are one of the most underserved
and excluded age group of users (Feldner et al., 2016), hence becoming ‘extreme’ users of an
already ‘extreme’ group.
There are three predominant approaches to the application of inclusive design (Figure 1)
and it is important to consider all three in order to build a comprehensive, accurate and critical
picture of the IPM design landscape. ‘Special-purpose’ design approach caters specifically for
the needs of an extreme user group without serving a mainstream market, such as wheelchairs
and walking aids. ‘Customisable/modular’ design approach enables mainstream products to be
adapted to cater for the needs of extreme user groups, such as ride-on toy vehicles. The ‘User-
aware’ design approach considers extreme user groups in the design of mainstream products,
such as supportive tricycles and go-karts.
Figure 1. Three predominantly used Inclusive Design approaches (Clarkson & Coleman, 2015).
The Significance of IPM
Mobility, as well as being a human right, is a necessary and significant part of life that, amongst
children in particular, influences multiple health outcomes. Independent mobility facilitates
children's physical, emotional, psychosocial, perceptual and cognitive development (Nilsson et
al., 2011; Bray et al., 2020), as well as providing opportunities to make social interactions
(Guerette et al., 2013) and increase confidence and participation with peers in everyday activities
(Casey et al., 2013). For infants and children with mobility disabilities, early intervention and
provision of IPM can avoid irreversible developmental delays. Using independent mobility
interventions has been shown to facilitate childhood development from as young as seven
months old (Lynch et al., 2009).
Design Issues with IPM
A myriad of unresolved issues exist around IPM design, some of which act as barriers for
incorporating IPM into a child’s life. Many IPM interventions are as restrictive as they are
enabling, are generally viewed as ‘compromises’ rather than ‘ideals’, and often exclude children
with complex needs (Livingstone & Paleg, 2014; Feldner et al., 2016). Furthermore, they lack
up-to-date integrated and assistive technologies, let alone desirability and childhood appeal
which has long been the norm in parallel sectors. Hence, problems with IPM designs can be
classified under three meta-levels:
1. Desirability, i.e. acceptability, pleasurability, emotional durability and personal
meaning (Desmet & Dijkhuis, 2003).
2. Feasibility, i.e. functionality and features, technicalities and usability (Livingstone &
Paleg, 2014).
3. Viability, i.e. economies of scale, affordability and sustainability (Pituch et al., 2019).
Whilst each problem has been separately investigated and addressed within adult services
Leaman & La, 2017), there is a considerable lack of holistic, convergent and innovative thinking
within paediatric services (Feldner et al., 2016).
Design Opportunities for IPM
IPM is a global need as well as a worldwide market. From the perspective of health economics,
there lies an opportunity to build a case for state provision of early IPM interventions and
potential funding for further research and development in the field of IPM design. Children who
receive adequate developmental opportunities during early childhood, have a better chance of
becoming healthy and productive adults, which can reduce future costs of education, medical
care and other social spending (Bray et al., 2020).
The combination of advanced manufacturing technologies, social product development
and crowdfunding, provides a significant opportunity for continued development, full
customisation and viable routes to market for IPM products. Open source design platforms can
save time and money on research and development, whilst providing tools to drive rapid
innovation at a global scale (Özkil, 2017). The emergence of new design approaches for solving
complex or wicked problems (Tonkinwise, 2015) presents an opportunity to seek out improved
designerly ways for the future of IPM design practice. This article aims to investigate such
opportunities through reflecting on and questioning the past half century of designerly ways in
the field.
Data Collection Methods
An illustrative mapping review was used to objectively categorise designerly contributions to the
field of IPM as one of four types, i.e. Interventional, Theoretical, Methodological or Empirical.
These four categories encapsulate all types of designerly contribution to the field of IPM
(Wobbrock & Kientz, 2016). Table 1 outlines the contribution classification system.
Table 1. Classification of IPM Design Contributions.
New or improved
products, services,
systems, or artifacts.
I.1 - Intervention was
implemented or
I.2 - Intervention
remained a concept or
T - Conceptual
models, frameworks,
policies, principles or
important variations
on those that already
exist (e.g. disability
M - Novel or refined
methods, processes, or
techniques with
sufficient detail to be
replicated by others.
E - Data sets, surveys,
arguments or findings
based on empirical
research which reveal
formerly unknown insight
and analysis of
behaviours, capabilities,
or interactions with
Using these categories to chronologically map contributions at a high level of granularity,
enables holistic visualisation and analysis of the field throughout history. It also enables
identification of trends, clusters, deserts and gaps in knowledge (Grant & Booth, 2009) across all
types of designerly contribution. The data collection methodology (including all utilised search
strings and databases) is outlined in detail on Mendeley data (O'Sullivan & Nickpour, 2020a)
along with details of the captured contributions. It is suggested to review the aforementioned
dataset before proceeding to the discussion section, in order to better engage with the analysis.
Each search result was reviewed according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria outlined in
Table 2.
Table 2. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria.
Contributions from 1970 onwards (The field of
IPM design field emerges soon after this time).
Interventions which do not provide a means of
independent mobility (e.g. passive mobility via
Functionally novel or significant designerly
contributions (i.e. excluding incremental updates
and copycat products)
Contributions which lack record of the context
of their creation.
Contributions relating to or developed for at least
one child aged ≤18 years with a mobility disability.
Studies involving only non-disabled/fully
mobile children or adults.
The development of technologies and gadgets
specifically for the IPM field.
Non-English language publications with no
English translation available.
Data Analysis Frameworks
Contributions that met the inclusion criteria were categorised, mapped and then further analysed
to enable a thorough understanding of the context of their creation and relationship to other
contributions on the map. Table 3 translates the objectives of this analysis into high-level
questions and serves as the first of two frameworks used to structure this data analysis
(O'Sullivan & Nickpour, 2020b). The questions are used to guide further investigation into each
contribution and thus facilitate exploration of designerly ways.
Table 3. Contribution Analysis Objectives translated into High-level Questions.
What is the type of design contribution? i.e. I.1, I.2,
When have designerly contributions been made to
the field of IPM? (YEAR)
Which discipline or stakeholder group does the
contribution come from? (CONTRIBUTOR)
Where have designerly contributions been made to
the field of IPM? (GEOGRAPHY)
Which inclusive design approach has been used to
develop it - User Aware, Customisable/Modular or
Special Purpose (DESIGN APPROACH)
A second framework was required in order to structure the identification and discussion of
deeper insights around designerly ways, and to ensure they were rigorously reflected on and
questioned at multiple levels (Carlgren et al., 2016). Whilst various distinctive designerly ways
have been well investigated, there appears to be a lack of existing theories, models, or
frameworks which specifically facilitate reflection on, and questioning of, designerly ways on a
macro-level, with a long-term, and future-oriented approach. Hence, relevant frameworks were
reviewed, three were identified as points of reference and were synthesised to make a single
framework suitable for this purpose. Combining the works of Schön (1983), Irwin et al. (2020)
and Aristotle (Sloan, 2010), a new Reflection-for-Transition framework has been devised to
capture and curate insights around multiple aspects of designerly ways (Figure 2).
Schön’s (1983) reflection-on-action approach has been adopted in this framework to
retrospectively contemplate the designerly ways utilised by contributions. Adding to this, the
forward-oriented reflective approach of the Transition Design Framework developed by Irwin et
al. (2020) has been adopted to facilitate long-term reflection at a macro-level. It also offers an
action-planning aspect for new ways of designing which expands on the attitudes and actions
required to reach the desired future. The final facet of the framework encapsulates Aristotle's
‘elements of circumstance’ to provide a comprehensive reflective structure for separating
insights into types of designerly ways. These consist of seven questions used as a means of
rigorous, contextual, and holistic information capture (Sloan, 2010). Adopting and adapting the
elements of circumstance, the new Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways
consists of five types of designerly ways, each representing an instrumental dimension in the
shaping of IPM contributions. These include: Designerly Investigations (Why); Designerly
Processes (How and by What means); Designerly Contributions (What); Designerly
Collaborations (Who); and Designerly Contexts (Where and When). Each designerly way is to
be examined in the contexts of old and new ways, according to reflections, questions and visions
for transition, as illustrated in Figure 2. This framework will be used as a vehicle to identify,
reflect on, and question key insights in both the context of the IPM design mapping review and
the wider context of design practice.
Figure 2. Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways.
Illustrative Mapping Results
In total, 61 design contributions from the 1970-2020 period were deemed eligible for inclusion.
Full details of these results and their references are recorded in tables on Mendeley data
(O'Sullivan & Nickpour, 2020a). The data collection results were translated into a visual map
(Figure 3) to illustrate designerly contributions to the field of IPM based on type of contribution
and contributors’ stakeholder group(s).
Figure 3. Illustrative map of designerly contributions in IPM between 1970 and 2020, based on
type of contribution and contributor’s stakeholder group(s).
Questioning Our Designerly Ways
The Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways is used in this section to structure
the discussion around 'Reflections On' old ways and 'Visions for Transition' to new ways
regarding each of the five identified designerly ways.
Designerly Investigations
Designerly investigations account for the ways in which designers systematically explore a
subject to identify, question, and make sense of insights, in pursuit of a definition or a
direction. Designerly investigations tend to occur at the earliest stage of a design process as a
sensemaking or framing exercise (Dillon, 1982) seeking to answer the question of why - to better
understand and define the problem at hand.
Reflecting On & Questioning Designerly Investigations
Examining the mapping review data confirmed that interventional contributions to the field of
IPM have primarily been driven by designers' habitual solution-focused impulse to specify and
satisfy unmet ‘user requirements’, as their first point of investigation. This is archetypical of the
design process (Cross, 2006) and often results in designers neglecting to interrogate higher level
dominant and alternative narratives and social imaginaries around a problem, as part of the
designerly investigation.
Narratives operate as an instrument of mind in the construction of reality and the way we
perceive problems; they provide perspective or a point of view (Bruner, 1991; Grimaldi et al.,
2013). Venditti et al. (2017) describe narratives as a way of presenting interpretations of reality,
going beyond time, space, aesthetic form, and medium of conveyance. Narrative and theme
investigations assist in broadening perspectives and understanding of a problem, which in turn
enables designers to better define and frame a problem, and thus better solve it (Leeuwen et al.,
2020). Within each act of design, proactively or passively, designers are either approving or
rejecting a high-level narrative or ideology through conforming and contributing to it,
transforming, challenging, or opposing it (Jakobsone, 2017).
Contemporary narratives put forward by Critical Disability Studies and Crip Theory
around empowerment, techno-ableism, crip technoscience and design justice could help critique,
alter, and reinvent the material-discursive world (Fritsch et al., 2019; Shew, 2018; Costanza-
Chock, 2020). However, engagement with alternative narratives, social imaginaries, and
approaches to framing IPM have remained underexplored and relatively unchanged. As a result,
the landscape of IPM design has witnessed incremental changes focusing on the refinement of
existing products and technologies (e.g. power wheelchairs) rather than substantial innovation or
critical design.
Vision for Transition & New Way of Designing; Investigations
Designerly investigations in the field of IPM design currently tend to focus on identifying and
questioning underlying requirements and specifications for a design. It is proposed that
designerly investigations transition to prioritise exploration, identification and questioning of
alternative narratives and social and sociotechnical imaginaries to help reframe or even redefine
the problems at hand, leading to critical design practices.
Designerly Processes
Designerly processes comprise the ways in which designers manage the application of their
resources, including the nature and order of their actions, answering the question of how
designers design (Bobbe et al., 2016). Processes represent a fundamental design characteristic
influenced by both the lens used to view a subject, and the design approach adopted by the
designer. Two distinct stages of the design process include problem framing and problem solving
(Dillon, 1982). Nessler (2016) illustrates these in his Revamped Double Diamond model, as two
sets of aims and outcome. Priority is given to first ‘designing the right things’, which establishes
a point of view and enables ‘problem framing’, followed by ‘designing things right’ which
embodies ‘problem solving’.
Reflecting On & Questioning Designerly Processes
Detailed analysis of interventional contributions illuminated a distinct spectrum of design
profiles. Both ends are heavily invested in problem solving, and neglect to evidence investment
in problem framing. On one end of the spectrum, exist designers who have a vested personal
interest, lived experience, or social and corporate responsibility, such as family members or
charities (e.g. Everard, 1983; Flodin, 2007). Designers at this end of the spectrum tend to have a
strong point of view about the problem they are seeking to solve, or even an idea of a solution
from the outset, and thus tend to jump into the design process without attempting to reframe or
consider the problem from alternative perspectives.
On the other end of the spectrum, exist designers in larger commercial organisations
which typically mass-manufacture adult mobility equipment. They tend to commence the design
process with a closed brief or product specification that is framed from a commercial or health
service provider perspective; to prioritise unit cost and physical user requirements, over
children’s lived experiences and personal preferences.
The mapping review illustrated a considerable number of interventional concepts or
prototypes never making it to commercialisation, highlighting a disparity between design
application and successful intervention or impact. With this being such a prominent
characteristic of the IPM design landscape, it seems surprising that market sustainability is not
framed as a higher priority design problem from the outset.
Vision for Transition & New Way of Designing; Processes
Designerly processes in the field of IPM design currently tend to commence with discovering
and defining the needs of stakeholders with a solution-centred approach. Following on from
designerly investigations, it is proposed that designerly processes transition their starting points
from problem solving to problem framing, and incorporate the opportunity to explore alternative
narratives from the outset.
Designerly Contributions
Designerly contributions encapsulate the ways in which design efforts materialise to reflect what
designers do on all levels. Theories, methods, interventions and empirical outcomes are all types
of designerly contribution (Wobbrock & Kientz, 2016). The way a contribution is recorded
forms a critical part of its ability to be communicated or shared, and thus significantly influences
its representation. As the role of designers, and the very definition of design evolves over time,
so too should the types of contribution that make up designerly knowledge.
Reflecting On & Questioning Designerly Contributions
The IPM mapping review revealed a somewhat disjointed and unbalanced landscape of
designerly contributions, heavily focused on interventions. Moreover, these efforts were poorly
recorded, making it difficult to locate and capture grey literature and unpublished fieldwork or
artifacts, especially for discontinued interventional contributions. This could reflect an ‘end-
result-oriented’ mentality that considers only certain polished aspects of a final solution valuable
or worthy of being recorded, communicated, and represented (Wong & Radcliffe, 2000). Media
coverage from IPM related design projects and competitions glorify well-presented inspirational
prototypes, videos, or illustrations of final products as indicators of success (Norman, 2010) even
if they never materialised or achieved impact (examples in Table 2 of: O'Sullivan & Nickpour,
2020a). Long-term measures of success, design processes, failures and empirical knowledge are
typically kept in-house, if documented at all, and consequently have little or no representation as
contributions. Additionally, there are no rigorous principles or measures to assess quality, guide
future thinking or define success within IPM design, which leaves little foundation for new
contributions to learn from and build upon.
The representation of contributions by stakeholder groups suggests that documentation
and dissemination of knowledge is typically encouraged and allocated more time in academic
settings than in industry. This makes it highly likely that IPM design contributions, particularly
interventional ones which did not reach commercialisation, could have been made by
stakeholders unconnected to academia without being recorded in literature, and hence may not be
represented in this mapping review.
Vision for Transition & New Way of Designing; Contributions
Designerly contributions in the field of IPM currently lack a balanced and holistic approach that
recognises the full spectrum and potential of design contributions. Contributions are
predominantly focused on interventions and delivering end products, hence neglecting and
lacking attempt, recognition, documentation, investment, and prioritisation of other types of
designerly contribution. It is proposed that the priorities for designerly contributions transition
from being interventionally focused towards a more balanced representation of the spectrum of
designerly contributions, placing greater value on theories, methodologies and empirical
Designerly Collaborations
Designerly collaborations embody the ways designers engage with others throughout the design
process, answering the question of who designers work with and the nature of their engagement.
There is a clear distinction between concepts of consultation, collaboration, and participation
(Ansell & Gash, 2008). While participatory design and co-design are well established within
design, there is strong evidence around lack of uptake, misuse, and ineffective adoption of such
approaches (Keast et al., 2007).
Reflecting On & Questioning Designerly Collaborations
The development of 30 out of the 36 interventional contributions in the mapping review were led
by engineers or designers. There is little evidence or trend of continued involvement from other
disciplines, stakeholders or children (users) throughout the design process. It seems, at best,
collaborations in the field of IPM design have been multidisciplinary, but designers and
engineers appear to have the final say on which features are compromisable or significant
enough to be included in an intervention. Evidence shows that children, parents and therapists
are not always satisfied with this (Pituch et al., 2019). Such critique echoes arguments from
within crip technoscience (Fritsch et al., 2019), advocating expertise or even design initiation to
be shifted from designers to those with lived experience, to minimise likelihood of designs being
rejected by the disability community (Shew, 2018). In this case, utilising a child-centred design
approach would ensure children’s individual and collective voices, perspectives, priorities and
lived experiences of IPM are captured and considered as a core part of the design process.
Due to the nature of the field, each stakeholder is equally knowledgeable when it comes
to defining their perspective of the problems around IPM, and so all stakeholders need to be
involved to frame the key questions and most important facets of the design problem. Jensenius
(2012) proposes a spectrum of collaborative setups (Figure 4) and suggests that a closer
collaborative effort to not only share information, but to work together to develop solutions and
ideas in a transdisciplinary approach, could transform the dynamics of IPM design and stimulate
innovation in the field.
Figure 4. The disciplinary data integration spectrum (Jensenius, 2012).
Designers can support multi-stakeholder collaboration and foster co-creativity among fellow
participants by taking on the role as a participant-facilitator (Aguirre et al., 2017). Involving
children, key stakeholders and experts from foundational subject areas could bring new
perspectives and narratives to the IPM field, stimulating and altering the way interventions are
imagined, and subsequently designed. It is also important to acknowledge and balance tensions
between disciplines regarding narratives and requirements.
Being a field of such specific scope puts IPM design at risk of contributing to the
fragmentation of knowledge through siloing its discoveries if it does not maintain strong
connections and collaborations with its broader foundational subject areas and adopt a unifying
approach to knowledge.
Vision for Transition & New Way of Designing; Collaborations
Designerly collaborations in the field of IPM design have typically been multidisciplinary,
however this has clearly not been satisfying the requirements and desires of all stakeholders and
critiques (Livingstone & Paleg, 2014). It is proposed that designerly collaborations transition
towards a more child-centred and transdisciplinary approach, with designers taking on the role of
a facilitator, a sensemaker and a bridge between a breadth of disciplines and stakeholders, both
in terms of narratives and requirements. This will ensure design acts as an agent of knowledge
unification throughout the design process, and is led with a rich array of experiences, skill sets,
narratives and definitions of the problem.
Designerly Contexts
Designerly Contexts encompass the ways in which designers are influenced by factors connected
with, or relevant to, the time (when) and place (where) they are designing for. Contextual sources
of influence are dynamic and wide-ranging, embracing the breadths of social, technological,
environmental, political, economic and legal states. As such, contextual influences manifest in a
variety of forms, from deep-seated and imperceptibly evolving values, goals and interests at an
individual level, to abrupt changes commanding immediate action at a global level. Having
awareness of context and its influences bestows designers with greater consciousness over their
design motivations (Mitchell, 1997), inspirations (Gonçalves et al., 2014), identity (Björklund et
al., 2020), thinking and choices (Gray, 2013), all of which directly shape their design outcomes.
Reflecting On & Questioning Designerly Contexts
The dimension of Time can be related to short-term present thinking (immediate), or long-term
future thinking (extended). It is interesting, yet unsurprising, that the first IPM interventions
captured in the mapping review were created by parents (Everard, 1983; Flodin, 2007) as urgent
responses to satisfy the mobility needs of their own children. These designs hence adopted an
immediate approach to time. This relates closely to the ecological perspective of Place as the
level of proximity to the designer: at an individual level, designers address their own problem; at
a community level designers address the problem of their connections or networks; at a national
level designers address the problem of those with similar social and cultural values without direct
contact; and at a global level designers address the problem at scale, for the benefit of all,
crossing the borders of social and cultural values (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Designers at the
individual level are typically proactive in creating a design brief from their own understanding or
lived experience of a problem. Designers who are designing at a less immediate level, or who are
given a design brief, are typically reactive to somebody else’s interpretation of a problem,
making it important they unpick and interrogate the narratives, motivations, scope and any
expected deliverables as part of their designerly investigation.
A more common interpretation of Place relates to geography. The mapping review
highlights a significant lack of novel IPM design contributions recorded from developing regions
of the world. This could be due to limitations of the search strategy, poor documentation of
possible contributions, or general lack of contributions to the field of IPM design from these
regions. Design for Scalability, Design for Diversity, and Context Variation by Design, are
approaches and mind-sets that acknowledge large-scale wicked problems often occur in multiple
contexts, and encourage designers to scale solutions across contextual boundaries (Kersten et al.,
2018). These approaches start by intentionally sourcing insights from across all relevant contexts
to create richer, more creative solutions that are more adaptable and adaptive for scalability. This
can lead to lower end-to-end costs and shorter overall timelines for adoption on a substantial
scale, which can be an effective way to extend the reach of IPM designs to also suit developing
regions of the world (Nickpour and O’Sullivan, 2016).
Vision for Transition & New Way of Designing; Contexts
Designerly contexts in the field of IPM design currently tend to focus on the designer’s
immediateness in terms of both time and proximity to the problem. It is proposed that designerly
contexts transition towards more extended perspectives, thinking about the longer-term
landscape of IPM and considering it from a global sustainable perspective. This transition aims
to provide designers with awareness of the bigger picture of IPM design, to be alive and
responsive to the struggles of others and the planet, to set the world on a path to achieving better
IPM design and thus more inclusively optimise experiences of childhood.
Summary of Transitions for Designerly Ways in IPM Design
The aforementioned ‘Reflections On’ old ways and ‘Visions for Transition’ to new ways
regarding each of the five identified designerly ways in the field of IPM design are summarised
in Figure 5. It is suggested that: Designerly investigations should change from capturing
underlying requirements to first exploring high-level narratives and imaginaries; Designerly
processes should shift focus from problem-solving to problem-framing; Designerly contributions
should move beyond being interventionally-focused to attend more rigorously to documenting
and sharing theories, methodologies and empirical research, to build a body of knowledge;
Designerly collaborations should transition from multidisciplinary involvement towards
transdisciplinary design teams; and Designerly contexts should progress from adopting
immediate perspectives of time and place to exploring extended perspectives. Engaging in this
reflective process has highlighted alternative designerly ways which could help the transition
towards a more desirable long-term future for IPM design.
Figure 5. Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways; 50 years of IPM Design.
Conclusion and Future Research
This article reviewed 61 contributions to the field of IPM design between 1970 and 2020.
Adopting an illustrative mapping review method, design contributions were captured and
classified under Theoretical, Methodological, Empirical, and Interventional categories.
On a macro-level, a Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways was
developed to curate key insights in a critical, reflective, and future-facing manner. The
framework consists of five interrelated dimensions including Designerly: Investigations,
Processes, Contributions, Collaborations, and Contexts. The framework could help identify
existing and alternative designerly ways in both the context of IPM design over the past fifty
years, and the wider context of design practice.
On a micro-level, key issues were identified with the current designerly ways of IPM and
alternative designerly ways were proposed (Figure 5). These included: exploration of high-level
narratives and social imaginaries prior to engaging with user and system requirements; shifting
towards problem-framing, child-centred design and transdisciplinarity; attending more rigorously
to capturing theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to build a foundational
body of design knowledge; and exploring extended contexts.
Going forward, the Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways could be applied in
other domains (both closely related and distant from IPM) as a framework to help capture
context-specific insights, and as a framework to reflect on and transition the wider context of
design practice as a whole.
Furthermore, future research needs to explore how each of the proposed new designerly
ways should be applied in IPM design practice, in order to equip the next generation of designers
with the tools, processes and knowledge required to drive progress, accelerate learning, and
reimagine a more desirable future for IPM. Future design research in the field should prioritise
establishing a more rigorous problem framing process, which will primarily entwine aspects of
research into designerly investigations, processes and collaborations. This should pay specific
attention to capturing stakeholders’ narratives and optimising the child-centred design approach.
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... Similarly, the narrative that 'easy access to low-cost and customisable IPM interventions should be a right' led to the creation of a project called 'GoBabyGo' which uses a modular design approach to adapt ride-on toy vehicles for children with mobility impairments (Huang & Galloway, 2012). Engagement with alternative narratives and approaches to framing IPM have remained relatively underexplored over the past fifty years, resulting in a lack of substantial innovation or critical design in the field (O'Sullivan & Nickpour, 2021). Extending designerly investigations to consider contemporary narratives around design justice, techno-ableism, empowerment and rights (Costanza-Chock, 2020;Fritsch et al., 2019;Shew, 2018;) could help critique, alter, and reinvent the material-discursive landscape of IPM design, which highlights the need to engage with children and disciplines beyond Design at the front-end of the design process. ...
... A recent illustrative mapping review of the IPM design field highlighted the disparity between designerly contribution types, as illustrated in Figure 5. Nickpour, 2021). 16 The landscape of interventional contributions is shaped largely by an assortment of products, along with a scattering of services and product-service hybrids. ...
... Reflection-for-Transition framework of Designerly Ways (O'Sullivan& Nickpour, 2021). ...
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This chapter introduces foundational knowledge and tools to support those advocating the rights of children with disabilities to enter into discussion with the field of Design, recognising its role as an active and direct agent of children's rights. Five interrelated 'designerly ways' are discussed to explore how design can act as an agent acknowledging, integrating and facilitating the rights of children with disabilities. The field of inclusive paediatric mobility design is focused upon to provide context-specific insights. Two key directions are outlined regarding the transitioning and prioritisation of designerly ways, to help optimise Design as an agent of children's rights.
... Table 6. presents the classification system for contributions adopted from Shaw & Nickpour (2021). ...
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