A taxonomy of users’ active design engagement in the 21st century

Cindy Kohtala, Sampsa Hyysalo, Jack Whalen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


People not only purchase and use products and services, but creatively appropriate, hack, redesign and even innovate in them. Typologies of active use have emerged in various disciplines, remaining piecemeal even if complementary. Together they produce a blurry depiction of active design engagement, despite active use being pivotal to many emerging design approaches. To remedy this, we synthesize a taxonomy of different aspects of active use and design engagement. Use as-is, active use, locally new designs and globally new innovations mark different intensities of engagement. These can concern the material form of design, new uses, new meanings, adjustment to local settings, or the collective endeavours to shape communities and organizations, ideologies and imaginaries, and global platforms that facilitate active use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-54
Number of pages28
JournalDesign Studies
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • User innovation
  • Collaborative design
  • Active users
  • design-in-use
  • Open Design
  • innovation
  • design


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