Places of creation : design in industrial agglomerations

Emma Linder

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This work reports a study of industrial design practice and management in new product development that is undertaken within regional agglomerations of industries. The study was motivated by the importance of regionally agglomerated industries in the global economy, the peculiarities of this phenomenon as a context of practice, and the limited attention that it has received from the design research community. The context of regional agglomerations of industries brings a geographical dimension to the study of design, which to a great extent has been overlooked in existing design research literature. The study shows that design practice and design management is situated in time, place and industrial cultures. The research results are grounded in careful qualitative analysis of design and design management practices in three regionally agglomerated industries: the Norwegian industries of shipbuilding in and around Ålesund and of furniture in and around Sykkylven, and the Italian production system of sports and leisure shoes in Montebelluna. The interview data that was collected from stakeholders in design in the three industries shows that design in industrial agglomerations is performed by both local and non-local design professionals who contribute to the local context in distinct ways. The study results are condensed in a framework which shows that the design competences that are used in new product development in industrial agglomerations are both sticky and ubiquitous, and that different design professionals are integrated into new product development accordingly. Sticky design knowledge is situated in place and thus held exclusively by local design professionals, while ubiquitous design knowledge is inherent to a global design community and thus travels across industries and space. The local design community, that consists of in-house designers, ace designers and to some extent all-round designers, is extensively integrated in local new product development processes. Local designers contribute to both intra-regional and knowledge integration of sticky and ubiquitous design knowledge. Non-local designers, such as global star designers, global ace designers and global all-round designers, whose practices take place within the global design discourse, are loosely integrated in local new product developmentand build their contributions on ubiquitous design knowledge. They thereby bringnew perspectives and product languages to industrial agglomerations and afford learningacross industries and space. Based on these findings, the respective sticky and ubiquitousnature of symbolic and synthetic design knowledge is discussed. Through detailed case descriptions and excerpts from the interviews this text further showshow local and global designers experience practice in regionally agglomerated industriesas opposed to more conventional contexts of new product development. The concludingsection of this text exemplifies how this work may be relevant to both design and designmanagement practitioners, design education, to the design research community, and inpolicy contexts.
Translated title of the contributionPlaces of creation : design in industrial agglomerations
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-5700-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5701-9
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • industrial design
  • cultural impacts
  • geography
  • designers
  • furniture industry
  • footwear industry


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