User Representations as a Design Resource: Achieving Accountable Design without Access to Users

Kaisa Savolainen*, Sampsa Hyysalo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


The study of how the understanding of usages and users is achieved and turned into the characteristics of products comprises ‘the sociology of user representation’ in Science and Technology Studies. Whilst the early research on the topic was foremost a critique of designers’ imposition of their imagination and preferences on prospective users, research has since discovered a richer research landscape by accomplishing the difficult task of anticipating the future contexts and identities of users. Our paper continues this line of work by examining a situation where first-hand access to users was blocked for human-centred design-oriented designers. Constructing an array of complementary user representations helped them to bridge the previously accumulated knowledge on users in their trade to the envisioned technology. The overlaps between the key user segment representations helped the design team to delineate an overall concept whilst the representations of specific usage details aided in the design of product features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalScience & Technology Studies
Issue number2
Early online date15 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • User representations
  • Design research
  • human-centred design


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