Activity Theory as a means for multi-scale analysis of the engineering design process: A protocol study of design in practice

Philip Cash, Ben Hicks, Steve Culley

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    This paper contributes to improving our understanding of design activity. Specifically the paper uses Activity Theory to enable a multi-scale analysis of the activity of three engineering designers over a period of one month. Correspondingly, this paper represents the first work that explicitly investigates design activity across different scales, referred to as macro-, meso- and microscales. In addition to establishing the range of activities and tasks that occur at, and constitute, each scale the underlying relationships between the scales of activity are discussed. Further, the paper elucidates the wider implications of the proposed framework and its findings for both design research and practice. Central to these implications is the articulation of design as a complex fabric of interwoven processes. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalDesign Studies
    Pages (from-to)1-32
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Case study
    • Design activity
    • Design practice
    • Protocol analysis

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