Design and Product Development

Exploring Designer’s Perceptions of Professional Facilitation in a User-Centered Design Scenario

  • Kristen Deanne Morris (Colorado State University)


In this study, we explored if involving a professional facilitator would enhance the collaborative design experience with designers and end-users. Facilitation is not only valuable for user-centered design scenarios, but also day-to-day group management and professional activities. In this study we developed a collaborative design scenario where users work with designers to develop a product design. A facilitator was brought in to work with half of the groups. In total, there were seven design sessions with a total of 30 runners and six unique designers. The product they brainstormed was a technical shirt for runners. Three of the seven groups were professionally facilitated. The designers were interviewed after each design session about the co-design experience. Designers of facilitated groups were asked about the value of working with a facilitator. The two key findings of this study were in regard to the roles of the designer and facilitator in the group and how facilitation hindered creative flow. Regarding roles, having a facilitator allowed the designer to remain engaged with the group, however they perceived overlap in the creative lead and group manager roles which negatively influenced designer’s perception of the value of the facilitator. Regarding creative flow, the designers perceived that the techniques used by the facilitator stunted the creative flow. Particularly, designers took issue with the systematic allotment of time, typical of facilitation techniques, because they needed more flexibility in extracting good design information from users during the brainstorming process. Findings indicate that facilitators may be redundant to the role of the designer in a co-design environment. However, it may be valuable to train designers (who have a background in managing the creative process) in facilitation techniques to manage group dynamic.

Keywords: design process, user-centered design, facilitation, collaborative design

How to Cite:

Morris, K. D., (2019) “Exploring Designer’s Perceptions of Professional Facilitation in a User-Centered Design Scenario”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 76(1). doi:

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Published on
15 Dec 2019