Design Research – looking at Inclusive Design and Spontaneous Design in particular – has seldom ventured into industrial workstations1. Although industrial work tends to be thought of as standardised, monotonous and simple, a closer look reveals that there is space for worker inventiveness, that the job changes and that it its charged with embodied complexity1. Workers appropriate their workspaces and change them to improve productivity or working conditions2 – doing this, they engage in Spontaneous Design.

We propose to investigate spontaneous design in industrial shopfloors through a mixed-methods approach, by engaging in qualitative fieldwork and co-design. Using Research through Design, we will investigate the role of Spontaneous Design as a source of information, inquiry and inspiration for new methods towards worker inclusion, particularly for human-machine interaction (HMI).

This exploratory project will result in two outcomes: 1) an inventory of spontaneous designs in industrial shopfloors, and 2) a collection of artifacts/prototypes demonstrating how knowledge from spontaneous design can be used by designers to improve HMI towards inclusion.

At a time when industry faces challenges of keeping up with digital transformation, while securing sufficient and highly skilled workers, identifying ways of creating more inclusive workstations and improving working conditions will be critical for business sustainability 3 and for design research as being able to play a role in it.

Examples of spontaneous design in shopfloors in Portugal and in Japan (Ana’s archive).

1 Correia de Barros, A (2022). Inclusive Design within Industry 4.0: A Literature Review with an Exploration of the Concept of Complexity. The Design Journal, 25(5):849-866
2 Correia de Barros, A., Correia, C., Moutinho, R., Lemos, G., Resende, C., Cunha, L., Silva, D., Maggioli, S., Amorim, S.B. (2022, in press). Design and Evaluation of a Device for Ecological Momentary Assessment with Workers in a Garment Factory. In: Shin C.S., Di Bucchianico G., Fukuda S., Ghim YG., Montagna G., Carvalho C. (eds) Advances in Industrial Design. AHFE 2022. Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems., Springer, Cham.
3 Romero D, Stahre J, Wuest T, Noran O, Bernus P, Fast-Berglund A, and Gorecky D (2016). Towards An Operator 4.0 Typology: A Human-Centric Perspective On The Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies. In Computers & Industrial Engineering.