ATIC - Approches théoriques de l'Information Communication

The Design Turn Facing Communication

Socio-Economic Inscriptions, Theoretical Challenges and Emerging Questions

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Expected response for the 07/11/2021

Response type Résumé

Expected contribution type Article

Publication name ATIC - Approches théoriques de l'Information Communication



Over the last ten years, the institutionalization of design practices has become dominant within organisations which was meant to address issues of competitiveness and innovation. In France, according to the “Banque Publique d’Investissement” (BPI) “Design will be the lever of competitiveness” in 2021.[1]Design practices can be characterised by a form of reflexivity (Schön, 1983), which is reflected in the mounting international research output in the context of Design Studies and, in France with a marked epistemological ambition, in the context of “Sciences du Design” (Vial & Findeli 2015). These works show the intention to renew conception processes, in particular through user-centered approaches, and address questions related to the complexity of design projects (Buchanan, 1992), the attributed significance by the public (Krippendorff 2005, Verganti 2008), or the “habitability of the world” (Findeli, 2010). This is of special interest for stakeholder management in organisational contexts.

Design practices – or “designs” (graphic design, stage design, product design, design management, etc.) – allow to efficiently address encountered problems and meet expectations – especially those of the user, and his or her social need for engagement, by offering the possibility to participate in the conception process (Berrebi-Hoffman, Bureau & Lallement, 2018; Özdirlik & Pallez 2017). By their social and anthropological dimensions such frameworks are constructed to enhance our private, professional and public life and consequently modern societies as a whole. Such collaborative and utopian dimensions are supposed to be conducive to innovation, in particular by assuring the different functions of communication (Darras, Vial, 2017; Bonnet, Mitropoulou, Wilhelm, 2019). Design is no longer limited to industrial products. The growing importance of the tertiary sector in Western economies seems to promote design practices in organisations. It seems reasonable to link the interest in design to its ability to illustrate projects and to bring different types of participants together. This gets significant regarding the design of objects, services and technologies, which have become mediators or even partners via new experiences with high emotional added value (Martin-Juchat, 2017). Therefore, design through emotion is considered to serve the “re-enchantment” of communication (Stiegler, 2014/2008).

The integration of design practices in industrialised contexts (Miège, 2017), that is meant to address the anthropological and socio-psychological characteristics of users, needs to be analysed in the light of recent communication theories. Has the shift towards user-centered practices not been claimed since the 1980s (Barcenilla, Bastien, 2009; Paquienséguy, 2019)? The potential of design to simultaneously address the ontological, pragmatic and prescriptive dimensions of conception processes is particularly used in projects that address the diffusion of new technologies.

The analysis of sensitive, tacit and corporal ways of building relations with users in design practices (sometimes via new technical tools) represents a necessary contribution to the understanding of today’s economies and to the evolution of public relations models (Polanyi, 2009). Do we have the theoretical models to think about these evolutions? How do they fit into fundamental theoretical perspectives: critical theories, public relations models, communicational approaches to organisations, anthropology through affective communication, and constitutive approaches to organisations?

In particular, how do these dynamics inscribe themselves in the context of societies in crisis? Do designs, in their diversity and in their common values, fit into the dynamics of radicalizing rationalization, industrialization and modelling of “users” for commercial purposes (Martin-Juchat, Staii, 2016) or do they renew practices, actors and innovation processes? New theoretical proposals in Information and Communication Sciences (ICS), such as those analyzing design at the intersection of artefact and relationship design (Zacklad 2017) or positioning design as a mediator between humanities and engineering (Gentes 2017), are they likely to facilitate interdisciplinary work in design projects and to shed light on the cooperation between designers and social sciences?

The research focus revolves around four main axes as presented below. Each of these axes can be approached via a micro, meso or macro perspective and with an empirical or theoretical orientation. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcomed.

The main axes of reflection are as follows:

  1. From communication to design practices via the evolution of materials and techniques:
    • What is the role for materiality in the shift from communication to design?
    • How do ICT and IoT innovations reshape communication and design practices and theories?
    • What will change for information-, communication- and action-models through practice: notably the tacit, affective and corporal dimensions?
  2. Which roles and negotiated status for design and communication in organisations?
    • What are emerging trends of design management in innovation and communication projects, particularly in terms of assignment and professional skills?
    • How is the impact of design in innovation and communication practices evolving?
  3. Designs and communication in organisations: Diversity of practices? Convergence of models?
    • The user-centered turn: What are the specific challenges and results of co-design approaches?
    • What are new forms of convergence between communication, design and innovation in contexts of tensions?
    • What are new strategies of actors and logics of cooperation to adapt to info- communicative environments complexified by new challenges?

The deadlines will be as follows:

  • 7.11.2021: Submission of a one-page abstract (5000 characters maximum) to :
  • 28.11.2021: Feedback on the acceptance of the abstracts
  • 30.01.2022: Submission of the final texts according to the ATIC journal.