Dynamics of Respectful Design in Co-Creative and Co-Reflective Encounters with Indigenous Communities

Lizette Reitsma

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This research focuses on designing with indigenous communities. The use of design raises concerns in this context. Because of the aim to ‘improve’ lives and the emphasis on innovation, design approaches have the probability to colonise. As designers, we have to find ways to deal with such concerns. Approaches that do this within the context of indigenous communities are Sheehan’s respectful design and Tunstall’s culture-based innovation. Both approaches acknowledge that the community should benefit from projects. In this, the role of the designer becomes to spark the resourcefulness of the community members to find such benefit. However, neither approach states in pragmatic terms how such a space can be reached. Therefore, this research aims to: explore the dynamics of a respectful design space in co-creative and co-reflective encounters with indigenous communities; and to provide recommendations to reach such a space. The explorations were performed by introducing co-creative design methods during a case study with three indigenous communities. Some co-creative processes led to respectful design spaces, others did not. All processes were analytically studied by combining annotated portfolios and content analysis in timelines. The aim was to find patterns of dynamics essential for respectful design. The dynamics that arose were: 1) ownership through the type of design participation, 2) indicators of ownership, 3) the type of novel expressions made and 4) the type of material culture introduced. This led to contributions of this research being, firstly, a framework of a respectful design space and recommendations of how to reach such a space. Secondly, the concept of constellations of design initiatives, to understand respectful design in situ. Thirdly, the importance of inclusion of the community’s own material culture to facilitate dialogical spaces, and, finally, the analytical approach used to find the dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
  • Rodgers, Paul, Supervisor
  • Light, Ann, Supervisor
  • Wallace, Jayne, Supervisor
  • Duncan, Trevor, Supervisor
Publication statusIn preparation - Jun 2015


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