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Zhipeng Duan defends his Service Design PhD

Doctoral defense

1 March, 2024, 1000 – 1500

We are delighted to announced that today Zhipeng Duan defends his doctoral thesis in Service Design entitled Soiling Service Design: Situating Professional Designing among Plural Practices.

The given Trial Lecture has the title: ‘The Art of Getting Dirty: Navigating the tensions between method and situated service design practice’. This lecture is followed by the defence with the external examiners: Associate Professor Tuuli Mattelmäki and Assistant Professor Jung-Joo Lee. The main supervisor has been Associate Professor Josina Vink (AHO with Prof. Simon Clatworthy (AHO) as co-supervisor.

Zhipeng Duan is a design researcher. His research explores the situatedness of praxis and knowledge of design, in an evolving cultural context. As part of the Centre for Connected Care (C3), his research particularly responds to the transformation of healthcare services in both Norway and China.

Details of the event are here.

The full thesis document is here.


Professional service design knowledge has travelled globally, detached from its larger Western history and contexts. However, the dissemination of professional knowledge has remained highly abstract, making it challenging for individual designers to grasp the underlying perspectives and debates associated with it. Against this backdrop, this doctoral study explores the relationships between individual service designers and the contexts they must navigate. It aims to illuminate the complications faced by service designers when striving to establish genuine and meaningful connections between their professional practice and the local contexts.

By drawing on practice theories and employing multiple empirical research approaches, the contributions of this thesis are twofold. Firstly, the study elaborates on the detached views held by service designers which restrain them from situating their practices. Such views condition how designers perceive their connection to the world and lead to the potential for a sense of meaninglessness. Secondly, this study draws out an alternative possibility of relating professional design to local contexts. By proposing various ways of doing and knowing as means to attend to relational practices, the thesis suggests the ability to situate design practice can be cultivated through attentiveness to what others do.

Design practice does not necessarily form an inherent-coherent process, but rather entangles with other practices, each shaping the conditions for the others’ existence. Messy encounters soil the established understanding of service design. Appreciating the encounters aids designers in finding means to participate in an ongoing process of world-making.