Practice Theory and Human-Centered Design: A sustainable bathing example

Lenneke Kuijer, Annelise M. De Jong


Within sustainable design, design researchers and practitioners are developing novel design approaches equipped to influence domestic resource consumption in a variety of ways. However, as it turns out, the outcomes of these approaches in terms of their actual effects on sustainability are not quite as high as the desired effects. This is often taken to be a direct consequence of rebound effects or unpredicted user behaviour. In an attempt to overcome these limitations, this article explores the implications of the combination of two research strands, practice theory and human-centred design that may assist designers by going beyond behaviour towards gaining an understanding of use practices. Practice theory takes practices as its main unit of analysis; human-centred design works closely with potential future users. The translation of these two starting points in a design approach was explored in a still ongoing exemplar project on bathing that is elaborated on here. The article closes with a reflection on how the theoretical instruments presented manifest themselves in the project.


Sustainability; Social practice theory; Human-centred design; Bathing

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