A multi-context design approach for a portbale ultrasound device

Wouter Kersten, Jan-Carel Diehl, Marcel Crul, Jo van Engelen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


The world is complex. Amongst others, this means that many elements are interconnected. When designing solutions, this complexity is often seen as cumbersome, resulting in (over) simplification of the issue at hand. This leads to solutions that are optimised for one specific context. Especially when these solutions are aimed at tackling large scale development issues, redoing the process every time when a new context is entered is very resource intensive.

A multi-context design approach that was recently developed, takes another premise: if multiformity of a design challenge is acknowledged from the start, this encourages to intentionally bring together insights from multiple contexts. This collective intelligence results in design solutions with higher quality that also allow for quicker scaling and adaptation to multiple contexts thereby achieving more impact against lower overall costs.

The first intended result, higher quality, has been tested in various set ups. The most elaborated experiment was conducted with junior designers for a medical company. The main question was: “To which extent does a multi-context approach result in higher quality of design concepts?” Starting from the same issue (maternal health care, a portable ultrasound device), three groups developed concept directions for solutions, with differences in the sources of insights that were provided. All assessments that were performed point in the same direction, being that the results from the multi-context group were more creative and relevant.

Several lessons were obtained about the execution, which are translated into recommendations for more and better experiments and actual use in industry settings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the NordDesign 2016
EditorsCasper Boks, Johannes Sigurjonsson, Martin Steinert, Carlijn Vis, Andreas Wulvik
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherThe Design Society
Number of pages10
EditionDS 85-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-904670-81-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-904670-80-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventNordDesign 2016 - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 10 Aug 201612 Aug 2016


ConferenceNordDesign 2016


  • Context variation
  • impact
  • complexity
  • pluriformity


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