Engaging with competing demands in systems through design: Fostering a paradox lens

Rike Neuhoff*, Olivia Harre, Luca Simeone, Lea Holst Laursen, Lene Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

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This paper aims to foster a paradox lens on competing demands to ensure their productive engagement in design. Competing demands are inevitable and ubiquitous features of today’s systems. Thus, being subject to competing demands is a pervasive and inherent feature of designerly work. Drawing from organizational studies, we first outline four main streams of competing demands underlying today’s systems; related to time, cognition, social interactions, and focus. We demonstrate the importance of a purposeful conceptualization of competing demands by exemplifying how different conceptualizations can lead to different responses. We suggest employing a paradox lens on competing demands, which stresses that seemingly contradictory or even mutually exclusive factors can and ought to coexist and therefore should be leveraged simultaneously. Through a series of research-through-design experiments we explore how framing competing demands according to paradoxes impacts the way they are approached in design practice, and how paradoxes can be engaged
with through design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDRS2022
Place of PublicationBilbao
PublisherDesign Research Society
Publication dateJun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Design Research
  • System-conscious design
  • Competing demands
  • Paradoxes


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