Design with dilemmas 

Understanding, identifying and designing with conflicting concerns

Project duration: November 2011 – November 2015
Promotor: Pieter Desmet | Supervisor: Elif Ozcan-Vieira

Designers are skillful in identifying and designing for unfulfilled wants and needs of their users: this is the premise of user-centered design. However, people pursue multiple and often conflicting goals during their everyday activities: we may decide to skip our gym-night to go to the movies (concern for entertainment), and yet, wish we would have a fine-looking body like the movie stars we admire (concern for beauty). Or we may want to show our best selves to increase our chance for a promotion (concern for competence), yet we also want to remain modest because we do not like to be perceived as being arrogant (concern for social approval). Designers can take any of these concerns as the starting point for designing something that appeals to the user. However, addressing unfulfilled concerns separately might result in designs that fulfill only one concern while ignoring the other. As a result, these designs might evoke both pleasant and unpleasant user experiences. Therefore, we propose that focusing on the tension between the concerns, rather than on specific concerns in isolation, lead to solutions that tackle this emotional duality. In line with this, the goal of this project is to develop the necessary knowledge and tools to support designers in utilizing conflicting concerns in their creative process.

For a collection of conflict-inspired design examples, visit