Structures Surrounding the ‘User’ in User Engagement: Gender-based Violence Design Engagements

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Rute Fiadeiro
John Stevens
Jo-Anne Bichard


User engagement is a dynamic social process influenced by who is involved and how. Here we argue that designers must account for the structural conditions of users’ lives, as they may have safety, accountability, and political implications. We review current scholarship in the area of user configuration and engagement from a ‘structural’ viewpoint of gender-based violence (GBV), to better understand such considerations. We propose three dimensions that might support designers in deepening their engagement in this area, namely: construction of the user, engagement within the context, and the designers’ position. We combine these dimensions as a framework to review and compare examples of designed outcomes for GBV prevention. This article suggests thoughts and questions to be considered by designers for thinking more structurally about GBV design, and for other contexts involving people experiencing vulnerability.


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Fiadeiro, R., Stevens, J., & Bichard, J.-A. (2023). Structures Surrounding the ‘User’ in User Engagement: Gender-based Violence Design Engagements. Diseña, (22), Article.2.
Original articles
Author Biographies

Rute Fiadeiro, Royal College of Art

Ph.D. Candidate, Royal College of Art School of Design. She has an undergraduate degree in Product Design Engineering with Professional Practice from Brunel University London, and a Master of Research (Design Pathway) from the Royal College of Art. Through her Ph.D., she investigates how de­signers engage with users in intimate partner violence contexts. Her research interests include people’s engagement in complex social topics such as privacy, gender, violence, feminism, and humanitarianism. She is a co-author of ‘Reframing the Narrative of Privacy through System-thinking Designʼ (with L. Ferrarello, R. Mazzon, and A. Cavallaro; in DRS2022 Proceedings).

John Stevens, Royal College of Art

Ph.D. in Design and Strategy, Cambridge University. He holds a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology from King’s College and a M.Des. in IDE from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. He joined the Royal College of Art in 2013, with the launch of the Global Innovation Design MA/M.Sc., where he is currently a Senior Tutor. He researches design’s applica­tion to social, cross-cultural, and humanitarian innovation—as products, interactions, and systems. Recent publications include ‘Learning Remotely Through Diversity and Social Awareness. Engaging with Challenges in Design Educationʼ (with L. Ferrarello, R. Fiadeiro, A. Hall, F. Galdon, P. Ander­son, C. Grinyer, and C. Lee; in DRS LEARNxDESIGN 2021 Proceedings) and ‘What (and How) to Teach Designers About Humanitarian Innovation?ʼ (Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education).

Jo-Anne Bichard, Royal College of Art

M.Sc. in Science Communication, Imperial College London. She earned a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths College. She is a Profes­sor of Accessible Design at The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art. As a Design anthropologist whose research involves multi and inter-disciplinary collaboration and participatory engagement in the inclusive design process, she coordinated and undertook the research on ‘The Inclusive Design of Public Toilets in City Centresʼ, examining public toilet provision in seven English cities. Recent publications include ‘A Mighty Inconvenience: How Covid-19 Tested a Nation’s Continenceʼ (with G. Ramster; Built Environment, Vol. 47, Issue 3) and ‘Creating an Inclusive Architectural Intervention as a Research Space to Explore Community Well-beingʼ (with R. Alwani, E. Raby, J. West, and J. Spencer; in Breaking Down Barriers, Springer, 2018).


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