A sociomaterial perspective on epistemic objects in design practice

Ahmad Beltagui*, Andrew Bell, Marina Candi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital technologies enable realistic and highly refined representations early in the design process, yet designers frequently use rudimentary objects in their design practice. This research proposes a framework to explain characteristics of objects that make them appropriate for different roles in complex design projects. Objects created by designers in three research settings are explored through interviews. Through the lens of sociomateriality, objects are seen in roles of joining conversation across knowledge boundaries or encapsulating conversation. Four characteristics of fidelity, investment, ambiguity, and history are proposed to determine which role an object is suited to. The framework helps explain and guide effective use of technology and appropriate use of objects in design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101201
Number of pages41
JournalDesign Studies
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • design practice
  • technical object
  • epistemic object
  • prototypes
  • sociomateriality


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