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Reusing design information: an investigation of the document creation process in service design projects

Yu-Tzu Lin (Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 6 January 2021

Issue publication date: 8 April 2021




Design rationale is design information that explains why an entity is designed as it is. This paper investigates how the documentation process and the use of documents in service design projects influence the reuse of design information across projects.


This study analyzes two sets of data collected through interviews and field observation. It first applied Lund's (2004) four elements of documentation process to categorize the collected data. Then it used bottom-up data analysis approach to identify patterns of the documentation process.


The author speculates designers' focus on certain documents' social aspect instead of material aspect influences how they reuse design information across projects. Some documents are important because they represent a consensus, and some are important because of the document producers rather than its content. The author also found a similarity between economists and service designers by comparing the study results with Harper and Sellen's (1995) findings. Based on the comparison, the author concludes that detailed research reports are easily reusable across design projects. Finally, although the author observed that designers are using templates to explicate design rationale, the created content is not used across projects.


This study identifies six types of documents that are commonly created in service design projects, three types of producer involvement and three types of provisional design outcomes. It also provides two suggestions for designers to reuse design information across service design projects better and two implications for future study.



This study was supported by a PhD scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Taiwan. The author thanks the editor and reviewers for the constructive reviews and Morten Hertzum for the supervision.


Lin, Y.-T. (2021), "Reusing design information: an investigation of the document creation process in service design projects", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 3, pp. 703-721.



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