Embedding and Embodying Narratives through Inclusive Design: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of the Roles and Applications of Narrative Within and Beyond an Inclusive Mobility Design Process


Narratives facilitate the communication of individual and collective experiences, perceptions and interpretations of reality, enabling the depiction of authentic personhood as well as societal identity. Designers inherently embed and embody narratives through their work, positioning design as an agent of narrative. As a practice of inclusion, it is critical to advance the archetypal role of design from passively upholding dominant narratives, to becoming responsible for proactively uncovering, interrogating and scaling a diversity of narratives throughout the design process, with input from a range of project stakeholders. A conceptual framework is proposed, which frames design as an agent of narratives through three strategic narrative stages: (1) acknowledgement and capture, (2) negotiation and speculation, and (3) embedding and scaling. This research focuses on the third stage of this conceptual framework, exploring how narratives could and should be embedded and scaled within a design process, focusing on the context of healthcare product design. The case study of designing an upper-limb exoskeleton for young people with disabilities is used in this research to explore the potential roles and applications of narratives at various stages of a design process. A qualitative study and a mapping exercise are conducted with a multidisciplinary group of project stakeholders to capture their thoughts and expectations on how narratives could and should be embedded within, and scaled beyond the project-specific design process. The values of incorporating narrative into an inclusive design process are discussed, and practical guidelines are provided for designers seeking to embed and embody narratives in their work.


Cara Shaw
Student, PhD, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—New Agendas for Design: Principles of Scale, Practices of Inclusion


Narratives, Inclusion, Design Process, Inclusive Design, Disability, Framing, Conceptual Framework

Digital Media


Embedding and Embodying Narratives through Inclusive Design (pdf)