Design Activities in the NorwegianSeafood Industry: A theoretical approach to understanding cooperation and communication
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- Institutt for design 
The thesis discusses design activities in the Norwegian seafood processing industry, with focus on cooperation between packaging suppliers and designers. There is a twofold objective: to increase understanding of how industrial design methodology can be utilised in the seafood industry, and to introduce a theoretical foundation for cooperation and communication in industrial design methodology. Sales of fish and seafood represent Norway’s third largest export. Seafood is an industrially processed, tasty and healthy food product. The industry has to meet demands for quality and efficiency. Additionally, there is potential for creating pleasurable eating experiences for consumers. Thus, the industry is similar to manufacturing industries where industrial design plays a significant role. One area where designers are contributing today is packaging design. Two main approaches to research were employed, and the empirical material includes: design activities and processes described by industry representatives; design students’ projects; and one participatory packaging design project. First, industrial network analyses were carried out in the fish processing company Domstein and in two packaging design projects for the meat processing company Gilde. Second, a grounded theory-styled analysis was carried out on statements from industry representatives. The deduced categories were discussed with respect to three theoretical perspectives: design thinking; the industrial network approach; and communication theory. The results show that design scholars have different interpretations of what constitutes design and possibilities for cooperation. Design can be considered as a rational problem solving or culturally influenced activity, as an individual or social process. The thesis suggests that various approaches to design can be useful for different situations in the seafood industry. The industrial network approach attempts to explain business relationships with regards to interrelations between actors, activities and resources across firm boundaries. In a design process, some existing structures of activities and resources are usually considered. Yet at the same time, a new design can change these structures. The actors control activities and resources, negotiate and make design choices. Communication is necessary to achieve cooperation on design. In close collaboration, face-to-face communication seems necessary. Design scholars seem to agree that some level of common ground among participants is necessary. Luhmann’s and Habermas’s theories provide a foundation for communication in design. Both scholars define communication as achieving understanding. However, for Luhmann this is improbable but necessary, whereas for Habermas this is difficult but possible. Representatives describe the seafood industry as being occupied with raw produce purchasing and optimization of production and sales. The product specifications can be changed during purchasing and sales activities. On other occasions, seafood companies are involved in development projects, for example, new packaging lines or branding. Similarly, changes to packaging solutions appear to be happening as ad hoc changes, initiated when representatives of a seafood company and a packaging supplier meet, or in development projects. Seafood companies that carry out changes to products in an ad hoc manner would benefit from, but might not easily utilize, design in a conscious or even strategic fashion. When a design agency is involved the packaging supplier might provide feedback about the designers’ solutions. In projects where the consumer’s experience is important, the packaging material should be chosen before a contract with a packaging supplier is formalized. However, a formal relationship should be established before detailing the solution. The design agencies take a more or less inclusive or exclusive attitude towards their client. Nevertheless, they stated that they do the actual design themselves. Visual tools, particularly sketches, are essential to discussing things that do not yet exist. Good arguments for the solution are important in discussions and to persuade co-designers and clients. Finally, verbal communication seems important to secure a common understanding of visual tools. For industry representatives with limited design experience, tools to evaluate and discuss solutions are useful. A solution can be discussed with objective, social and subjective (“I like”), and aesthetic arguments in mind. Requirements specifications are fixed and formal. However design specifications might be perceived as less formal, and should be developed and negotiated throughout the process. A design process with four stages – after strategic work and before product launch – is being proposed. A stage model can be used to explain the design process for non-designers and provide some control in the process. The industry recommendations should be validated by industry representatives and tested in practice. This thesis proposes that the industrial network approach, with focus on tangible activities, material resources, firms and individuals, and the communication theory, which explains how individuals can understand each other, are useful for understanding cooperation and collaboration in design theory.