We Are Not Users

We Are Not Users

Dialogues, Diversity, and Design

By Eswaran Subrahmanian, Yoram Reich and Sruthi Krishnan

A call to reclaim and rethink the field of designing as a liberal art where diverse voices come together to shape the material world.





A call to reclaim and rethink the field of designing as a liberal art where diverse voices come together to shape the material world.

We live in a material world of designed artifacts, both digital and analog. We think of ourselves as users; the platforms, devices, or objects provide a service that we can use. But is this really the case? We Are Not Users argues that people cannot be reduced to the entity called “user”; we are not homogenous but diverse. That buzz of dissonance that we hear reflects the difficulty of condensing our diversity into “one size fits all.” This book proposes that a new understanding of design could resolve that dissonance, and issues a call to reclaim and rethink the field of designing as a liberal art where diverse voices come together to shape the material world. The authors envision designing as a dialogue, simultaneously about the individual and the social—an act enriched by diversity of both disciplines and perspectives.

The book presents the building blocks of a language that can conceive designing in all its richness, with relevance for both theory and practice. It introduces a theoretical model, terminology, examples, and a framework for bringing together the social, cultural, and political aspects of designing. It will be essential reading for design theorists and for designers in areas ranging from architecture to software design and policymaking.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262043366 200 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 36 b&w illus.


  • “In the rigor-relevance debate on how scientific methods can contribute to design of real systems, the actual designing action is more often too complex to even grab in a systematic way. We Are Not Users is a game changer. With the creative and thoughtful way that the authors weave models, design, arts, and engineering, this book is the start of a richer discussion of designing as a verb instead of a rational process. Keeping in mind the increasing interdependencies between systems, society, and the city fabric, this book is much needed to help us address grand societal challenges.”

    Sebastiaan Meijer

    Vice-Dean and Professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

  • “'Stronger, faster, smoother, better, safer, simpler'—this book explores the joys and trials of designing and indeed tackles the design of designing. Whether we are dealing with a product, service, or some other form of enterprise or societal structure, this book provides both context to, and also the interrelationships involved in, designing. This important book provides a perspective on 20th-century design movements, but importantly helps frame designing as an unfolding story for the 21st-century.”

    Peter Childs

    Professor and Founding Head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London

  • “This book addresses critical issues in engineering design and innovation management. The authors, world experts in the recent advances in design theory, are able to introduce complex and critical notions in a very smooth and pedagogic way. This book provides a reliable state of the art on design theory, a demonstration of the extension of design logic in many fields, and it opens new paths for the design of new social contexts and institutions. It is a true pleasure to read such a book where the authors put themselves in the scene and transform the book into a space of action where authors are dialoging and involving the reader in their intellectual creations. This is ambitious—and it works!”

    Pascal Le Masson

    Professor and Director of the Centre de Gestion Scientifique, MINES ParisTech; coauthor of  Design Theory: Methods and Organization for Innovation

  • “It appears simple on its face but is filled with deep insight about design. The content of this book is full of wisdom, experience, and a new logical process to deal with design. The book may be used to cross the domain threshold for young designers and to improve high-level thinking for experienced designers. The publication of this book will provide a new systematic logic for the design domain.”

    Tan Runhua

    Professor and Former Vice President of Hebei University of Technology, China; Director of National Engineering Research Center for Technological Innovation Method and Tool, China