Sub-theme 14: Art, Design and Organization

Stefan Meisiek
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Ulla Johansson Sköldberg
Gothenburg University, Sweden

Call for Papers

What can art, design and organization studies learn from one another? And where are their boundaries, when a growing number of organization scholars draw on design thinking and artistic theories to explain contemporary organizational phenomena? To answer such questions, this track will look for convergences between art, design and organization and hopes to attract those interested in their intersecting lines of flight.

In relation to the conference theme we are curious to learn how art and design might reconnect fragmented streams of research in organization studies and how combining these forces might reassemble increasingly fragmented organizations. For example, while artists and designers have produced theories (e.g., Brecht's alienation effect, Beuys' social sculpture, Kelley's design thinking), compared to organization theory, theirs invite alternative interpretations rather than excluding them. How, then, might artistic or design-based ways of theorizing inform, complement or at least compare to more traditional theorizing about organization? Another, more practice-oriented question is if – and how – art and design are suitable for each and every organizational problem. A number of writers seem to suggest that they are. But where do they become too costly, or where are they outright damaging to organizations? Due process and accountability might not always go well with designer stubble and artistic panache.

With this, there is a methodological challenge in bringing art and design into organization studies. Art and design typically take place in the studio, and are certainly taught using studio methods, while organization studies is much more oriented towards analytical armchair reflections. It is not clear that an analysis of art or design processes or outcomes will take us into the realms of emotion and aesthetic sensibility within which art and design make their most impressive contributions.

For this reason we will hold some of our conference track meetings in a studio setting at Gothenburg University's School of Design and Craft, where we will use facilitated studio thinking to reflectively explore differences between art, design and organization studies as exemplified by the projects and papers submitted by track participants. We will start off using themes and ideas from participant submissions to define our creative constraints and to guide our explorations together. Following the studio experience, we shift focus to reflective sessions for refining and improving the ideas and methods we jointly develop. The process will end with a critique and review session, where we bring the strands together. We hope the result will eventually produce material for an edited book on the intersection of art, design and organization inspired by all three during our track.

Topics appropriate to our track include, but are not restricted to:

  • designerly approaches to organization design
  • art collections and organizational change
  • art-based organizational interventions
  • the fine art of leadership
  • strategy as design
  • managing design vs. designing management
  • branding as design and/or art
  • the relevance of material artifacts and objects in art, design and organization
  • design thinking and organization
  • design thinking and entrepreneurship (e.g. effectuation)
  • artful making

Participants should submit a short paper describing their current thinking about how art and/or design relate to organization in productive ways. Please feel free to propose activities for the group in its studio context, or to offer more traditional forms of argumentation appropriate to our themes.


Stefan Meisiek 
Ulla Johansson Sköldberg