ONSITE -Design driven field studies

ONSITE is a research project that builds knowledge on how to implement human-centered design processes within ship design. The project focuses specifically on a field study methodology and the transfer of knowledge between human-centered design and engineering disciplines.

Researcher Synne Frydenberg on a field study on-board KV Svalbard in the arctics. Photo: Rachel Troye

ONSITE was started in 2014 after an initiative by Ulstein International and the Ocean Industries Concept Lab (OICL) at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). After having collaborated with AHO on the Ulstein Bridge Vision (UBV) project, Ulstein saw the potential for including design methods from human-centred design within ship design processes. The UBV project had extensively used field studies to inform the design of a ground-breaking ship bridge design. Ulstein saw that this methodology might have an impact on the entire ship design process. Consequently, ONSITE was established to focus on developing knowledge that can secure an efficient feedback loop between field studies carried out during maritime operations and design processes onshore.

To realise the idea, Ulstein enrolled PON Power and DNV GL as industry partners and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) as an additional research partner for the project. The project was established as a competence project for industry (kompetanseprosjekt for næringslivet), co-financed by the Norwegian Research Council through the MAROFF program.

Over the last four years, the project has developed frameworks, methods and software tools that link field studies in demanding marine operations and the onshore ship design process. It has focused on a practice-driven approach where field studies (carried out by designers trained in both marine design and field study methods) have been integrated into industry-driven maritime design processes.

Innovation work in the field. Photo: Etienne Gernez

The project has improved how field knowledge can be efficiently applied in design processes as a platform for better marine design. This involves the capability of undertaking field studies within short time frames, effectively organising the data in line with other existing studies, transferring the knowledge to the design team, nurturing a culture of long-term knowledge building and investigating how digital tools can support field study processes.

The project publications can be reached on Researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/project/Onsite-Design-driven-field-studies-for-safer-demanding-marine-operations

Project partners

To strengthen multidisciplinary innovation processes in ship design, the project group gathered together researchers from both the humanistic and technical disciplines alongside three industry partners representing ship design, equipment manufacturing and regulation.

Workshop at DNV GL. Photo Etienne Gernez.

ONSITE is led by OICL at AHO. The project group includes NTNU, Ulstein International, DNV GL and PON Power.

For Ulstein, the motivation to participate stems from constantly striving to innovate and design ships that are smarter, safer and more efficient to operate. Innovation comes from the development of design processes and design methods, with a specific emphasis on knowledge transfer from other design traditions.

DNV GL´s motivation came from the observation that DNV GL has a large number of personnel onboard ships at regular time intervals, over the entire ship lifetime, all around the world. With, at the same time, a push from the industry to transition to more efficient processes through digitalisation, DNV GL decided to explore how the field study methodology could be applied to its own processes.

PON Power has many personnel in the field, with service technicians traveling all around the world to service ships. Its motivation is to be able to use these technicians to assemble operational knowledge from the field and share it with in-house innovation processes.

Dr. Kjetil Nordby and Etienne Gernez were the principal researchers from OICL. In addition, Sigrun Lurås, Snorre Hjelseth, Marianne Støren Berg and Henry Mainsah from OICL participated. Kjetil Nordby was the project leader and Etienne was a PhD candidate with a background in the maritime industry. Four design students from AHO were hired for short missions to help out with visualisation and prototyping. The whole class of third-year design students took the field study course at AHO each year between 2016 and 2019.

From NTNU, Hans Georg Schaathun and Aya Saad were the principal researchers. Hans Georg and Aya are Professor and Postdoc in Computer Science at NTNU Ålesund, respectively. Several students contributed to the software development.

From Ulstein, Per Olaf Brett and José Jorge Argis were the principal researchers. Per Olaf is Deputy Managing Director, Vice President and Professor II at NTNU in Management of Marine Design. José Jorge is a PhD fellow (attached to NTNU). André Keane, Ali Ebrahimi and Berit Cecilie Skeide joined Etienne for a field study on a fishing vessel. Additional independent field studies were carried out by Ulstein designers.

From DNV GL, Øystein Goksøyr and Fenna Van de Merwe were the principal researchers. Øystein is Head of the Safety Advisory Department and Fenna is Principal Consultant in the same department. Several ship surveyors from DNV GL collaborated as informants to one field study carried out by Kjetil Nordby and Etienne Gernez. Several DNV GL consultants from the Innovation and Digitalisation Department carried out independent field studies.

From PON Power, Øystein Skår and Øyvind Seim were the principal researchers. Øystein is Technical Director and Øyvind is Project Manager. Several service technicians from PON Power contributed as informants to a field study carried out by Etienne Gernez.

Finally, Margareta Lützhöft from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and Steven Mallam from the University of South Eastern Norway contributed as external research consultants.

Altogether, the participants covered the following disciplines: maritime engineering, human factors, industry and interaction design, design research, computer science, innovation, sales, strategy and management.


Thanks to all field operators who welcomed and assisted our field researchers and to all the participants form the partner companies. In addition, thanks to all additional academic collaborators students that have participated in the project. Special thanks to Marianne Støren Berg and Snorre Hjelseth.

The project is funded by NFR through the MAROFF program. Project number: 269494

Project partners