Ulla Johansson Sköldberg

19 August 1948 - 09 August 2022

Sad news – Ulla Johansson Sköldberg


Dearest colleagues,

It is with much sadness that we write to share the news that Ulla Johansson Sköldberg has died, peacefully in her sleep after living with Parkinson’s disease and fighting cancer.

Ulla was a lifelong friend of EAD; very active as an academic and passionately engaged as a mentor. She had boundless energy, wonderful fortitude and was a tour de force when it came to upholding excellence in research. After starting professional life in Architecture and Planning, Ulla moved into management, receiving her Ph.D. from the School of Management and Economics, Lund University, 1998.

Many will remember the EAD conference Ulla chaired ‘Crafting the Future’ with Lisbeth Svengren Holm. It was the 10th International Conference of the European Academy of Design April 17 – 19, 2013, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Lisbeth Svengren Holm: “Ulla began her PhD-studies in management in Lund in 1990, and I was working on my thesis in design management. Very soon we found overlapping issues in our theses around power and imbalances in organizations – not the least for design managers. Our discussions were not without frictions, but Ulla was eager to challenge our minds and she entered the field of design management with great interest. This led to a life-long friendship, collaboration in research projects for ten years, and a continued organizing of conferences and seminars. The EAD Conference in 2013 became the last and largest event we did together. The theme Crafting the future reflected our shared interest – the social changes and the practice of designers. Ulla was a very social person. We are many – friends, colleagues, and foreign guest researchers, who remember staying in her house on Öckerö, the island outside Gothenburg, discussing pragmatism, power theories, action research and design theories over cooking and eating dinner – often fish, lobsters and crabs, the delicacies of the island, bought directly from the fishermen. Ulla was of course a friend of them as well. We will remember an intensive and active person with ideas that sometimes clashed with the bureaucracy of the university, but she was not a person who stopped because it was difficult. We miss a dear friend with a high fighting spirit, an active person who always had ideas and visions for a better future.”

Brigitte Borja de Mozota: “This is very sad news. I respected her deeply as a researcher and I loved being one of her close EAD colleagues. Ulla was particularly good at breaking down silos and the conversation she started with Professor Mary Jo Hatch in the Unites States epitomises this. I think Ulla’s paper ‘Dancing with Hierarchies’ on Mary K Follett is a ‘must read’ and I believe it should be on design management reading lists across the world.

Louise Valentine: “I vividly remember the colourful occasion and the campus wide celebration of design research. It was the largest EAD event to date with over 200 participants from across the world. The meticulous attention to detail was evident every day, whether it was the rolls of colourful paper connecting the trees to guide visitors from one venue to the next, the magnificence of the town hall welcome, or the military precision with which the 3-day program was creatively scheduled and delivered. On a more personal note, I remember her mentoring as intense and inspiring, always looking to develop the excellence while quietly nurturing one’s confidence. It taught me many things, but perhaps most of all about the value of kindness and the importance of an organization living its values in the everyday relationship with its people.”

We will miss her.

Below is a reminder of the EAD 2013 conference along with some of Ulla’s key texts.


‘Crafting the Future’

The conference theme was designers’ practice knowledge and the event asked how the specific knowledge of designers can be brought forward, articulated and made visible. How can it be understood and used in context like innovation, business development and social change?

Design is an essential field for practise and research envisioning and crafting the future space – and for facilitating changes that could lead to a better future. Business has realized this, and many public organisations have also discovered the value of design for developing and communicating their services. With the changing role of design, both its boundaries and practise have changed. Now, when packaged in a process format and language that appeals to managers and large organisations, the core of what designers do is at risk of becoming blurred. Designing is about crafting, making, visualising and imagining the future, regardless of whether we are involved with products, services, fashion, interactions, or other areas of practise. Have these core activities changed?

This conference celebrated the 10th anniversary of the European Academy of Design meetings, 2013


Ulla’s Writings include:

Johansson, Ulla and Woodilla, Jill. (2008) Designers Dancing within Hierarchies: The Importance of Non-hierarchical Power for Design Integration and ImplementationThe Design Journal, 11:2, 95-117, DOI: 10.2752/175630608X329208

Johansson-Sköldberg, Ulla, Jill Woodilla, and Mehves Çetinkay. (2013) Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures. Creativity and Innovation Management: Special Issue on Design Management, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 121-146  https://doi.org/10.1111/caim.12023


Accessed on 29 August 2022.

Johansson-Sköldberg, Ulla, Jill Woodilla, and Ariane Berthoin Antal. [eds.] (2016) Artistic Interventions in Organizations: Research, theory and practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Johansson-Sköldberg, Ulla, Jill Woodilla, and Mehves Çetinkaya. (2013) “Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures.” Creativity and Innovation Management 22, no. 2: 121–46. doi:10.1111/CAIM.12023.

Johansson, U. and Svengren Holm, L. (2008). Patterns of Interaction. A study of relations between designers, engineers, marketers, and top management in four Swedish companies. International DMI Education Conference, Paris, April.

Svengren Holm, L., and Johansson, U. (2005). Marketing and Design: Partners or Rivals. In Design Management Review, vol 16, no 2.

Johansson, U. Och L. Svengren. (2002). The Logic of Relationships in Strategic Innovation. On the design process, its management and link to competence, rationality, and exploitation in corporate value creation. The 2nd European Academy of Management Conference, EURAM, Stockholm, in May 2002