Visual research : an introduction to research methodologies in graphic design // I. Noble & R. Bestley

Why and How? — The role of research in Graphic Design

“A broader interpretation could characterize it [design] as a process of analysis and synthesis.” p.14

Deductive Design – Research that starts from the position of a general conclusion and then searches for data to support it.

Empirical Research – Investigation into a field of study that is based on direct observation of phenomena.


“A Manifesto for Higher Learning” by Andrew Howard:

Design is thinking made Visible

Solutions will always vary according to context, interpretation, and vision.

Design is a process of discovery through thinking and making, and our ability to discover is generally greater than our ability to invent.

It’s easier to make a world than find one.

Thinking and making are not alternatives of each other.


Critical thinking in visual communication is an attitude and an approach to questioning the value of design proposals or outcomes that are grounded in theory and it’s relationship to making.”

The Designer as an Author

“The notion of authorship lies in the possibility that designers can also operate as mediators — that they can take responsibility for the content and context of a message, as well as more traditional means of communication. The focus for the designer might be on the transmission of his or her ideas and messages, without the need for a client or commissioner, but still remaining fixed on the effectiveness of communicating with an audience. It might also arise from an exploration into an area of personal interest, or the observation of a real-world problem that the designer feels could be better addressed.”

Research and Design

Field of Study → Focus → Methodology

After identifying the problem, the Designer should proceed to find the adequate research methodology that best suits the enquiry. These methods are no more than “a set of self- imposed rules by which the designer will approach or engage with the project or brief”. The plan of action should be prepared beforehand, this entails: “details mapping of the field of study”, “intention of the work”, ” definition of a focus and research question”, plus how to “develop the project and test ideas”. The schedule should also not be forgotten!

Context – Definition

“Initial work in this model involves a thorough analysis of a broad range of secondary research, mapping the territory to be investigated and determining the range of work that has already been done within the field. Once a solid understanding of the context has been reached, the focus and research question for the project can be determined and a working methodology can be defined.”

Context – Experiment

“Initial work in this model involves looser mapping of the territory to be investigated , an analysis of the range of work that has already been done within the same context , and a specified intention for the work within any revised context.”

It’s also important to “measure results or quantify our findings”. There two different types of methods of testing: Quantitative (mathematical analysis) and Qualitative (subjective messages).

What I’ll look next?

  • “The Me too Generation” Book by Steven Heller
  • “Iconic designs : 50 stories about 50 things” Book by Grace Lees-Maffei, wher Steven Heller is mentioned
  • https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/criticizing-criticism-too-little-and-too-much/
  • “Remaking Theory, Rethinking Practice; The education of a graphic designer” Book by Andrew Blauvelt
  • Language of Vision, book by Gyorgy Kepes

This post is part of my MA major project bibliography.

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