Design Research

Three primary methodological research tools were employed to investigate how the design process of creating visual identities can support an explorative model and encourage an individual’s intuitive decisions. The methodologies were applied sequential to allow for the collection of qualitative data to be continual inform/refine and progress the research to appropriately respond to the research question.

Additionally, two interviews were conducted early on in Semester Two to provide insight and perspective of speculative design and branding at large. The primary role of these interviews was to mature and progress the scope of the research. The interviews are with Adrian Ley and Brando Corradini.

The three primary research methods are summarised with their potential contribution to the research:

︎ Research Through Design: Autoethnographic
  • Use projects as vessels to conduct research and explore different ideas.
  • Through creating tangible thought, it allowed for ideas to be better articulated as well as critiqued.
  • Provide opportunity to grow and refine central research dialogue

︎ Workshop: Ethnography
  • Introduce and test framework of intuitive lead decisions in Double Diamond.
  • Generate qualitative data in form of posters in response to following proposed process.
  • Observe participants on their response to the research project overall.

︎ Case Study
  • Test a proposed design framework is appropriate for the real world.
  • Continue to refine and grow the proposed design framework


This research was initiated by adopting an autoethnographic, self reflective practice. Autoethnography is a term for research that explores the connections between culture, the wider society and the self (Chang, 2008). This method proved appropriate to apply a ‘research through design’ approach to assist in articulating and exploring different ideas and concepts. (Fallman 2007) states that this ‘project-grounded research’ seeks to place emphasis on the research objective of creating design knowledge (Frankel and Racine 2010). The value of this self reflecting practice is that the investigation becomes a vehicle for acquiring and shaping knowing (Downton 2003). Further, this integrated frame of reflection and inquiry means that the process seeks explanations and produces immediate results (Friedman 2000). (Lois Frankel 2010) explains that through project based research “the emphasis is on the research objective of creating design knowledge, not the project solution”.

This research at large was primarily focused on extracting information about a designer’s participation and process. As such, it should be acknowledge this investigation is inquisitive about the profession of design and can be considered ‘Research About Design’. Buchanan calls this area of research a “design inquiry” and sees it as searching for “an explanation in the experience of designers and those who use products” (Buchanan 2007). Although Buchanan cleary divided ‘Research About Design’ into two categories: ‘the discipline of designing’ and ‘creativity of the designer’. My research is inquisitive of both the development and process of creating branding identities and the designer’s role and process that equates to that.

The information from this self reflective practice are qualitative and aim to not only collect, but provided opportunity to articulate and understand the research in regards to different influences and perspectives on the research. Qualitative research is associated with discovery, description, understanding and shared interpretations (Sanghera 2007). As such, the varied insights and information all contributed to, and revolved around adding to a central dialogue about a designer’s participation in designing visual identities while leaving opportunity to add to this conversation through external perspectives.

These insights and data collected were then reconstructed into shareable concepts which were tested through an ethnographic study of communication design students during workshops. The workshop explained the intentions of my research and proposed a design process that encouraged intuition, mistakes and experiments. The participants were asked to respond to a speculative brief to create a visual identity through a poster.  Qualitative research is appropriate for this inquiry as it is subjective and focuses on describing and interpreting people’s meaningful experiences though a participant point of view (Ladner 2007). Although the final outcome wasn’t a functioning identity system, a narrative was produced by rapidly progressing through a design process with strict constraints. Via observing the participants discussions and posters created, it provided insight into their response to the proposed concepts and research at large. Ethnography, a core anthropological research tool seeks to explore how people experience and make sense of what they, themself and others do (Plowman 2003).

From these insights case studies were developed to test how these insights could be beneficially in real life scenarios. The benefit of employing this research method is that it is concerned with how and why things happen, allowing the investigation of contextual realities and the differences between what was planned and what has happened (Anderson 1993).

The pragmatic paradigm of the research acknowledges that our reality is ever changing based on our actions, “sidestepping the contentious issues of truth and reality” (Feilzer 2010), and instead focus “what works as the truth regarding the research questions under investigation” (Tashakkori & Teddlie 2003). As such the pragmatic epistemology is more suitable for ‘Design for Research’ and studio research methods such as Reflection of Practice and Case Studies.

In conclusion, The paradigm of the research mixes both constructivist and pragmatic epistemology and pragmatic theoretical perspective to support the research. Two research methodologies were used to employ three methods of collecting information. Autoethnographic studies allowed for a reflective practice and case studies to be explore the research while ethnographic studies promoted a different perspective on the research. The research methods describe above allowed for the research to be explored chronologically and in a sequential progression. This will allow the research to be self directing and fulfilling in it’s exploration but restrained and supported by findings and data collected from observations during field work. The chosen methods provided value by creating a diverse range insights into the problem at hand. Further, these insights were successful in forming a holistic conversation regarding visual identities and provide the necessary insight into responding to the research question.