20 credits at level HE4
Design is an iterative process and design thinking is present in each stage of the journey from initial commission to finished solution. As Bob Gill explains, ‘You cannot hold a design in your hand. It is not a thing it is a process. A system, a way of thinking’ (Gill, 2003, p. 12).
It is generally accepted that graphic design is a largely commercial activity which exists for the financial benefit of others. Upon entering the graphic design profession the fledgling designer immediately discovers that clients who pay money for design services demand quantifiable results, ultimately in the form of increased business profit. Moreover, clients select designers who can not only demonstrate a sound understanding of their business issues, but how their products and services are delivered in a global market place amidst aggressive, growing and visual competition. For the designer it is no longer sufficient to be merely visually literate, great with typography and contextually aware.
This module deals with ‘design thinking’ and introduces the processes and research activities that graphic designers and their collaborative partners undertake in the process of taking a client commission from initial brief to finished solution.
You will discover that contrary to popular belief research-driven graphic design is not a new phenomenon, and that a systematic process for graphic design can be put into practice. Moreover, you will learn that this process can be repeated for any design commission. You will be introduced to the individual components of this process in order for you to gain a solid understanding of how by being systematic about the task will ensure that your solutions will not only be well informed, but will add real value to your client’s services or products and enhance your professional credibility and status.
You will be challenged to analyse a product or service market; for instance, music or sports goods and through the genre of information design visually demonstrate your understanding of the thinking processes and stages of design in a visually engaging manner. The format of the design will be specified on module launch.
Gill, B. (2003) Graphic design as a second language. Mulgrave: Images Pub
An Overall Design Process
Defining the problem — It is essential to really understand the client brief.
Research — collecting and reviewing background information.
Ideas, Ideas, Ideas — The process of generating ideas.
Selecting and refining — the process of evaluating solutions that will be proposed to a client.
Mock-ups — building prototypes to test viability.
Implementation — delivering the finished design solutions.
Learn — evaluating and monitoring the process and its success.
Aspects of Research
Qualitative and Quantitative research paradigms — basic understanding the two large research families
The difference between primary and secondary research
Identifying Drivers — the global and market forces that drive trends and inform direction
Barriers — obstacles that may prevent designers taking a certain direction with design
Information gathering — sources and strategies for obtaining and filtering information
Target groups or audiences — understanding who the design is speaking to.
Samples, testing, prototyping and feedback — why design needs to be tested
Example Projects and Design Professionals
A look at designing successful design solutions in order to understand the full context of the design process
Design professionals in practice — Wolf Ollins, Interbrand, etc.
Global Design Issues
Ethical and global issues of sustainability.
The political and social impact of design.
Materials and processes in print production.
Health and Safety
A recap and reminder of the Health and Safety content of the Programme Handbook
On module launch a visual presentation will introduce you to the term ‘design thinking’. It seeks to outline the processes and activities typically undertaken in the successful implementation of graphic design in commercial markets. Discussion following this presentation will invariably revolve around those who believe that instant creativity, divine inspiration and natural talent supersede any process of research.
Through a seminar-based approach, you will gain an understanding of the main research paradigms of qualitative and quantitative research by undertaking short but relevant tasks both on and offline. Other seminar topics and tasks will cover issues such as: gathering information; identifying drivers and market trends; determining barriers and obstacles for success and the importance of testing research and prototypes before launch. You will work both independently and in small groups, regularly reporting back to the class and presenting your findings. This approach will help you understand the collaborative nature of design and simulate the hustle and bustle of design research.
The university’s virtual learning environment may be used to hold discussion forums and undertake tasks; you may for example be instructed through it to arrive at a specified time and location for field work.
The module teaching and learning seminars will clearly demonstrate how and why design thinking is important in the realisation of visual solutions; however, it will become clear that in the real world you may not undertake all of the aspects specified in the process but rather understand your role within the processes that take place.
Midway through the semester a formal tutorial will provide feedback on your progress specifically outlining points for development.
Using the specific genre of information design, you will be presented with the assignment task of visually representing a process for graphic design research and be instructed to use a definable graphic design style, which will be selected by drawing from a hat. A service or product industry will be allocated and you will produce design that reflects the research and thinking processes that you believe would be required in that particular industry.
Please note that during this module you will additionally be challenged with assignments which vary in duration and complexity. Therefore wherever possible we aim to simulate 'real world' studio conditions which will sharpen a range of professional skills.
when you have successfully completed this module you will:
to demonstrate that you have achieved the learning outcome you will:
|1.||Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the design thinking and research stages that are used in the process of taking a clients commission from initial problem to visual solution||Have produced an information graphics based submission that demonstrates the design thinking process through the use of typography, charts, graphs, diagrams, symbols and images|
|2.||Be able to use the technical language associated with graphic design and its related industries||Have used the appropriate technical language throughout your investigation and included such language in the information graphic design solution that is submitted for assessment|
|3.||Be able to identify, collect and structure information and accurately cite sources for the benefit of fulfilling client commissions||Have included in your design submission accurate citation of sources using the Harvard system of referencing|
|4.||Cross programme outcome:
Be an active participant in the collaborative learning processes which are inherent to the nature of graphic design studio cultures
Cross programme criteria:
4.1 Contributed to studio debates, discussions, critiques and the exchange of ideas at an appropriate level
4.2 Made appropriate attempts to explain your design work to peers and staff
4.3 Taken due advice and guidance of your tutor in feedback/progress review sessions
Your achievement of the learning outcomes for this module will be tested as follows:
|Description||1. You will submit an information focused design outcome|
Before taking this module you must have successfully completed the following:
No restrictions apply.
Foote, C,S. (2006) The business side of creativity: the complete guide to running a small graphic design or communications business. New York: Norton
Hague, P. Hague, N. and Morgan, C. (2004) Market research in practice: a guide to the basics. London: Kogan Page
Lawson, B. (2000) How designers think: the design process demystified. Oxford: Architectural Press
Visocky, J. and O'Grady, K. (2006) A designer's research manual: succeed in design by knowing your clients and what they really need. Gloucester, Mass: Rockport
(2010) Design Council: [Online]. Available:
(2010) American Institute of Graphic Arts: [Online]. Available:
(2010) Creative Review: [Online]. Available:
Design Week: Centaur Publications
|Host Subject Group:||Art and Design|
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