Week Seven: Lecture and Resources


Martin Hoskins – Research Methods (Curiosity, philosophy and methodologies)

As learnt in previous weeks, curiosity is key to enable us to keep an open mind and expand on our knowledge consistently, Martin explains how the centre of research is knowledge, then the curiosity leads us to develop onto this knowledge and begin looking in the right areas for our research purposes. I’ve discovered there is a research method called ‘Curiosity Driven Research’, that has being the forefront of most scientific discovers to date, all because of an irrepressible desire to ask the question ‘why?’. (Agar, J. 2017). It is purely conducting research out of wondering, considering and questioning – naturally, this fits well within the creative industries too and in my opinion, should be introduced within the education system (for other subjects too). As for myself, this style of research is conducted to some extent through natural curiosity, but what if I really start to question everything I encounter, look at, experience – where will it take me using this method?

As mentioned below in the TED talk, this form of research has allowed us as humans to invent and develop knowledge and in turn aspects and concepts, that then can be formed into ‘things’, such as discovering the electron which has developed into the use of X-rays to smart phones. Sheehy states ‘Jonathan Swift who once said, vision is the art of seeing the invisible’ and that we need to remain curious and open-minded about the outcomes of research, as in turn the more world-changing our discoveries will be. (Sheehy, S. 2018). Time to get curious about curiosity.

Sheehy, S. (2018). The case for curiosity-driven research. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/suzie_sheehy_the_case_for_curiosity_driven_research?language=en [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

This links in quite nicely with the above section of curiosity, Martin states that philosophy is the experience and questioning of experiences, again having the mind set to ask why. He states there is an ongoing philosophical debate about knowledge between the Rationalists and the Empiricists.

‘The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.’ This debate is within ‘epistemology, the branch of philosophy devoted to studying the nature, sources and limits of knowledge.’ (Markie, P. 2004)

The below video was helpful in explaining the topic further and made some valid points. I’m quite torn between which I believe, but I would say I’m leaning more towards being an empiricist, especially as a creative and most of my knowledge being gained through visual sense. The video mentions how you are ‘born with ideas’, I struggle with this term as you can’t remember birth, so how do you remember ideas at birth? I can understand why this is such a large debate and can easily get engrossed within it myself. I’d argue intuition is learnt from sense experience throughout life and experiences and can support this from NeuroScience’s quote and study of ‘intuition is the result of information processing in the brain that results in prediction based on previous experience.’ (Corrado, M. 2018). Said previous experiences would have been experienced through the senses individually or as a unit. So actually, from writing that paragraph, I’ve decided I’m an empiricist.

YouTube. (2015). Rationalism vs Empiricism. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcfOI-zTps8 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

When researching I came across Genís Carreras who has designed a series of posters known as Philographics. All of which are based around philosophical ideas showcased in a minimalist style, enhancing his own take on each idea. Not only where these aesthetically pleasing, but also very informative at a simple level, also learnt about some other philosophical ideas along the way. It proved difficult to find actual research based around empiricism within graphic design, but again design is all about experience of the sense so I would argue within this industry it is heavily driven by empiricism. However, I did come across ‘Manners of Design’ (https://mannersofdesign.com/), a site designed to spread opinion and criticism based on the author’s empiricism – although not much is on the site currently, I’d like to keep an eye on this for future changes as it seems to be an interesting opportunity.

In conclusion, this topic is literally so big it could go on forever, but it is broken down within philosophy into 4 sub-sections, all of which ask ‘why’;
Metaphysics – the big questions, man vs god, mind and matter
Ethics – questions on how we should conduct ourselves (vital for graphic design)
Aesthetics – questions around beauty, the judgement of perception (again, vital for graphics design)
Epistemology – the theory of knowledge itself, methods, limits and scope.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even realise there was a difference, I’d completely forgotten about the word methodology and it sprung me back to year 9 science when I heard it. So I need to do a bit of basic research on this.

‘Method is simply a research tool, a component of research – say for example, a qualitative method such as interviews. Methodology is the justification for using a particular research method.’ (Gabriel, D. 2011).

In the lecture Martin discusses the qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative is based around language, using our sense to observe and interpret the results. Some example of methods to use within this methodology are (Course.ccs.neu.edu. n.d.):
– Interviews
– Focus Groups
– Participant Observation

Quantitative is based around measurements and numbers, discovering facts, assume a fixed and measurable reality. Some example of methods to use within this methodology are (Bris.ac.uk. n.d.):
– Questionnaires / Surveys
– Polls
– Structured Interviews

Whilst half planning how to use these in regards to my object for the workshop task, I realised I’d be using both, but was this allowed? Apparently so, as Wisker states, ‘This is a common approach and helps you to ‘triangulate’ ie to back up one set of findings from one method of data collection underpinned by one methodology, with another very different method underpinned by another methodology – for example, you might give out a questionnaire (normally quantitative) to gather statistical data about responses, and then back this up and research in more depth by interviewing (normally qualitative) selected members of your questionnaire sample.’ Wisker, G. (2008).


Visual Research – Noble, Ian; Bestley, Russell
The main aspect I took from this book is how designers are ‘reflective practitioners’, in turn this leads onto the critical thinking model to allow us to be reflective, as we reflect we gain knowledge and summarise our findings. In addition to this Martin Hoskins in his lecture states that ‘reflection is knowledge’, creating a nice circle between the two statements. Furthermore it appears that graphic design is a methodology in itself, as graphic designers we use methods to solve problems, our research is technically by doing, as shown in the design cycle below. The research of which we conduct provides the foundations of the design process, and graphic design itself could be seen as a process of analysis and synthesis. ‘The field is considered a subset of visual communication and communication design, but sometimes the term “graphic design” is used interchangeably with these due to overlapping skills involved.’ (Rivera, V. 2014)

But, as mention on page 14 the explanation of us as designers being ‘problem solvers’ has become a standard term, and as discussed on pages 19 and 20 within the book, the term Graphic Design within education can cause confusion and debate with it being an ever changing practice with digital advances, when original it was based on print. We have the same problem at the college I work at, our course was Graphic Design, now it’s Graphic Communication, but then the higher education course is VisComs (Visual Communication) – it causes confusion for the students and lacks consistency.

For this weeks workshop challenge, I believe initially from reading this section of the book I am conducting ‘Deductive Research’, where you start from a general conclusion and then find data to support this. At first, it could be considered that this isn’t very reliable, unless the conclusion is something that is already proven or researched in depth, but on the other hand it could be reliable as you have an end goal to aim towards gathering supportive information, usually through objective research using quantitive methods.

My reasoning is I know mental health is a big situation within my workplace, from observing the students every day – so I am possibly conducting ‘Empirical Research’ too, however for a much larger scale investigation and time frame, I would conduct a more strategic form of research such as ‘Applied Research’, to allow a more informed and supported conclusion through a more defined process. But regardless of the reliability opinion, it could be argued that ‘Deductive Research’ could have the same considered end results through relevant and effective use of qualitative and quantitive research methods combined.

Through a more informed investigation it could be compared against ‘Induction Research’, of which is more through observations and generalist findings through use of qualitative methods taking into consideration ethics and the context, where as ‘Deductive Research’ is a pin pointing method to ensure information is found and useable to support the original concept.

Creative Research – Hilary Colins
This book discusses ‘Research Philosophy’, which is process of you accepting certain assumptions about the way you view the world, you will be guided in your choice by your own beliefs, style of working and practical considerations. It very much becomes a personal consideration regarding your own ethics. ‘The term epistemology (what is known to
be true) as opposed to doxology (what is believed to be true) encompasses the
various philosophies of research approach. ‘ (Ish, R. n.d.).

Underneath this huge umbrella term comes Axiology which is concerned with values, this seems to provide a more personal approach to the collection of data as well as a more considered direction in regards to the ethics to be undertaken when researching. This links back to previous weeks where we had to define our own values as designers, of which, will influence our research through this axiology style of researching, rather than an objective method such as deduction.

The book then moves on to discus positivism, which is one view of the empiricist which I have mentioned previously in the lecture section. It aims to ‘present clear and definitive meanings that capture essential truths’, in a less scientific focus, within Graphic Design and the ethics surrounding it comes honesty and truth within code of conducts. This is also what we need to provide to the consumer, a clear and definitive design that can be understood. Interpretivism is another sub category within empiricism with the idea of ‘the world is waiting to be discovered’, this paradigm or ‘lens’ as the book refers to them seems to suit the creative industries more, in regards to the creative discovering and freedom with the design process.

Design Research – Laurel Brenda
I felt this was the most useful resource for me and seemed to take the most from it. Further on within the book it suggests simple definitions – qualitative; a wide net on a specific topic and quantitate; pin down the details, which helped me to section in my brain what I need to use for my research and when within the process of doing so.

On page 26 the book introduces Ethnography, which is ‘the recording and analysis of a culture or society, usually based on participant-observation and resulting in a written account of a people, place or institution’. (Discoveranthropology.org.uk, n.d.). From reading the book, the impression I got was that this seems to host a more ethical approach and less forced when attempting to conduct research and find data, allowing for a realistic and reliable collect of data and supporting information. This method allows in depth discovering of target markets, through the observations of behaviour, needs and much more. Initially, I would assume as graphic designers this would be the most useful method in terms of ensuring our outcomes creating ‘human happiness’ from learnt behaviour and patterns to respond too.

This all comes under anthropology, the student of human behaviour and initially ethnography wasn’t seem to be an effective form of research, however with the development of humans and such things as technology it has became a wider used method. Within this section comes ‘design anthropology’ which is the practice that ‘brings together key thinkers and practitioners involved in making and theorising our contemporary material and immaterial world’ . It’s where social science and design begin to collaborate and as stated on page 38, this is something although does happen, needs to happen in a lot more depth to create better, more informed solutions. Evidence of this been successful was when Anthropologist Lucy Suchman was involved with Xerox PARC, her research and study of Xerox users led to the break through design of the green photocopier button – simple, but life changing for the 1980’s. (Clarke, A. 2014). But it wasn’t a breakthrough in that she invented the button, she observed people trying to use the photocopiers with the original button, which in turned allowed for a refinement for the photocopiers to make them easier to work (Uxmag.com. 2011). . Below is one of the original videos, which is quite amusing to watch…

On page 35 it goes on to mention how you need well designed objectives, so I started considering what mine are for this week in terms of research and wrote some rough ideas from this, they need a lot more consideration but this has helped to give me a starting point in regards to the workshop challenge;
1. To find evidence to suggest an increase in mental health issues for participants of ages 16 – 20 in further education within the UK
2. Provide reasoning for a potential increase in mental health issues in Generation Z
3. Create a structured link between ‘The Crying Chair’ and mental health issues surround Generation Z within Newcastle College

One of the methodologies within design mentioned is Iterative Design, which is the process of prototyping, testing, analysing and refining work, where the participants experience the prototypes throughout the design process in turn making for a constant refinement process. Thoughts are that this could link into the fluidity of the double diamond design process model, in that throughout the discover, define, develop and deliver stage a designer can be creating prototypes all the way through to inform and expand on each section and the findings from this. Page 154 states that iterative design is a process based design methodology, but also a form of design research – it allows the blending of designer and user, resulting in ‘reinvention of play’. Design through play.

Agar, J. (2017). The curious history of curiosity-driven research. Frontispiece, [online] 71(4). Available at: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rsnr.2017.0034 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

BAMANE, R. (2015). Philosophy Posters: Re-imagining Existentialism, Nihilism, Solipsism, and More | The Unlearner. [online] Unlearner.com. Available at: http://unlearner.com/culture/philosophy-posters-re-imagining-existentialism-nihilism-solipsism-and-more/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Bris.ac.uk. (n.d.). Quantitative Methodologies. [online] Available at: http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/DeafStudiesTeaching/dissert/Quantitative%20Methodologies.htm [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Clarke, A. (2014). Design Anthropology – Object Culture In The 21st Century. 1st ed. New York: Springer Wein.

Corrado, M. (2018). Can Intuition Play a Role in Effective Decision Making?. [online] American Society of Employers. Available at: https://www.aseonline.org/News/Articles/ArtMID/628/ArticleID/1523/Can-Intuition-Play-a-Role-in-Effective-Decision-Making [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Course.ccs.neu.edu. (n.d.). Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide. [online] Available at: https://course.ccs.neu.edu/is4800sp12/resources/qualmethods.pdf [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Discoveranthropology.org.uk. (n.d.). Ethnography. [online] Available at: https://www.discoveranthropology.org.uk/about-anthropology/fieldwork/ethnography.html [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Gabriel, D. (2011). Methods and methodology. [online] Dr Deborah Gabriel. Available at: http://deborahgabriel.com/2011/05/13/methods-and-methodology/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Ish, R. (n.d.). Chapter Three: Research Methodology. [online] University of Hong Kong. Available at: http://www.is.cityu.edu.hk/staff/isrobert/phd/ch3.pdf [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Markie, P. (2004). Rationalism vs. Empiricism. [online] Plato.stanford.edu. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Research-Methodology. (n.d.). Research Philosophy – Research Methodology. [online] Available at: https://research-methodology.net/research-philosophy/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Rivera, V. (2014). Graphic design is the methodology of visual communication, a. [online] prezi.com. Available at: https://prezi.com/ckhv1soq-6b5/graphic-design-is-the-methodology-of-visual-communication-a/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Sheehy, S. (2018). The case for curiosity-driven research. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/suzie_sheehy_the_case_for_curiosity_driven_research?language=en [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

Wisker, G. (2008). The postgraduate research handbook. 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Uxmag.com. (2011). Busting the Myth of the Giant Green Button: A brief history of corporate ethnography | UX Magazine. [online] Available at: https://uxmag.com/articles/busting-the-myth-of-the-giant-green-button [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019]

YouTube. (2015). Rationalism vs Empiricism. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcfOI-zTps8 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2019].

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