Design and Research Processes in Postgraduate Design Education

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  • Title: Design and Research Processes in Postgraduate Design Education
  • Author(s): Elivio Bonollo, Carlos Montana Hoyos
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Design Education
  • Keywords: Design Process, Research Process, Postgraduate Design Education, Research Plans and Proposals, Industrial Design
  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2014
  • ISSN: 2325-128X (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1298 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Bonollo, Elivio, and Carlos Montana Hoyos. 2014. "Design and Research Processes in Postgraduate Design Education." The International Journal of Design Education 7 (2): 51-64. doi:10.18848/2325-128X/CGP/v07i02/51-64.
  • Extent: 13 pages


Based on several previous publications by the authors, this paper sets out to clarify the relationship between the ‘research process’ and the ‘design process’ in the context of postgraduate design education, and with particular reference to PhD studies in Industrial Design (ID). The relationship between these processes is not well understood by postgraduate research students, and this is further complicated by generic terms such as ‘research design’ and ‘design-based research’ which are not equivalent to research within the design fields. This causes possible confusion when developing clear research proposals and selecting appropriate qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods to be employed as part of an overall postgraduate research plan. In addition, the relationships between ‘design practice’ and ‘design research’, defined by ‘practice-based research’ and ‘practice-led research’, can sometimes be controversial in academic research, and their understanding varies in different countries and schools of art and design. However, as will be explained, the ‘research process’ and the ‘design process’ have valuable analogous functions and characteristics which enhance research outcomes when applied sensibly in PhD studies. This paper will use simple process modelling tools, Venn diagrams, case examples and pragmatic experience from supervising PhD projects to show how the research and design processes are interrelated, leading to better informed research experiences for students and supervisors.