Activities of mid-weight graphic designers during the conceptual design phase: A case study

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This Masters research study investigates the practice of experienced graphic designers during the conceptual design phase of client-initiated projects. Analyses of design practice in the literature have favoured fields such as architecture and product engineering. These studies and the few addressing graphic design practice have not typically employed ethnographic methods to elucidate situated practice, relying instead on laboratory studies and methods derived from cognitive sciences. In addition, prior studies investigating professional practice were often found to be lacking in appropriating theoretical frameworks for analysis. A useful framework for analysing real-world practice can be found using activity theory. In this study, ethnographic approaches are used with activity theory to gather data on tool-mediated activities used for problem solving, in order to analyse the ways graphic designers go about problem solving through the activities undertaken. The aim of this study is to understand the nature of graphic design practice through the investigation of the activities and strategies undertaken by graphic designers during the development of a professional, client-initiated, design project. Specifically, it considers the tool-mediated activities of designers as a situated practice during the conceptual stage of designing for client-initiated projects. Employing ethnographic methods, three cases were investigated, in order to generate a ‘thick description’ of these design processes.
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