Drawing Out: How designers analyse written texts in visual ways

Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the Design Research Society 2012: Bangkok, 2012, pp. 1646 - 1659
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This paper discusses the methods practitioner-­researchers use to analyse written texts. Much attention towards the written word in design discourse is directed at typography - how words are used visually to communicate meaning. This paper considers the written word from a different perspective. Here, we aim to reveal how designers analyse written texts for research and ideation. We describe a range of methods we have developed through our own research and practice, as well as analytical approaches other practitioner-­researchers use. There are many approaches to the analysis of texts - for example, semiotic (Kress and van Leeuwen 2001, 2006), content (Krippendorff 2004), discourse (Gee 1999) and more recently visual methods (Rose 2007). However, we are specifically interested in the methods designers use to draw out ideas, understanding and inspiration from written texts - a focus that is not directly addressed by any of these existing approaches. Importantly, many of the methods we describe here are widely used in design practice, but are not acknowledged or reported to be useful in a research context. Therefore, it is valuable to reframe these practice-­based methods within a research context and claim their scholarly contribution. In this paper, we describe three approaches to analysing written texts, which we have named Visual Abstraction, Focused Data-­mining and Exploratory Data-­mining. Each approach is supported with examples and anecdotes by practitioner-­researchers;; ourselves and others. Examining our own work allows us to trace initial text analysis through to final design/research outcomes, illustrated with examples from the entire process. To conclude, we discuss why these methods are a meaningful contribution to design scholarship.
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