This paper is a supervisor reflection on theory selection for research design in design-orientated research. Selection and deployment of theory in a research design can powerfully affect what design research achieves. The research design of a graphic design master’s dissertation targeting ‘research for design’ illustrates this. The view of research design discussed in the paper is not typological or logistical, but instead one where relations between research components are interactive and emergent during the course of the study.
The challenge of the ‘research for design’ study concerns the graphic design need to track visual rhetoric effects on audience identity in social media. This study used fashion theory to bring visuality to Giddens’s social reflexivity and Butler’s social performativity. The resulting theoretical integration was then applied to the functional affordances of the social media platform under study.
The paper concludes that the exemplar study illustrates the key role of theory in optimally valid research design co-ordination of research aims, questions, significance and methodological implementation. This conclusion is then briefly extended to the potential for similarly innovative and coherent practice-based research designs in the design field.
Keywords: design research, theory, interactive research design