Negotiating the masses: Exploring the frontiers of communication in disseminating design research

Presented by: Amy M Huber

“Negotiate the escalating mass of information to create thoughtful design solutions informed by research,” was among the recent calls made by CIDA visionaries (CIDA, 2014, p. 5). While designers generally want to make the best decisions for their clients, project stressors (e.g. deadlines, client demands, billability), can stymie their knowledge acquisition efforts, and given the complexities of practice, it may not be surprising that practitioners are committing little time to these pursuits. In fact, in a recent survey of 366 design practitioners, over half of the participants noted that they generally spent less than 10 minutes reviewing an information source. Further, only 11% referenced scholarly articles at all (Huber, 2015). With countless information sources available and little time with which designers can assess it, it may behoove those design scholars who desire for their findings to be applied in practice to explore the potential of emerging modes of communication. Recent research has posited that in order to provoke both attention and retention, engagement with the message is necessary. One such tactic in doing so is employing graphics and imagery (Lazard & Atkinson, 2014; Morrison & Vogel, 1998). Further, visual tactics could be considered normative to design practice (CIDA, 2014), and can include a range of media. A recent study asked interior design practitioners to rank their media preferences for receiving information and found they preferred the following: 1) graphic white paper (µ1.95), 2) research-based visual database (µ2.33), 3) videos (µ3.19), 4-tied) written white paper & augmented reality (µ3.76) (redacted). This presentation discusses their reasoning for these selections and the possibilities for communicating research in the future. Methods N=34 design practitioners participated in an online survey and viewed images of the five modes of communication listed above (see Figure 1). Respondents provided open-ended replies discussing the merits, weaknesses, and potential uses for the associated media. These responses were inductively coded by keyword and grouped into themes (see Table 1). Findings Graphic White Paper-Most supported the use of a graphic white paper due to their time constraints and interest. Additionally, they noted that they could view the document in its entirety and at their own pace. On these documents, respondents advocated for the use of visuals, reduction of text, and restriction of text to smaller segments. Research-based visual database (i.e. Informed Pinterest)-Respondents felt that such a site would make for a useful repository and were intrigued by its potential visual quality. Yet, having to download additional software or applications would likely limit its use. Videos-While videos were thought to be intriguing, many held that having to “sit and wait” for information could be frustrating. Additionally, while distilling the information can save the viewer time, they are then relying on the author to determine what information is most significant. Written White Paper-Some held that written white papers provide an added sense of credibility, in addition to giving them a break from their typical onscreen viewing. Yet, most respondents suggested that these documents were time consuming and rarely attracted their attention. Applications-Augmented Reality (i.e. Visual QR codes)-Participants felt this type of media would be cumbersome given the current state of technology. Summary While the way in which information is communicated has drastically changed across multiple domains, the way in which empirical information is communicated has --for the most part--remained unchanged. Findings from this survey suggest designers may be more apt to review information from graphic white paper formats. This information may assist scholars in more effectively communicating their findings with those in design practice.


  • CIDA (2014). Future Vision Report. Retrieved from
  • Huber, A.M. (2015). Knowledge acquired: Examining the use of information in the design decision making process. International Journal of Architectural Research. (submitted for review).
  • Lazard, A. & Atkinson, L. (2014). Putting environmental infographics center stage: The role of visuals at the Elaboration Liklihood Model’s critical point of persuasion. Science Communication. 1-28.
  • Morrison, J. & Vogel, D. (1998). The impacts of presentation visuals on persuasion. Information & Management, 33(3), 125-135.
  • Redacted citation (xxxx). Redacted for blind review.
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