Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Art and Visual Culture


Industrial Design

First Advisor

Steven Herrnstadt


The proposed research uses empirical methods to investigate designers’ use of research

throughout the design process with an emphasis on research and idea generation. The goal is to explore the factors which impact the various phases of the design process. The early phase of the design process is often referred to as the “fuzzy front end” where many variables are still in play and the design direction is not completely agreed upon. This is also when the designer is conducting user research. The connection between the user research and the design solutions that designers move forward is critical. This connection creates a space in which the designer can ensure they are approaching this process as a user-centered process.

This research explores these topics through observation of junior level industrial design students at one Midwestern university in a project-based design studio and takes place for the duration of one project. A total of four students were observed. The structure was set up that they were a team for early research, then splitting into three separate projects where two students worked together and two worked individually.

The researcher’s observations for each designer are then followed up by a reflection interview in which the designer was asked to reflect on their own design process and to investigate their thought processes in choosing which research information they felt applied to their solutions and how this implementation might impact the outcome. This method is used to observe actions and behaviors during the design process allowing for observation of designers in their natural setting.

Therefor the question of what happens to research throughout the design process is explored. Building on new research in cognitive and decision sciences, along with studies of design students, the goal is to study the role of research throughout the design process. Possible application of this research would be in developing a framework that demonstrates implementation techniques of this knowledge for new teaching methods, among others.

Copyright Owner

Monica Lynn Amman



File Format


File Size

88 pages