Basic vs Applied Research in Graphic Design

This article is written in response to the confusion in the design industry between basic and applied research. The implied value in graphic design is to train people, to perform ‘real’ projects as opposed to theoretical exercises. It is the charge of industry to supply the next generation of students (future designers) with the applied research in the field. The commercial designers are better equipped and funded to supply this end of the students’ education.

The chart below is an indication of the aspects of what some of the differences are between basic and applied research. The education community can supply only part of the education needs of todays students. With ever increasing technology needs not being met at the university, the students must rely on internships and job opportunities supplied by the design industry.

Basic Applied
Theory: color, form, composition, content Internship, computer hardware / software
Knowledge Experience
Learning Training
Non-linear = not in order Linear = predictable
Literary = poetic; experimental Practical = clients; business
Motive = transfer information Motive = profit
High-risk / low output Low-risk / high output

Theory defined by Webster’s means having a mental view of something. It is an idea or mental plan of a way to design. Without a working philosophy towards design this unfortunately leaves the students without any approach to thinking. Design history, basic research theory, and the opportunity to experiment are essential for students to develop. The pressures of the workplace do not allow this higher development to occur on the job.



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