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Basic vs Applied Research in Graphic Design
by Michael Kroeger
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 our students to perform 'real' projects as opposed to theoretical exercises. We continue to give our students basic problems to encourage them to think on their own. 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 equiped 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

Recently local commercial designers have spoken to the Graphic Design Student Association and have told the students that they are not interested in theory. 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.

Timeline :: for Graphic Design History

A. Beginning of the Industrial Design: Great Britian and Germany
1820 - Industrial Revolution :: early 19th century; patternmaker = designer
1849 - Journal of Design - by Henry Cole; design should encompass more than applied ornament; knowledge of manufacturing processes and materials.
1851 - Great Exhibition - decorative extravagance of Victorian design - Crystal Palace
1860 - Arts and Crafts Movement - John Ruskin, William Morris, Gustav Stickley, thought machine production degrading to both workers and consumers.
1903 - Wiener Werkstatle - Viennese group; similar to Arts and Crafts Movement.
1901 - Frank Lloyd Wright - 'The Art and Craft of the Machine'; basic principles of modern industrial design; future designers create prototypes for machine production.
1907 - Deutscher Werkbund - Hermann Muthesius...
1910 - AEG (German General Electric); Peter Behrens, denounce Art Nouveau for a spare abstract neoclassicism; products, lighting fixtures, fans, advertising, graphics, and the firm's overall 'corporate image'.
1919 - Bauhaus - Walter Gropius, union of art and industry; other figures: Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Laszio Moholy-Nagy, and Wilhelm Wagenfeld- [1933 - disbanded by Nazi]

B. Design Profession: USA
1929 - US comsumer society emerges: commercial artist, advertising, illustrators
1940 - Design business practice common; independent consultants
1939 - New York World's Fair - visual coherence and social harmony; Utopian dream

C. Postwar Europe
1944 - Council of Industrial Design; stifled creativity
1947 - Swiss design: Armin Hofmann, Emil Ruder, Kunstgewerbeschule Basel
1960 - Pop art; Pentagram Design: Colin Forbes, Theo Crosby
1953 - Bauhaus tradition to Hochschule für Gestaltung at Uml. Max Bill and Tomas Maldonado; Dieter Rams at Braun AG.
1960 - Scandinavian designer: Alvar Aalto
1961 - Italian designer: Ettore Sottsass, Memphis group
1968 - Post-Modernism: Wolfgang Weingart, Steff Geissbuhler, Odermatt & Tissi

D. Comtemporary American Graphic Design
1950 - MOMA, promote good design, refugees Gropius, Mies, Breuer; New Bauhaus, Chicago, ID-IIT; Yale University: Alvin Eisenman, Paul Rand, Herbert Matter, Norman Ives
1960 - The New York School: Paul Rand, Alexey Brodovich, Henry Wolf, Herb Lubalin, George Lois
1970 - Corporate graphics: Olivetti, CBS, CIBA, IBM, Chase, Mobil, Mexico Olympic
1979 - New Wave: April Greiman, Kenneth Hiebert, Paula Scher
1980 - Micro processor (1984 - Apple Computer, MacWrite, MacPaint)
1993 - Internet: Mosiac -> Netscape


Theory: (n) - [Gr. theoria, a looking at, contemplation, speculation]
01. originally, a mental viewing; contemplation.
02. an idea or mental plan of the way to do something.
03. a systematic statement of principles involved; as, the theory of equations in mathematics.
04. a formulation of apparent relationships or underlying principles of cetain observed phenomena which has been verified to some degree: distinguished from hypothesis.
05. that branch of an art or science consisting in a knowledge of its principles and methods rather than in its practice; pure, as opposed to applied, science, etc.

Thesis: (n) - [L. thesis; Gr. thesis. a position, from tithenai, to put, place]
04. a proposition to be maintained or defended in argument, formerly one publicly disputed by a candidate for a degree in a medieval university.
05. an essay or dissertation presented by a candidate for an academic degree as evidence of his/her knowledge of an individual research in a subject.
06. in logic, an unproved statement assumed as a premise; a postulate: distinguished from hypothesis.

Hypothesis: (n) - [Gr. groundwork, foundation. hypo = under, tithenai = to place]
01. a supposition; a proposition or principle which is supposed or taken for granted, in order to draw a conclusion or inference for proof of the point in question; something not proved, but assumed for the purpose of argument.
02. a system or theory imagined or assumed to account for what is not understood.

Base: (n) - [Gr; basis, a pedestal, step]
01. the bottom of a thing, considered as its support, or the part of a thing on which it rests; foundation; as, the base of a column.
02. the foundation or most important element, as of a system or set of ideas.

Applied: (adj) - used in actual practice or to work out practical problems; as, applied science: distinguished from pure. abstract, theoretical.

Research: (n) - [OFr. recerche; Fr. recherche, diligent search, from re - again, and chercher, to seek]
01. careful, patient,systematic, diligent inquiry or examination in some field of knowledge, undertaken to establish facts or principles; laborious or continued search after truth; as researches of human wisdom; to study; to examine anew.

Design: (v.t.); [OFr. designer; L. designare, to mark out, to define; de - out, from, and signare - to mark, from signum, a mark, a sign]
01. to plan and delineate by drawing the outline or figure of; to sketch, as in painting and other works of art, as for a pattern or model.
(n) - 01. a plan; scheme; project.
08. the arrangement of parts, details, form, color, etc., especially so as to produce a complete and artistic unit; artistic invention; as, the design of a rug.

Linear measure; (a) measurement of length, as distinguished from volume, weight, etc.;
(b) a system of measuring length; especially, the system in which 12 inches = 1 foot, 3 feet = 1 yard, 5.5 yards = 1 rod, 40 rods = 1 furlong, and 8 furlongs (1,760 yards or 5,280 feet) = 1 mile.

Webster's Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary © 1979 - Simon & Schuster, G + W
A History of Graphic Design by Philip B Meggs © 1983 - Van Nostrend

Operations Research
Operations research can be used to describe complex systems such as design. First a model is constructed. A system is simulated. The model describes the structure of the system. Clearly stated objectives are critical.
Formulating Problems
Max Profit


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