Research Reading #4: Graphic Design Thesis: A Survivor’s Guide

28 Feb
  • Thesis is the cumulation of a student’s design education at CCAC
  • created by michael vanderbyl to challenge and broaden our understanding of what it means to be a designer
  • self-directed, allows you to identify an area of interest and investigate, using design as a vehicle which to present your findings
  • Students are graded by 4 components: proposal, research, thesis project, and process booklet

Thesis Proposal

  • a proposition or argument based on original observation, which you support through research
  • details anticipated research, addresses potential implications of propositions


  1. start with what interests you – what are you obsessed with? Passionate about? What do you like reading and thinking about?
  2. Make sure you have a point, what are you arguing?
  3. don’t base your proposal on obvious
  4. shorter is usually better
  5. think about claims, are they true? Logical? Do YOU believe them? What are the ramifications if they are true?
  6. do not make sweeping statements for dramatic effect or without supporting them with documentation
  7. define your terms
  8. do not claim you will prove anything
  9. be aware you will revise your proposal as your research dictates and your process evolves


  • purpose: to understand how to evaluate what you see and read, to develop your own opinions and critical frameworks based on informed judgements, not simple on what you like and don’t like, to acquire the critical skills to discern reliable useful sources from the ukn, to evaluate your own work in light what you learn through the reseach, to develop your own understanding of the relationship of history theory to practice, and ulitimately to have the chance to explore a topic that interests you in a more indepth fashion


  1. let your topic dictate the type of research you do, and have an idea of what you are looking for
  2. maintain level of cynicism, be critical of sources
  3. consult with an expert mentor in your field of study
  4. develop a system for note-taking as you read
  5. footnote sources
  6. avoid reading pseudo science
  7. interviewing all friends is not intellectual merit

Thesis Project

  • physical manifestation of and conclusion to thesis proposal
  • form it takes determined by nature of proposal and its content
  • should be aware that you are creating a narrative, engaged in process of making an argument, what is your core message?
  • what are your secondary messages and its relationship to core?
  • If your project is so personal that it fails to communicate, it fails lol


  1. do not have preconceived ideas about what form your project will take
  2. create a written outline of your narrative/argument diagramming your core and secondary messages, serve as a guide along with visuals
  3. give audience multiple access points to your content – quick view or overlook
  4. visual language should be appropriate to content
  5. if unfamiliar with chosen medium, allow more time for learning curve
  6. if installation is chosen, approach with trepidation

Tips from other students

  • 3 tips (don’t believe rumous about teachers, original topics will allow interesting angle, and get better response and be more fun, must make a point)
  • make a schedule(
  • make connections
  • research
  • trust yourself

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