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Design Dissertation Topics

We have provided the selection of example design dissertation topics below to help and inspire you.

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Example design dissertation topic 1:

Interior design: A profession at risk of debasement by television.

As a career choice for design professionals, interior design requires a number of inter-related skills. These include, at their most basic, the ability to develop ideas conceptually, co-ordinate and liaise with stakeholders, management of the design and build process, and successfully bringing the design to completion. In contrast, television 'make-over' shows suggest that the skills required can be realised in, on occasions, no more than 60 minutes, but more usually 2 days. This dissertation asserts, through the reviewing of such programmes and their 'results', as well as by undertaking primary research data collection by interviewing professional interior designers, that such programmes devalue the profession and result in members of the public having unrealistic expectations as to their own abilities in the field of interior design.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Beegan, G. (2008). 'Professionalism, amateurism and the boundaries of design', Journal of Design History, Vol. 21(4), pp. 305-313.
  • Lees-Maffei, G. (2008). 'Introduction: Professionalization as a focus in interior design history', Journal of Design History, Vol. 21(1), pp. 1-18.
  • Piotrowski, C. (2004). Becoming an interior designer. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Example design dissertation topic 2:

Twentieth-century graphic design: A tribute to William Addison Dwiggins.

Celebrating the life and career of William Addison Dwiggins, this dissertation applauds the man who first coined the phrase 'graphic design' in his 1922 article, 'New kind of printing calls for new design'. Though a founding father of the movement, his legacy to modern day graphic designers is often overlooked. Seeking, therefore, to address this gap in existing literature, this study looks not only at his work in typography (and in so doing evaluates the ongoing importance of his seminal work Layout in advertising) but also reviews his work as an illustrator.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dwiggins, W.A. (1948). Layout in advertising (1948 edn). London: Harper.
  • Dwiggins, W.A. (1999). 'New kind of printing calls for new design'. In Bierut, M., Helfand, J. and Heller, (Eds.). Looking closer 3: Classic writings on graphic design. New York: Allworth Press.
  • Tracy, W. (2003). Letters of credit: A view of type design. Boston, MA: D.R. Godine. MacGrew, M. (1993). American metal typefaces of the twentieth century. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books.

Example design dissertation topic 3:

A question of typeface: Perceptions of readability in the digital age.

Within academia, the two typefaces, Times New Roman and Arial, (both in 12 point) are preferred as the standard in which to present essays and dissertations. However, there is an increasing split amongst young people and older adults on whether serif or sans-serif fonts are more easily read online. With the ever increasing use of e-journals, the digitalisation of theses, and the development of Kindle and iPads, this dissertation seeks to evaluate which fonts are preferred on-line. In doing so, it first evaluates public opinion of a range of ten common fonts through the use of semi-structured interviews and street-based face-to-face interviews, and reviews the characteristics of the fonts placed as 'the top three' by the public (a sample of 200 people based in Swindon), categorised into three age groups: 18-25, 25-50, 50-75. Thereafter, the dissertation charts the history of these fonts, the similarities in structure of them (if any) and proffers comments as to the ramifications of the public's choices for digital print media in the future.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bernard, M., Mills, M., Frank, T, and McKown, J. (2001). 'Which fonts do children prefer to read online?', Usability News, Vol. 3(1), pp. 1-4.
  • Juni, S. and Gross, J.S. (2008). 'Emotional and persuasive perception of fonts', Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 106(1), pp. 35-42.
  • Yi, W., Park, E. and Cho, K. (2011). 'E-book readability, comprehension and satisfaction', Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication, Article No. 38, Seoul, Korea, February 21-23, 2011.

Example design dissertation topic 4:

Fashion design: A return of men's bespoke tailoring through the internet.

Though the vast majority of tailoring is for the mass market, the rise in internet shopping has, with regard to men's formal attire, seen a boom in the bespoke fashion industry with an increase in the number of firms operating solely on the Net and offering fully bespoke garments. Focusing on the production of bespoke tweed jackets and suits, this dissertation evaluates not only the success of individual firms but also the effects that the rising demand for bespoke-tweed has had upon the tweed industry itself which was, previously, on verge of collapse.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bae, J.H. and May-Plumlee, T. (2005). 'Customer focused textile and apparel manufacturing systems: Towards an effective e-commerce model', Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, Vol. 4(4), pp.
  • Hammond, J. and Kohler, K. (2001). 'E-commerce in the textile and apparel industries'. In, BRIE-IGCC E-conomy Project, Tracking a transformation: E-commerce and the terms of competition in industries. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, pp. 332-356.
  • Zheng, J., Caldwell, N., Harland, C., Powell, P., Woerndl, M. and Xu, S. (2004). 'Small firms and e-business: cautiousness, contingency and cost-benefit', Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, Vol. 10(1), pp. 27-39.

Example design dissertation topic 5:

Textile design: A survey into the cyclical nature of colours in Britain's carpet industry.

The revolution in floor coverings that has taken place in Britain over the last twenty years has seen that carpet retains the dominant market share, as a percentage of the total volume of floor coverings sold. Sales of wood, laminates and vinyl floor coverings, nonetheless, continue to be a threat to the carpet industry, and the volatile laminates sector is likely to increase upon improvement in the housing market. However, both the production fabrics and the nature of the carpets sold have changed; whereas 100% wool once ruled, polypropylene is now the fabric of choice - especially for those involved in the 'bargain basement' end of the industry. Richly decorated patterns (such as those once immortalised by Wilton and Axminster) have also given way to plainer block colours - though patterns are, in 2012, making a comeback. This dissertation charts not only the changing fortunes of the carpet industry in the UK over the last twenty years (focusing predominantly on both manufacture and purchasing trends in Wilton, Wiltshire) but also seeks to explain the cyclical nature of pattern-plain-pattern through an analysis of customers' perceptions and interviews with designers.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Attfield, J. (1994). 'The tufted carpet in Britain: Its rise from the bottom of the pile, 1952-1970', Journal of Design History, Vol. 7(3), 205-216.
  • Jackson, L. (2002). Twentieth century pattern design. London: Octopus.
  • Zhao, Y. and Dai, H.L. (2006). 'Advanced tufted carpet patterning technology', Journal of Zhejiang University - Science A, Vol. 7(3), pp. 374-377.

Example design dissertation topic 6:

Iconic industrial designs: An evaluation of the KitchenAid.

The KitchenAid 5 qt. Stand Mixer was designed in 1937 by Egmont Arens. It remains a highly desirable kitchen appliance not only for its durability and product excellence but also because of its classic design and good looks. It is now available in a range of colours including the original black. This dissertation not only charts the history of the brand but also asks 'what makes a brand design iconic'. In so doing it uses not only existing secondary literature but also interviews KitchenAid users as well as those who aspire to buy the product.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Vossoughi, S. (2007). 'The best strategy is the right strategy', Design Management Review, Vol. 18, pp. 73-80.
  • Walton, T. (2007). 'Insights at the nexus of design and business success', Design Management Review, Vol. 18, pp. 6-9.
  • Rollins, N. (2004). 'Mixing it up: Maytag and Fitch innovate kitchen products and best practices', Design Management Review, Vol. 15, pp. 20-25.

Example design dissertation topic 7:

Trans-generational design: Redesigning the mobile phone for the over 70s - an investigative study.

Trans-generational design is, as Pirkl notes, 'the practice of making products and environments compatible with those physical and sensory impairments associated with human aging and which limit major activities of daily living' (1994, p.25). This dissertation looks at the mobile phone demands of consumers living in Winchester aged over 70, and suggests that a product whose design is forever getting slimmer and smaller needs to be rethought if it is to continue to appeal to this ageing demographic. Through interviewing and collating the results of 400 interviews (through the use of a tick box survey and quantitative analysis) this dissertation seeks to make a number of key design recommendations to the leading mobile phone manufacturers.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Arning, K. and Ziefle, M. (2007). 'Barriers of information access in small screen device applications: The relevance of user characteristics for a transgenerational design', Universal Access in Ambient Intelligence Environments, Vol. 4397, pp.117-136.
  • Cagan, J. and Vogel, C.M. (2007). Creating breakthrough products. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press.
  • Pirkl, J.J. (1994). Trans-generational design: Products for an aging population. New York: Van Nostrand.

Example design dissertation topic 8:

Interior architectural design: The possibilities of redevelopment.

As a design medium distinct from interior design, interior architecture is concerned with the internal features of a building's architects. As city centres within the UK are increasingly redeveloped, with former factories and banks being particularly prone to redevelopment as either homes or wine bars, this dissertation looks at the opportunities afforded to interior architectural designers through this process. Using Newcastle-upon-Tyne as the focus city, this dissertation looks at the redevelopment of the Grainger Market area of the city and evaluates what lessons can be learnt from the successful internal architectural designs there to similar redevelopment schemes now being initiated in Halifax and Huddersfield.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Coles, J. and House, N. (2007). The fundamentals of interior architecture. Lausanne: Ava Publishing.
  • Kiley, C.J. (2004). Convert! The adaptive uses of churches. Master's thesis, MIT.
  • Ritter, A. (2007). Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design. Basel: Birkhauser.

Example design dissertation topic 9:

Adaptive reuse in interior architectural design: Battersea power station - a Pandora's box of opportunities.

Since its decommissioning as a power station, Battersea has been subject to a number of development ideas. These have included its suggested transformation into a theme park, its use as a base for affordable housing for key workers within the city, and present plans for its redevelopment into a site of mixed office and residential usage. This dissertation gives a brief overview of the failed design proposals of the last twenty years before critically evaluating the present design proposals for Battersea's future.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bullen, P. and Love, P. (2011), 'Factors influencing the adaptive re-use of buildings', Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, Vol. 9(1), pp. 32-46.
  • Dedross, S. (2010). The re-use of historic industrial buildings on brownfield sites: Case study Battersea power station. BSc thesis, University of Portsmouth.
  • Shipley, R., Utz, S. and Parsons, M. (2006). 'Does adaptive reuse pay? A study of the business of building renovation in Ontario, Canada', International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 12(6), pp. 505-520.

Example design dissertation topic 10:

'See it, want it, got to have it' - emotion and experience design: A case study of the MacBook Pro.

Within the broader discipline of design, experience design is a growing field concerned with the emotional interaction between person and product. Using the MacBook Pro as the 'desired product' this dissertation charts people's reactions to seeing the product and asks them to explain why it is that they then want to buy it. In so doing it advances the proposition that it is not just the quality of the processor that attracts consumers but also brand identification, the sleekness of the product, and the image that ownership of the product conjures up in the mind of the purchaser.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Aarts, E.H.L. and Marzano, S. (2003). The new everyday: Views on ambient intelligence.
  • Brunner, R. and Emery, S. (2009). Do you matter? How great design will make people love your company. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Gyeongmin, K. (2010). Exploring the culture of an online brand community: A study of a Korean Apple MacBook user community. Master's thesis, National University of Singapore.

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