Design research

Ambiguity can arise from indecision, unintended confusion or as the intentional evocation of several meanings in the same image, object, situation or idea. Intentional ambiguity enables multiple interpretations of a mess­age, increasing richness of meaning, while adding pleasure through uncertainty and surprise. In disciplines such as literature and fine art, ambiguity is perceived as not only desirable, but inherent to the value of the work of art or idea, and its interpretation in the mind of the viewer. Yet, the possibilities of ambiguity remain under-explored in graphic design, a discipline predominantly (conventionally) concerned with the clear communication of a message.


In this practice-based study, ambiguity is proposed as a catalyst for envisaging new ways of thinking about graphic design in addition to the functional imperative of the discipline. Design ambiguity is analysed in a new way in this research by using the multiplicities of X in a convergence of form, function, concept and context. Framing the design process itself as a research strategy, the values of ambiguity are developed through practice, embodied in three original designed outcomes, which form a material critique. The first type of practice focuses on ambiguity as an inherent component of the design process in my adaptation of a research diary: Ambiguity: A Design Process. My second type of practice demonstrates evidence of ambiguity embodied in the multiplicities of X, a graphic sign for potency, individuality, love, death and the unknown in The A to Z of X. In my third type of practice ambiguity is proposed as a brand concept in graphic design and X is employed as its visual identity: Branding Ambiguity is presented as a speculative script for action, a mini manifesto for the potential of ambiguity in the discipline. In a synthesis of theory and practice design is framed as research in my research: from initial ideas to designed outcomes design is, thus, employed as both a process and a product.

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