Creating a design method could be defined as a three-stage process that includes analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Jones, 1992; Yee, 2006). In other words, this process can be explained as ‘breaking the problem into pieces’, ‘putting the pieces together in a new way’ and ‘testing to discover the consequences of putting the new arrangement into practice’. However, this is not a linear process. It implies a cyclical relationship between theory and practice, in which each cycle is progressively less general and more detailed than the one before it (Jones, 1992).
The following are some of the methodologies that I have used to create my design method.
Visual disaggregating (Tufte, 1998; Engelhardt, 2002). This method is used to analyse visual complex images, such as diagrams. It deconstructs complex images into simple ones, organising their elements in levels or layers according to their function and meaning. Engelhardt explains that the interpretation of a visual complex image may be the result of interpreting its levels of constituting graphic objects, and interpreting the ways in which these are combined (their graphic relations). Edward Tufte describes this concept as the layered views in which diagrams are structured. This diagrams layered structure represents hidden views and sometimes have a useful abstracting and idealizing quality.
Matrix / Comparative visual analysis (Tufte, 1983; Jones, 1992; Rose, 2001; Yee, 2006). This method permits a systematic organization of the obtained data and facilitates the analysis and search for visual and conceptual connections. All data (elements and concepts) is organised in a matrix in which every element/concept is compared with each other. To prevent extremely complex analysis, Jones suggests using no more than twenty elements per matrix and dividing the research data into smaller matrices. Having a high number of matrices but with lower number of elements makes the identification and evaluation of similarities and differences of a particular situation easier. In simple words, this method allows an appropriate classification of the research material that helps the recognition of all possible sets of solutions and sub-solutions to a design problem.
Visual coding (Tufte, 1983, 1990; Oppenheim, 1992; Rose, 2001). Visual images content is composed by primary and additional elements (by elements are understood concepts, relations, individual forms/colours). Both authors Kress and Leeuwen (2006:49) describe two different approaches for analysing visual images content. The first approach is based on formal art theory and is focused on psychology perception. The second one places its emphasis on a functional semiotic theory (this is the approach we have analysed). This analysis is oriented towards semantic functions rather than individual forms or specific colours. For the analysis and classification of content, both Oppenheim and Roses propose the creation of a specific codebook or coding system. That means to analyse raw content following three components:
(1) the original content,
(2) the criteria/reasons (questions, statements, gaps of information) to collect the information, their organization and their visual identification (i.e. coloured coding labels assigned to every answer or group of answers),
(3) and the reference list (list showing which code has been assigned to each question and the coding references).
– Choukeir, J. (2007) Visual politics: A methodology for Analysing Socio-Political Graphics, Thesis (MA). London College of Communication.
– Engelhardt, von J. (2002) The Language of Graphics. Thesis (PhD). Holland: Universiteitt van Amsterdam .
– Jones, C.J. (1992) Design methods. Second edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
– Kress, G; van Leeuwen, T. (1996, 2006) Reading images. The grammar of visual Design. London: Redwood Books.
– Oppenheim, A.N. (1992) Questionnaire Design, interviewing and Attitude Measurement. London: Continuum
– Roei Yee, J.S. (2006) Developing a practice-led framework to promote the practice and understanding of typography across different media. Thesis (PhD). Newcastle: University of Northumbria.
– Rose, G. (2001) Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage.
– Tufte, E. (1990) Enviosing Information. Connecticut: Graphic Press, Cheshire.
– Tufte, E. (1983) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Connecticut: Graphic Press, Cheshire.
– Tufte, E. (1998) Visual Explanations. Connecticut: Graphic Press, Cheshire.