Master of Design

Disrupting the designer: Applying a feminist, embodied hermeneutic framework towards better understanding and disrupting visual design practice

Master of Design (MDes) Thesis Project by Sarah Jackson | 2016–2018

There is a fascinating mystery at the heart of interpretation in the visual design field. We still do not fully understand how visual designers make the design decisions that form their work, and perhaps more importantly, how these decisions can be disrupted and changed for the better, particularly if our current paradigms are problematic. This mystery—how decisions are made within visual design practice and how we might disrupt existing interpretations to reveal new and useful understandings—is the focus of my research.

This thesis project takes an experimental approach to explore how hermeneutic phenomenology—a practical philosophy that looks at understanding lived human experience through interpretative back-and-forth dialogue and storytelling—combined with a feminist and embodied research strategy, might be used as tools to better understand and disrupt existing ideas and practices within visual design.

The documentary film created for my MDes explores my thesis research question: how can I disrupt current narratives about women in visual communication design? My research engages in three types of hermeneutic dialogue: between myself and existing texts; through semi-structured expert interviews; and between my past and present selves through the creation of written, oral, image-based, and performative texts. I use these dialogues as a means of critically exploring myself as designer—in particular my embodied experiences—to question, critique and reflect on my own design practice. All of these dialogues informed each other, and informed the creation of this thesis design artifact.

To view my MDes Thesis project, visit sarahjacksonmdes.com