Design Thinking Research Paper Guidelines

Additional Resource Links:

 DON’T DO A BOOK REPORT! I am looking for critical thinking, theories or ideas of yours based on facts that you found out and analyzed.

This design topic must be an example of design thinking that caused a (paradigm) shift in the way people thought or changed how they did things in their daily life as a result. It cannot simply be an outstanding logo, poster, advertisement, designer or design style etc. Instead, it must be an innovation or development in design that changed the way people thought, behaved or believed. (design leading). Be sure that your choice of topic had that type of effect.

Regardless of specific topic, your paper should always address the general design thinking guidelines of culture, technology, belief system, style, geography. Please be sure to address each of the questions found below within your paper. 

  • How does the work relate to it’s particular cultural, social, geographical, political, stylistic, religious and/or technological context—the Zeitgeist—of the time?
  • What caused this style, movement or innovation to occur?
  • How does the work of this person, or design movement continue to influence design today?
  • Was the work of this person, or design movement an example of design leading or design following?

The length of your paper does not include the bibliography, title page, & visual examples. Those pages are not counted in the page requirement (varies according to specific assignment). 

Suggestions to help guide your research:

Discover designers who have practiced the art of visual communication by transforming how we engage with each other and the larger world in new and exciting ways. (not one-hit wonders).

Look for the invention of new processes, strategies and technologies. How are historical precedents reevaluated and critiqued, innovative storytelling and narrative techniques formed? How have designers actively reshaped the creative process and as a result re-directed currents in contemporary culture, and the meaning of design in general?

Look for innovations that came about as a result of reactions against previous thinking.

From an awareness of style, and close scrutiny of exemplary visual communication, your answers should provide a written perspective on human development by critically analyzing historical examples and develop informed judgments about their meaning
—Apply Design Thinking. How or why did they do what they did?


I am interested in your opinions based on your ability to reason. Your success is largely determined by your ability to cite specific historic examples to support your viewpoints and then interpret their larger meaning and impact on design and culture. This will require you to look beyond just the object examples and instead interpret their greater meaning and impact.


Please send your essay responses to Be sure to include the phrase “Design Thinking:” plus the chapter/section title in the subject line of the email.
(i.e. Design Thinking: Arts & Crafts Movement).