Locating the Emerging Design Identity of Students Through Visual and Textual Reflection

Reflective activities have the potential to encourage students to develop critical skills and awareness of mental models. In this study, I address the emerging identity of early design students as they externalize their evolving conceptions of design through visual and textual reflection. Forty-three students in an introductory human-computer interaction (HCI) course completed weekly textual reflections on a course blog, and completed visual reflections at the conclusion of each of three projects. The weekly blog reflections were intended to document their experience as a developing designer, while the visual reflections represented their personal conception of design within HCI-their rendering of the “whole game”. Through this process of reflection, students externalized their transformation as designers, including an awareness of the pedagogical, social, and cultural factors shaping them, and a growing sense of their personal and professional design identity. Through interviews and additional analysis of eight of these students, a disjuncture was found between conceptions of design in visual and textual reflections, with visual reflections forming a professional, generic design identity, and textual reflections more congruent with the student’s personal identity. Issues relating to lack of representational skill and how these forms of reflection externalize a student’s evolving design philosophy are addressed.


Gray, C. M. (2014). Locating the Emerging Design Identity of Students Through Visual and Textual Reflection. In Proceedings ofDRS 2014. Design Research Society: Umeå, Sweden.