The challenges for graphic design in establishing an academic research culture: lessons from the Research Excellence Framework 2014

This paper examines why graphic design has struggled to establish an academic research culture, despite significant gains in design research over the last 20 years. It considers the criticisms levelled against graphic design research submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF2014). Through analysis of publicly available data, we identify a low volume of graphic design research adhering to traditional academic, non-practice-based forms, and concentrated amongst few institutions. Results confirm graphic design is yet to establish an academic research culture that accords with its widespread standing in higher education. We identify the absence of consensual nomenclature, lack of confidence and exemplars with practice-based graphic design research, the uncertain expectations of research audits, lack of venues for dissemination, heavy teaching loads and few established career pathways for research. In response we make a series of recommendations towards a sustainable graphic design research change agenda.