Local And Global Explorations Through Design Research

  • Steven James Birnie

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This doctoral thesis is a practice-led and corporate-grounded enquiry into the role of design research methods in a global technology company. The work aims to understand and communicate through a series of case studies how locally conducted participatory action research can be integrated into the processes of an in-house design team at the global NCR Corporation. It questions the current approaches taken in the design and development of consumer transaction technologies in the context of a global organisation and new markets.

    The thesis starts by introducing the reader to the global corporation in which the study is focused and author employed, the NCR Corporation. The contextual grounding of the corporate environment, its heritage, history and continued evolution will illustrate the dynamic yet traditional role design has played within the corporation. As a senior member of the Consumer Experience Design (Cx Design) team in the corporation the author is well placed to evaluate the role of design and how it can evolve. The immediate contextualisation is then followed by a broad examination of the literature in the field of design in a corporate culture, research methods and socially-led innovation. This will define the boundaries of interest and influence in the thesis.

    A participatory action research approach was taken to address the research questions. Informed by a series of hyperlocal and global community engagements framed and directed from within the corporate culture, the author defines an understanding of the levels of community engagement through design research. The resulting outputs are then applied within the context of the NCR Corporation where the impact and influence on such engagements can be understood. The author concludes that his contribution to new knowledge, the development of a Participatory Action Based Strategic Design Process, can be applied within a global technology company. The process adapts McNiff’s and Whitehead’s (2011) seven phases of action research reporting and Ravi Chhatpar’s strategic decision-making process. The thesis demonstrates the value and influence of design research methods in the design of consumer transaction technologies. The thesis provides an understanding of how design research methods have been applied in a corporate environment, how the insights are applied, and demonstrates how the research has influenced the author’s practice and therefore the wider Cx Design group.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJon Rogers (Supervisor), Graham Pullin (Supervisor) & Chris Lim (Supervisor)


    • Design
    • Design research
    • Consumer
    • Community
    • Action Research
    • Participatory Action Research
    • Global
    • NCR
    • Corporation
    • CSR
    • Practice
    • Case Study Approach
    • India
    • Communities
    • Corporate
    • Practice-led
    • Self-Service

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