Graphic design as an academic and research practice is relatively young when compared to the established disciplines such as education, psychology, medicine, and history. It was only community-type colleges and technical institutions that offered design as a vocational trade. Universities in South Africa started to offer design in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is only in the last two decades that we have seen design research output in South Africa. The relatively low number of international design journals when compared to education, for example, attest to the young scientific discipline of research in design. New media and the exponential growth in the digital forms of communication, education, training, and marketing have created an overlap between design, information technology, education, communication, and marketing. Graphic design research is no longer a discipline that is solely driven by theoretical frameworks and reliant on descriptive and qualitative research methods. Research in graphic design overlaps with other scientific practices and should embrace their research methods.
One such method is hypothesis-testing research. This method allows for the comparison of values between groups and for the calculation of the effect size of a design variable. Hypothesis-testing research is a quantifiable process that enables a design researcher to determine objectively whether a design intervention makes an improvement and allows for the quantification of this improvement. This paper reports on a hypothesis-testing study that questions the use of decorative material as a variable to improve learning. We will further illustrate the value of this method by demonstrating the use of inferential statistics to calculate the effect size of the decorative graphic that is supposed to improve learning. We conclude by arguing that the adoption of enquiring methods nestled in other academic disciplines will add value to research in the design disciplines.
Keywords: hypothesis-testing research, pictures, learning, decorative pictures