The Research Project and Presentation is designed to facilitate independent research in contemporary design and design theory. Your goal will be to consider the ideas and theories we discuss in this course, and the contexts in which they emerged. You will identify a design project, designer, or style that puts these ideas into practice and formulate a clear research topic or question. Your findings from this research will be shared with the class through a 10-15 slide audio-visual presentation (ie: a video slideshow with narration) posted to this site.

Your Research Project should be conducted in a rigorous manner. In addition to assigned readings, you must cite at least 10 sources, including proper citation information, and an annotated bibliography in MLA format. You will post an annotated bibliography, along with a link to your video presentation, to our OpenLab Course site Week 14 (Dec 14) to allow time for feedback from your classmates.

If you have any questions at any point in the process, don’t hesitate to reach out: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu

Due Dates

  • Initial topic ideas are due Week 7
  • Project outline and proposal are due Week 8
  • The finished Research Project & Presentation is due December 14th

Defining Your Research Topic

Use this Research Project to bring awareness to the issues that matter to you as an individual, a global citizen, and a designer. Your research should explore the relationship between specific theories that we cover in class and a specific contemporary design project, aesthetic, or approach within the last 40 years that puts these theories into practice. Begin with a particular writing, concept, or design project that you find compelling and draw connections between it and the theories we’ve discussed.

Start broad and then focus in. 

You might start broadly with a general area of interest.

  • Design + Gender
  • Design + Diversity
  • Design + Protest
  • Design + Gaming
  • Design + Health
  • Design + Politics
  • Design + Identity
  • Design + Technology
  • Design + Music
  • Design + Social Justice
  • Design + Film
  • Design + ?

Check out AIGA’s Eye On Design for numerous examples that would make interesting design theory research topics. You will need to define your own topic, but these should give you some ideas.

Embracing the past

It’s difficult to look at our current time to clearly see what will be influential to the next generation (which styles or trends or political or cultural influences will have a lasting impact), but we can look to the past to see what, how, and why those influences are visible today, whether as reaction/rebellion or as influence/nostalgia. We are always asking WHY?

Here are two examples where a designer, design movement, or graphic style was influenced by the past (pop culture, politics, technologies, social conflicts). When exploring these types of topics, historical sources should play a big role.

Rejecting the past

We can also look at current social-political movements to look deeply at our design field and our culture to consider how these events are influencing the present design field. In these examples, current social-political changes are informing/changing our approach to language, communication, design, and how we relate to each other. When exploring these topics the theories of communication, meaning, psychology, signs & symbols, etc. play a big role.

Again we are always asking WHY?

Defining Your Research Question

Once you have narrowed down your research topic. Start to ask some questions in order to define your research question or thesis statement. Here are some tips.

Developing a Research Question – City Tech Library

Finding Sources

This 5-minute video tutorial goes over the basics of using the City Tech Library databases.

Database Detectives

Research Resources

Preparing your research

  1. Create and submit a detailed outline of your Research Project & Presentation using Google Docs. Make sure your research question/statement is clearly presented with relevant subtopics and a conclusion.
  2. Develop each section of your presentation with cited sources to support each of the ideas you are presenting. Include images and video to support your ideas.
  3. In addition to referencing our assigned readings, you must cite at least 10 sources with proper citation information in an annotated bibliography in MLA format. Create your annotated bibliograpy as your do your research.

Your Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you’re forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. 

  • Use Google Docs to write and organize your sources and annotations.
  • Use the MLA style to format your Annotated Bibliography.
  • Cite all materials researched for historical context, any related writings, and image sources.
  • Review this guide to understand what and why of Annotated Bibliographies.
  • Refer to this guide with samples when formating your annotated bibliography
  • City Tech Library also has an Annotated Bibliography Tutorial

Your PresentationFormat

Your Research Project will culminate in a 10-15 slideshow with your voiceover narration. The presentations should be no more than 10 minutes long. You may use any method you prefer to construct your slideshow (Powerpoint, Google Slides, Adobe Presenter, Preview slideshow, Presi, etc.) and any method for recording your voiceover and saving your video file (Zoom Recording, Screencast-o-matic, Yuja, etc). Your finished presentation should be uploaded (unlisted) to YouTube.

  • Your presentation and corresponding visuals should start with a title slide and an introduction that includes the main points of your presentation. And it should end with a conclusion that ties together all of the ideas presented.
  • You thesis questions, the main idea you wish to communicate, should weave throughout your presenation.
  • Visuals should present clear, coherent information, in a logically organized manner.
  • Viewers should be able to readily identify your research questions, your method of inquiry, the literature employed, and your overarching thesis.
  • It should be clear that original research has led to a synthesis unique to your subject.
  • Your visuals should be neat and professional, utilizing design standards consistent with the topic at hand.
  • Relevant images should be carefully selected and placed within your layout, with considerations made for reproduction quality.
  • Organization and care in assembly will be taken into consideration.
  • Presentations should be equally clear, with ideas confidently articulated.
  • Presentations should be rehearsed, and should adhere to a planned narrative or script
  • Pace and diction should be stimulating for your peers, offering information in a manner that can be grasped and processed in a thought-provoking manner.
  • Your presentation slideshow should be designed to reflect the style, designer, movement, or theory you are presenting. Be creative and have fun!

Presentation Tips & Tools

Below find some helpful links for tips and tools you can use to assemble and record your Research Presentation.


  • Follow these guidelines to upload your finished Research Presentation video to YouTube.
  • Set your video as Unlisted and copy the Video Link
  • Paste into your OpenLab Post.


If you have trouble uploading your video to YouTube, use the method below.

  • Upload your video to Dropbox or GoogleDrive
  • Make the file public/anyone with link and copy the URL
  • Take a screenshot of your title slide or video frame
  • Upload and embed the screenshot image in your post
  • Turn your image into a link by select the screenshot image in your post and click the chainlink icon
  • Click on the pencil icon to edit the link and paste the Dropbox or GoogleDrive URL into the “Paste URL” box.
  • Press the Apply arrow.

If you have questions about putting together your presentation, don’t wait until the last minute. Reach out and ask: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu

Submitting Your Presentation

  1. Create an OpenLab Post. (Example Post)
    • TITLE: Research Project Presentation – Your Initials
    • CATEGORY: Research Project
    • TAG: Your Name
  2. Add the title of your Research Project as a heading.
  3. Write a brief introduction to your Research Project.
  4. Embed your presenation in the post by pasting the YouTube link below the introduction.
  5. Use text to indicate the link to your Annotated Bibliography (ie: Annotated Bibliography), select this text, and make it a link to your Google doc. (Do not paste the entire Google Doc link in the post). Make sure the Google Doc link is set to “Anyone with the link.”
  6. Publish your post!
  7. Refer to this Example Post to see how the post should be formatted.