Observing Designers
: An investigation into the ecosystem/operational contexts of micro design practices in Belfast, Northern Ireland using local, national and international comparisons

  • Michelle Douglas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Despite their momentum and resilience, the design professions in Northern Ireland face many challenges. Within an operating context that lacks evidence of published literature and academic research, micro design businesses form the largest component of the design sector in the region. This research study investigates the cultural and operational circumstances/setting of how designers live and work in micro business contexts. The research is primarily concerned with the behaviours and cultural perspective of designers and evaluates how regional identities inform and add value to their regional design culture.
It uses quantitative and qualitative methods to probe the regional context of design and uses a grounded theory approach to conduct and analyse the data. National and international comparative studies were done in Dublin, Waterford, Salford, London and Brisbane which helped to locate a wider perspective on how design impacted different regions. The results of this study identified five core themes and eight sub themes that are used to inform a cultural and operational framework for design in Northern Ireland.
Following an empirical research phase, a set of recommendations, ecosystem model, and ranking system were developed and validated as a means of highlighting the current design culture ecosystem in NI and a strategy to improve the national design identity.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKaren Fleming (Supervisor) & Ian Montgomery (Supervisor)


  • Design culture
  • Design ecosystems
  • Innovation
  • Design policy
  • Design practice
  • Behaviour
  • Attitudes
  • Value

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