Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

An investigation into the communication exchange between small business client and graphic designer.

Cumming, Deborah


Deborah Cumming


Julian Paul Malins

Rachel Cooper

Ian Cargill


Graphic designers encounter particular difficulties when undertaking work for small business clients. Identifying the core business values is an essential step to ensure that a successful design solution results. An initial case study involving the merger of two established businesses, highlighted difficulties that arose as a result of poor communication and a failure to identify the core business values and subsequently translate these into the design brief. The research aimed to gain an understanding of the key influences that surround the communication exchange concerning small business core values that inform the graphic design process. Graphic design, communication theory, business models and small business practice were drawn upon to inform this study. The literature review found that little formal research had previously been conducted on this topic. Participant observation and action research were the selected methodological approaches adopted, involving the author as researcher and also graphic design practitioner. Following a series of nine case studies that focused on the SME sector, a graphic design communication tool (CDT) was developed and evaluated with the help of four professional graphic designers. The CDT consists of a detailed questionnaire conducted with key stakeholders, developed through a formalised process of analysis, including the author as action researcher, graphic designer and facilitator. The resulting CDT represents an original contribution to the field. Using the CDT resulted in the responsibility for providing relevant information, which could be used to inform the design brief, moving away from the designer to the small business stakeholders. In addition, the role of a specialist facilitator/analyst might be developed in order to provide expert interpretation of core business values aligned to graphic design elements. The results of this research have particular significance for those working in the graphic design industry, educators and business advisors.


CUMMING, D. 2007. An investigation into the communication exchange between small business client and graphic designer. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 13, 2011
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2011
Public URL
Award Date Aug 31, 2007


Downloadable Citations