Staff Orientated Research Pathways

For you to do your proposal you have wlork out your area of work. Here is a list of supervisors and their research interests.

Kjell Grant: Furniture
(Frank Feltham: Digital devices and Human Computer Interfaces)
Daria Loi: Participative design
Deanne Koelmeyer: Design management
Scott Mayson: Medical Product Design and Universal Design
Malte Wagenfeld: Futuristic visions in design
(Denis Smitka: Lighting design and enterpreneurship)
(Liam Fennessy: History and theory of design)
(Simon Curlis: Digital simulations and design in China)
Mick Douglas: Art and art practice in design
Soumitri Varadarajan: Cultural aspects of design

Sustainability is focus area in the program: And the following are associated with that pathway. Mick, Malte, Soumitri and CHRIS RYAN.

Proposal Contents

According to Henson, the five essential elements of a proposal are:

statement of need: Why do this?
project objectives: What do you intend to accomplish?
procedures: How you intend to accomplish your objectives.
about you: Why you are the right one to do the job.
evaluation procedures: How to tell how well it works?

According to the RCA (
“If you have identified an area of study which you would like to explore further by undertaking a research degree and would like to apply to the College, the first step is to approach the Head of Department responsible for the Department in which you want to study. If your research is interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary and you are uncertain as to which Department to apply, you should contact the Research Office.

You might find it helpful to consider the following issues when completing your research proposal:

What is your particular research question, hypothesis or area?
How do you propose to address this question or to develop the field (what is your methodology?)
How do you see your work in the wider context of the discipline? How does it relate to existing work in the area?

If you are proposing to undertake a research degree by project, how will the studio and written work relate to each other? If you are proposing to undertake a PhD, what is the original contribution to knowledge and understanding? How do you propose to reflect upon or analyse critically your approach to the project?”

Practice Based Research

The Masters by Research at rmit privileges Practice based research(PBR). In this the design profession is moving away from the science wallahs way of defining research. In PBR – you design and then reflect upon the process and outcomes. This constitutes research.

Note: For PBR see net, or ask me and I will send you links.

Quips about PBR!!!

“All that is revealed in the practice is concealed in the research” (Macleod, 1999b, quoting student p.38)

“Genuinely new knowledge is inevitably threatening” (Macleod, 1999b, p.5)

“”… simultaneously to meet the criteria for a research degree and to have the creative approval of their peers. … a “double load” …” (Hockey, 1999, p.43)

“Research is a practice, writing is practice, doing science is practice, doing design is practice, making art is a practice.” (Frayling, 1993, p.4)

“We are not attempting to impose “alien” academic research traditions precisely because those traditions have been under serious threat in the universities for years and, in some areas, is now in retreat.” (Seago, 1995, p.4)

“She soon discovered the limitations in this structuralist approach (i.e. the data was selected, and could only deal with stable, unchanging contexts- what structuralists describe as “synchronic”), realising that practice-led research requires “diachronic” data – which has evolved through time, is unstable and changing.” (Gray and Pirie, 1995, p.8. Concerning Anne Douglas” doctorate on sculpture)

“… there is rather a whole “rigour of softness” (our phrase), which extends from the study of an individual case right through to the development of a general theory which has a different logic from the rigour of discovery through experimentation or survey, and which is more suitable for the study of whole human situations in their natural contexts.” (Reason and Rowan, 1981, p.189)
From (

For Proposal Writing see among others:

I am an industrial designer, interested to work in the field of ecodesign/sustainable design

I have the following doubts:

• I have a high level understanding of the subject (through reading etc) and I want to learn more about it. How would a research programme help me learn something that I don’t know much about?
In research you formulate a research topic – and then do a lot of background work to be up to date with state of the art knowledge in that area. Say the topic is to do with the ‘methodology of eco-redesign’. You would go into this area and investigate the state of the art in terms of the tools that are currently used. You would go the Centre for Design at RMIT where they have a very progressive take on what is happening. Or have Chris Ryan (and adjunct prof with Industrial D) as one of your supervisors. You would then set up a simulation – possibly with an industry partner – and develop your own tool kit. With India in focus you may wish to spend your masters developing a full tool kit to be deployed in the professional context in India.

• Isn’t it true that before doing research on any specific topic, one should have some basic knowledge about the subject in general? I wish to first have some basic knowledge about my topic (ecodesign) and only then go into research.
Not really. The reserach project would require you to have a strong case for doing the project – that is your proposal – and the project itself can include the objective of your developing your capability.

• What is the minimum knowledge that I need to have about the subject before joining the research course?
As above not a lot. Knowledge in design is usually not from books, but from an intimate knowledge of ‘practice’. And as such being located in Melbourne you stand a good chance to see a diverse range of design practices and methodologies deployed. You may for example wish to be closely tied to Product Ecology ( or study their practices. John teaches in the program and could be one of your resource people.

• How do I select the research topic without or even before having in-depth knowledge about the subject?
Here is how you select the research topic: (1) List your objectives for doing a masters by research, (2) either list or write about how you can realise your objectives – you can make a wish list of all the exposure you want, or alll the things you want to try – and then try and put it all together into a proposal, (3) go to the RMIT A&D school research page and look at the abstracts of others doing masters- you will see this under the graduate research conference, (4) formulate a question or a statement such as: ” simluating ecodesign practice in the Indian context” – this is a topic.

• Can I change my research topic later on during the course? In other words, can I select the topic after joining the course and understanding sufficiently, the scope of my field of interest?
You can change later. As for your second question – you need to write a winnig proposal that can be read by your prospective supervisor.. Hhe/she would need to approve your proposal.

• Can I take up additional taught courses while/before doing my masters by research?
Yes. You will have to do a research methods course. In the past masters students from Interior have done some history and theory courses in our program. All these courses would be additional to your basic requirement for the masters. The uni is very flexible and you can do many things.

• Can I gain some experience in the field of ecodesign after/during my course. Are there sufficient opportunities to work after completing/during the course?
This should be possible – you can contemplate CFD (, and or Product ecology( ). theer could be others too.

• Who should do a masters by projects and who should do it by thesis?
The project thesis differentiation can happen later. If your work is going to be theoretical and written then you would choose to do a thesis. If it is going to involve samples and experiments or trial designs then you may wish to make it a project. but this is decided between student and super.

• For a masters by project, will I be given a project or do I need to come with a project on my own?
You need to formulate a project. but you can keep your self open to stuff going on here.

• Do you have any sponsored projects that I can do?
Not at the moment. But if we run your masters with a cfd collaboration – i have to check on this, and can do this after my return – then you may be able to join an ongoing project.

• My plan: Do a masters in D4S (2 yrs)> gain work experience with some good design firm in this field (3 yrs) > Start up on my own in India. How would this course help me with my plan?
This is not a course. What you will be doing is potentially constructing your business plan, working on sample projects, demonstrating the viability of the idea you propose, and pushing to have a strategy for design practice. And at the end of the research you may be all geared up to start.

Hope that helps.

NOW write a draft proposal and show it to me to read. Go to google and check out how to write a research proposal.

More Questions for me

1. In the area of sustainability, what work are you involved in?
2. I am looking for a training that will enable me to start a practice in D4S upon my return to India. And is RMIT a right place for this?
3. How can we work out our topic and the research proposal?

Research Masters Versus Course Work Masters

You said: My preference is for a course work masters. Can you tell me more about the Masters by Research so that I can understand how I will benefit?

1. The course work masters is a good option when you are looking for knowledge acquisition. And so may be appropriate when you are going off into a new area. But if you are already in the area and are looking to become stronger or consolidate your learning then the ‘research’ trajectory is better. This is one way of looking at the situation.

2. The culture in the School at RMIT has a certain strength and uniqueness because of its focus upon ‘reflective practice’ and its privileging of ‘practice as reserach’. This is a reasonably new and unconventional approach.
If you are looking to open out a new experimental approach or a new way of solving problems then the research project gives you the space to do this.

3. If you are unclear of what you want to do or do not have a driving agenda or urge – but would still like to study in Australia – then the Research gives you the opportunity to participate in some futuristic and cutting edge projects and thinking (I will spell this out in a separate post).

Much of the work being done by Masters students in the school is very provocateive and inspiring. You will get a chance to tackle soem such project. I will give you three examples of research masters being undertaken under my supoervision:
1. Chinese Whispers: A comparative study of design practice in China and Australia. Simon has been to Chian two times and has a huge visual resource to unpack.
2. Rhizomatics: Looking at online learning of Design History and Theory. Exploring hypertex, blogs, and wikipedia type resources for design education. Liam has carried out a huge experiment in blogging with the students. You can see much of this thru the design dissent blog.
3. Reliving Aceh: Design intervention for the tsunami affected. Vendy is in Aceh these days – and doing field work.

Not sure how clear this is. But will add later.

The Procedure

The School of Architecture + Design consists of five discipline areas: architecture, fashion, industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture. Our postgraduate programs are offered as research degrees, this means that the student undertakes his or her own research under supervision. No degrees are delivered by coursework. Candidates are able to complete their research degrees, master and PhDs, in either a project or thesis mode. I recommend that you visit the School research website: to find out more about our School and for staff research profiles.

General information for international applicants can be found at including how to apply, what documents are needed, living in Melbourne, fees, scholarship information and more.

Applying for a research program
You must apply through RMIT International. Visit for details. Apply online or print out an application form to send to RMIT. Alternatively you may apply through a registered representative, see website for details.

You must also complete a School of Architecture and Design application form, which can be downloaded from Follow the instructions/guidelines on the form and return to RMIT International with your RMIT application form.

Research Proposal
The School of Architecture + Design requires applicants to provide a research proposal with the School application. This provides a basis on which to decide whether to offer a place, and whether the School has the appropriate expertise to supervise your proposed program of research. Please note that the research proposal is an important part of the selection process, but that approval of the proposal and an offer to enrol does not mean that the proposal is fixed. As the research project evolves it would be expected that the proposal would change in response. Within six months of enrolling, all candidates are expected to undergo a review of candidature where the above proposal is expected to be expanded and confirmed by the School.

The research proposal, normally between 1-5 pages, should address the following points:
• Proposed title of study
Indicate the central theme you are exploring in one succinct phrase.
• What is it that you want to research and with what end in mind?
What are the research questions you are asking? What is the material and area you want to study?
• Outline how you will conduct your research?
What research approach/method/structure will you use?
• Attach a preliminary list of readings, references and precedents.
Is there an existing body of work, which is relevant to your research?

If you intend on developing your research through project work you should provide a hard copy of a portfolio of work or you may supply an electronic/digital copy of your folio but ensure that it is protected by a hard cover case. (unless you are applying for UAL in which case you must supply a hard copy)

The folio should be:
§ A4 size, bound
§ show a minimum of 4 recent projects, including your undergraduate thesis
§ include a descriptive range of 2D & 3D drawings, images, etc.
§ include a short text explanation for each project
§ relevant research/ study material can be included to support design projects

Your complete application should comprise of the RMIT international application form and any documents they require, the School application form complete with research proposal and a folio if required. All of these documents are submitted to RMIT International. Applications without Research Proposals will not be considered.