Need Input on Thesis Project


I just recently finished my third year of ID. In the fall I will be entering into my last year which is capped off with a thesis project. We really only get the spring semester to fully work on our projects. I feel like we should spend the entire year working on it so that it’s more of a solid project. At any rate, I have been having trouble actually pinning down a project focus. We can pretty much choose to do anything we can think of. Ahh, the power of choice. Well I have some definite areas of interest in design. They include:

*Designing for Social Betterment/Developing peoples
*Social Commentary

I’ve just been racking my brain trying to narrow a focus. I am a broad-based thinker, so sometimes this happens. I want to get a jump on my project as soon as possible so that I can start the research, look for a sponsor, etc. I really want my thesis project to be something meaningful. This is not a styling exercise. Any thoughts/strategies about how to really focus in on a topic/relevant issue are appreciated.

first of all work on something that you’re interested in… there’s nothing worse then getting tired of your thesis half way through your final semester.

dont try to save the world… by this I mean dont try to do too much. its you’re last project and you’re going to want to blow people away. that’s the right attitude to have, but dont go overboard. have some foresight, and manage the scope of your project.

do you’re homework and check out what other people have done before you… not just at your school but at other places… that might inspire you, but also will show you whats been done before.

be clever. i’ve always favored a clever project to one that is a “life saver”. design should be fun, and a light hearted nature addressing a relevant problem is always enjoyable.

good luck…

Try thinking about problems, pet peeves, defficiencies you’ve encountered and develop multiple solutions.

A friend’s thesis was a traveling tea maker: he noticed hotels provide in-room coffee maker but no tea, or if they did it was lousy at making a good cup of tea. Thesis included the device, matched traveling cup, secure travel holder, numerous packaged teas, branding, retail POP, etc. Elegant realistic solution to a perceived defficiency.

Your topics are very general esoterica. Most are fadish where any design solution you develop in a thesis will invariably require much personal explanation of the “concept” in any presentation.

I believe you will have more enjoyment, challenge, and results with your Biomimetics or Systems categories, and probably better chance of generating employment interest. Stay away from Social Betterment/Developing peoples category; it’s so frought with ignorance: basically these areas need less product design from without, more from within.

I believe the area of biomimetics is fascinating; the market potential is huge, but rare and risky to project, hence an excellent student thesis topic. Historical offerings of packaged technologies, beyond the basic telephone, camera and portable music player, haven’t got anything right yet. But we have so much technology, and as the guru Akio Morita once said “Eventually all technolgy becomes affordable, the only thing distinguishing your product is its design”. Along with a cool design, you will learn about modern materials and manufacturing technologies, the product development process, which will really help in getting a job.

Probably the best thesis project I’ve seen was an intelligent wall light that changed color and intensity with household power consumption. A simple, elegant, beautiful design: fits into your Social Commentary and Sustainability categories.

Please stay away from any specific interest or hobby you have. Every year bad thesis project’s abound from motorcyclists, single mothers, snowboarders, etc… I guess it’s because they know too much and are strictly designing for themselves.

  1. I agree work to solve a problem that you feel passionately about
  2. Try to imagine the result and think about how it will help your portfolio
  3. Think about whether or not it will be a good platform for showing your strengths

esp. given the short timing you mention, i would recommend not to bite off more that you can chew. some of the topics you suggest sound like 4 year research and development projects, probably not suited for a one semester project.

as you say you want to do something solid, not just a styling excercise it sounds that you have interest in some depth of thought…esp. more reason not to go too wide or far from reality.

the worst thing you can do, as someone also mentioned is picking some far fetched topic and not getting very far with the project and much accomplished without further explanation or knowing all your research.

thinking from the perspective of your portfolio is a good idea. i highly recommend it and can say from the experience of picking a very conceptual, research-based theisis (emotional communication across distance- )


Good point.
I think not being too ethereal is as critical as not being making it just a styling exercise. Have you considered doing something with image sharing? I think that a real user based concept in this category will have a good chance of producing a result that many interviewers will find interesting.


Good thinking in starting early. And yes, it can be difficult to find the concept.

Some tips:

  1. A thesis topic isn’t “Sustainability” or “Designing for Social Betterment/Developing peoples”- what you have listed are goals and attributes that belong within every design project (to some degree).

  2. A thesis topic isn’t just something that you pick. It needs to be discovered through your research. Take the summer to find things that catch your attention that are outside of design. Look at magazines that you never would look at before. The best things to work on are the things that others aren’t looking at. There are tons of them out there.

  3. Catch yourself dreaming and write it down.

  4. Find a thesis mentor early. It will take a couple of months just to set this up. A mentor outside of you normal teachers can act as a powerful advocate for your idea.

  5. And on the other end- Find another mentor (if you school doesn’t do it) to help you develop a solid press kit and website. You would be surprised how fast your thesis can hit publication and generate interest. Not as important as the portfolio, but don’t forget about it.

Good luck. (Sorry for the lecture.)[/code]

Thanks for all of the input everyone! I really appreciate the thoughts.

The thought of not getting in over my head is a key one. Keeping things clear and concise is the way to go. I’ve got some great insight to mull over. Thanks again!

I’ll keep you posted on the decision process.