1. Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.

  2. The process of separating something into its constituent elements.

Analysis is an integral part of design research at Design Academy Eindhoven. There are many ways to analyse something, and each of these ways has the aim of achieving a deeper understanding of it. As the first definition suggests, analysis is not simply taking something apart to understand it, rather, it can also be an examination of the structure of the thing. After all, not everything can be taken apart – a machine or system, perhaps, but not a neighbourhood or a health service. Particularly where people and culture are involved, a much more holistic approach to analysis is more appropriate – one which focuses on structure and patterns rather than elements. It’s also possible to analyse ways of working, for example, to enable a designer to get a better understanding of his working method or decision-making process.

In design research it is important to be clear about what exactly is being analysed: the so-called ‘unit of analysis’. This ‘unit’ is something you can collect and then analyse. This could be simple objects such as cups, each cup being one unit of analysis, or stories, each individual story being one unit of analysis. It could also involve acts, such as drinking, each sip being a unit of analysis, or behaviour such as binge drinking, each occurrence of intoxication being one unit of analysis. Typically every single unit is analysed and described, rigorously, often making use of a descriptive system that could be determined by the design researcher or borrowed from others. Working like this allows for comparison and pattern recognition, which are two possible ways to perform analysis.

The aim of analysis is understanding and insight. These can be given expression and disseminated in a number of ways – using words, film, presentations, or new designs, to name but a few. To do this successfully, analysis must result in a synthesis of some kind where the different elements come together in a coherent whole that expresses new knowledge.

DAE examples

  • Karianne Rygh, Value Pursuit, Research Associate in CRISP (Creative Industry Scientific Programme), Project PSS 101, 2013


  • Gray, A. (2003). Research Practice for Cultural Studies: Ethnographic Methods and Lived Cultures. London: Sage.
  • Feynman, R. & Robbins, J. (1999). The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman. New York: Basic Books.