Design Thesis Proposal

Design Thesis requires an in-depth study to be made in the beginning so that you can form a solid and viable Design Thesis Proposal. The in-depth study that we meant here would be the Design Thesis Formulation. Thus we have here an exercise in formulating a thesis. “To draw something up carefully and in detail” or “to express or communicate something carefully” which is this case is the ‘design thesis’ that we care to formulate. So at the end of the day, we asked again: What is a Design Thesis? And additionally we would ask: How do we formulate a Design Thesis?

In the case of University of Malaya’s Design Thesis Studio, the recommendation on ‘how to’ is provided in the guideline for the requirements below.

However, I would deliberate further that before we could start with the Conceptual Design stages and end up with the Schematic Design stage somewhere in the middle of Semester One and conclude with the Detail Design (also called Design Development) stage at the end of Semester One, we need to go through this difficult phase of Design Thesis Formulation.

The more you are able to make concrete and sound decisions at this stage, the better your Design Thesis Proposal will be, and the more prepared you will be in Semester One to tackle all the other stages mentioned.

To make these decisions, you will have to study in-depth the main subject/s that constitute your topic.  We call this endeavour – Defining the Problem. Having an issue-ridden topic does not necessarily mean that you could define the problem easily, as you should be experiencing right now.

Defining the Problem includes creating problem statements (what is this?), design objectives (what is this?) and design hypothesis (what is this?). Actually design objectives and hypothesis are almost the same things. For design objectives you may list out your objectives that you wish to do (it may not have the desired outcome, so that’s another story, but at the moment, we want to know the objectives) and this is listed in (a), (b), (c) or (1), (2), (3) – that way. Where as for a design hypothesis, you would be saying something like: If I design this way, that way and this way, the design will achieve so and so… (you will be making a statement here where you will set out to prove). So problem statements are what you describe what you set out to do because of so and so – hence problem statements are closely related to the design objectives and hypothesis.

Actually, you are concerned with two things when ‘Defining the Problem’:

What is the Design Problem? And how you are going to solve this Design Problem.

How you got to Defining the Problem is the interesting and painful part… (as you can attest to this after you complete this Special Semester)

As for the Design Brief requirements, you need to be selective and critical of what you need to study based on your topic, problem and objectives. (The list is generic). However, by being more methodical and precise, you will not leave stones unturned for your quest to create a great Design Thesis Proposal.


Towards designing a Design Thesis Proposal for Week 7, Special Semester (S3) 2007/08

Defining the Problem:

  • Defining the Topic;
  • Defining the Main Subject

  • Problem Statements;
  • Design Objectives;
  • Design Hypothesis

Design Brief:

1. Case Studies:

Research on Conceptual Approaches on Case Studies;

Research on Detail Design (translation of ideas and concepts) and Technical Solutions on Case Studies;

2. Architectural Program:

Studies on Functional Aspects of Program including Activities and Space Required (to conduct activities); (SPACE)

Precedent Studies; (FORM & SPACE)

Building Types Study; (FORM, FUNCTION & SPACE)

3. Site Studies:

Site Analysis; (very basic)

Feasibility of Site Studies;

Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Studies;
(or Tangible and Intangible Benefits Study of Site)

Urban Context and Urban Design Studies (Using Principles by Lynch, Responsive Environment, Cullen and others);

Figure Ground Study (Solid and Void Study);

Land-use and Activities Studies;

Pedestrian linkages study;

4. Space Requirements:

Space and the area (m2) required


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