Persistent Failure and Occasional Success

The Realities of Evidence-Based Interdisciplinary Scholarship by Design Faculty at Research Universities


  • Matthew Peterson North Carolina State University


academic publication, design faculty, design research, design scholarship, external funding


Design units can better integrate themselves within research universities by producing scholarship consistent with institutional expectations, in the form of publications, grants, and patents. But significant challenges face the design faculty who must actualize this integration. I summarize my own strategic research program over three phases: an initial appointment as assistant professor; a second assistant professor appointment up to the sub-mission of my tenure dossier; and the year following that submission. This story of phases in an early academic career illustrates challenges that are particular to junior faculty in design units, and it reveals the work required to secure publications and grants. In established research disciplines, junior faculty continue the work they began when earning their research degrees, much of which occurred in productive labs. But junior faculty in design must often initiate a research program from scratch, while already on the tenure clock. Furthermore, because research in design is heterogeneous, junior design faculty must define their own particular model of research, which also takes time, and advocate for their adopted model. I provide recommen-dations for design administrators and junior design faculty as a way to help elevate scholarship in design. My final recommendation for junior design faculty is to adopt the mindset of the hedonistic scholar, who does not depend upon success for personal fulfillment, but finds joy in the craft of scholarship. This is important because, as demonstrated by my own research program, significant scholarly outcomes are likely the product of years of dedication with numerous failures along the way.

Author Biography

Matthew Peterson, North Carolina State University

Matthew Peterson is Associate Professor of Graphic Design at North Carolina State University. He studies visual representation in interactive media and static imagery. His recent scholarly projects are alternately positioned within science education, advertising, visual communication, and interaction design disciplines. This includes furthering theoretical work on visual meta-phor from advertising and applying it to STEM learning contexts, as well as exploring new information interfaces in virtual environments.





Journal Article