Becoming More Reflective about the Role of Design in Communication

Sally Jackson, Mark Aakhus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robert Craig's constitutive meta-model of communication reminds us that while communication scholarship may feel like discovery of communication's natural properties, it is also often (if not always) on a path to invention of new possibilities and reconstitution. The constitutive meta-model suggests that every theory of communication is also a design language for communication, and that design itself may be a path to theory development. Design inquiry can be conducted in all subdisciplines of communication, incorporating and contributing to widely disparate communication theories. Design work itself takes many forms, producing artifacts as diverse as individual messages, persuasive campaigns, interaction protocols, large-scale participation frameworks for public decision-making, and more. This special issue explores design scholarship in the field of communication, with five original essays representing different subfields and different theoretical approaches. In this introduction, we argue that design work is more than application of theory; design itself is a theory-building enterprise. It is a distinct form of inquiry that builds new knowledge, complementary to, but different in kind from, empirical and critical scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-134
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Constitutive Meta-model
  • Design Practice
  • Participatory Design
  • User-centered Design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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