Design, the Language of Innovation: A Review of the Design Studies Literature

Ricardo J. Hernández, Rachel Cooper, Bruce Tether, Emma Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is a vast body of research exploring the myriad ways design can contribute to business success. For example, businesses seeing to generate new products, services, processes, models, and strategies as part of their efforts to innovate often turn to design for support and leverage. But how clearly have scholars defined the relationship between design and innovation? Is it even possible to explain the connection between the two? In this article, we investigate whether the design literature published over the past thirty years contains an answer to these questions. We organize our findings into clusters describing the key roles that design activity plays in the innovation process, how designers personally play a part, and the internal and external factors that contribute to design/innovation associations. We also introduce the notion that design language—be it visual, methodological, or procedural—has become not only an organizing principle that supports innovative initiatives, it has become the language of innovation itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-274
Number of pages26
JournalShe Ji
Issue number3
Early online date21 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Design
  • Design studies
  • Innovation
  • Literature review
  • Roles of design

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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