Mixed methods research methodology

Dr. Kirsten Hardie, Associate Professor, BA (Hons) Graphic Design

This presentation considered the research methodologies for a PhD that interrogated fictitious people, food brand icons and their role and visual representation in contemporary international food packaging. It explored how a mixed methods research methodology was used and how a polymorphic approach to research resulted from the initial mapping of the study’s core foci and research questions across a variety of distinct and overlapping contexts and how the study was positioned in relation to the disciplines of design history; cultural studies; marketing; advertising; branding; food studies and culinary studies.

A mixed methods research methodology commenced with exploratory research that enabled consideration of the established literature and practise and the synthesis and application of the different and diverse discipline perspectives and approaches in order to secure a holistic critical understanding of the foci and to produce an original analysis of a distinct area with many interconnections – a complex interdisciplinary approach.

The thesis developed through an inductive research approach: the scrutiny of people upon packaging and the collation of examples that led to the study’s formulation of its hypothesis. Through qualitative research methods that included the content analysis and content assessment of packaging examples, and the evaluation of relevant established literature and interviews with industry professionals, a deductive research approach followed. The interpretative analysis of collated brand icons examples enabled the comparative examination of their visual identity notably embracing semiotic methodology – to read/decode images and to test and confirm the validity of the hypothesis.

This presentation discussed primary data collection – e.g. packaging, collecting; the use of museums, collections and archives; correspondence and in-depth interviews; and use of case studies. It evaluated the strengths and weaknesses – the opportunities and limitations – of the mixed methods research methodology.