Envisioning innovation : the communication of technological change through graphic representation

  • M.G. Overton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Graphic depiction is an established method for academics to present concepts about theories of innovation. These expressions have been adopted by policy-makers, the media and businesses. However, there has been little research on the extent of their usage or effectiveness ex-academia. In addition, innovation theorists have ignored this area of study, despite the communication of information about innovation being acknowledged as a major determinant of success for corporate enterprise.
The thesis explores some major themes in the theories of innovation and compares how graphics are used to represent them. The thesis examines the contribution of visual sociology and graphic theory to an investigation of a sample of graphics. The methodological focus is a modified content analysis. The following expressions are explored: check lists, matrices, maps and mapping in the management of innovation; models, flow charts, organisational charts and networks in the innovation process; and curves and cycles in the representation of performance and progress.
The main conclusion is that academia is leading the way in usage as well as novelty. The graphic message is switching from prescription to description. The computerisation of graphics has created a major role for the information designer. It is recommended that use of the graphic representation of innovation should be increased in all domains, though it is conceded that its content and execution need to improve, too. Education of graphic 'producers', 'intermediaries' and 'consumers' will play a part in this, as will greater exploration of diversity, novelty and convention. Work has begun to tackle this and suggestions for future research are made.
Date of AwardSept 1998
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorH. Fred Steward (Supervisor)


  • theoretical concept
  • management of innovation
  • innovation process
  • innovation network
  • performance and progress

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