Designing Concept Visuals


Trouble visualizing your research story? Not sure what kind of figure best summarizes your theoretical framework? Should we go for a process-based illustration, a relationship model, or perhaps no figure at all?

Consumer researchers spend a lot of time designing visual frameworks or models or, as I call them, concept visuals. Ideally, they should inform, inspire, orient, and expand our work’s readership. Sadly, however, they often confuse. And there is relatively little consensus about what constitutes a good concept visual, nor do we know what basic types of concept visuals exist.

Questions about concept visuals also frequently come up on the AMA job market and at research workshops such as the recent 2019 Qualitative Data Analysis Workshop in Montreal. “Show me your idea in a nutshell” is a thing mentors and interviewing colleagues often say.

Here is some help. I analyzed the past 20 years of concept visuals in the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Marketing Research, and a number of other marketing and consumer research journals. I find four prominent types: comparatives, pathfinders, interplays, and transformations. Each offers a number of clear benefits but also some downsides.

I have put together a slide set to help you learn more about designing concept visuals and how you can use them in your next paper. Have fun!

Markus Giesler

Markus Giesler draws on concepts from economics, technology studies, and sociology to inform his research in marketing. He determines how ideas and things (products, services, experiences, technological innovations, intellectual property, brands, etc.) are made valuable over time, with research focused on improving marketing strategy through an understanding of markets as evolving social systems. Giesler's research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the European Research Council (ERC) and published in top-tier academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing. Giesler has an extensive entertainment industry background. He founded his own record label at age 17 and has worked in various production and marketing responsibilities for over a decade. He lives in Toronto, Canada.