Design is by nature an interdisciplinary, dynamic, and fluid discipline (Cross, 1982; Friedman, 2003). To define what design is has proved to be a very difficult—if not impossible and meaningless—exercise (Friedman, 2000), making also the understanding of the evolution of both the design discipline and practice a complex challenge. A rapidly changing technological landscape increases the breadth of design both in geographical terms and by extending to new domains, merging with different and new disciplines.
Communication Design especially, being closer to the information and the media spheres, is the most sensitive and receptive design area. Communication Design finds online a fertile ground for its growth and developments, thus the online environment and the Web especially can be explored, dug, and mapped as mirrors of that evolution. The aim of our research is to map through the Web the complexity of the intersections between design as a discipline and design as a field of practice. Our exploration and representation of the online design territory covered four online environments: Behance, Wikipedia, Google, and the websites of the top one hundred design universities. The study has been conducted by using digital, statistical, and visualization methods. This exploration seeks neither to confirm theories nor predict the future, rather, it wants to make explicit and observable what Communication Design has become today. It aims to screenshot the state of the art, the emerging paths, in order to understand where and how it is going to develop. The attempt is to make design as a complex phenomenon visible, through the construction of a set of maps and representations for professors, students, and associations. These representations are tools to trigger reflections on the discipline