The design function is virtually invisible when a researcher carries out a project singlehanded and unfunded, developing and revising the initial plan as the study progresses. The design stage becomes more visible with the development of large-scale studies, contract research for central government and other organisations, studies involving multidisciplinary teams, and research programmes that involve several studies concerned with a central topic or set of issues. Large-scale social research does not automatically rule out the muddling-through approach, but it does force design issues out into the open at an early stage, so that the design function becomes more visible - even if visibly badly done by committee.