This paper contributes to the on-going focus on improving design research methods, by exploring and synthesising two key interrelated research approaches e manifest and latent. These approaches are widely used individually in design research, however, this paper represents the first work bringing them together and explicitly investigating their complementarity in the design domain. This is realised using an example artificial observation study. In addition to discussing underlying relationships between the approaches, this paper identifies key opportunities for improving design research methods by more explicitly combining both manifest and latent elements. Finally, a number of combinatory approaches are proposed based on a conceptual framework. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.