Design research and market research

I am looking for perspective from anyone that has experience with corporate design culture. I have an exciting opportunity at the end of June to talk to several key senior leaders in my company about the need to have design research (DR) and market research (MR) be complimentary to each other. Currently, our company culture tends to rely too heavily on MR, trying to use it for things that it was never intended for, and then overlay the design/devlopment process into an arbitrary schedule driven by gate reviews and the associated data derived from MR studies. Generally this leads to a lack of funding for design research (ie, we already have research so we won’t pay for you to do more), a lack of imagination in the solutions (incremental improvements and evolutions, briefs tend to be perscriptive), and a lack of time to do adequate detailed design and engineering work.

I am looking to shed light on this issue by using case studies from internal projects (both good and bad), to show that it is not one or the other but both disciplines, being deployed correctly, that can deliver outstanding innovation that is meaningful to our brands in a consistant, repeatable process.

I would love to get the perspective of anyone else who has seen/dealt with this issue. What did you do that helped change the culture, what did you try that didn’t work, etc. Thanks!

Assistant Design Manager, Industrial Design
Kimberly - Clark

For a good thought starter on this issue, read the following links from both a design and market research perspective. It is a good point-counterpoint discussion. I am actually following some of the suggestions from Mr. Kaasgaard, as I feel he has some good words of advice for designers. Some of his critique can be hard to hear, but then again so where my professors in school and I ended up better for them :wink:

Dan Formosa, design perspective:

Klaus Kaasgaard, Market Research perspective:

Nice articles! And I agree, Kaasgaard’s comes off as well reasoned and Formosa’s is a bit of a whiny rant. Especially his “Three Basic Rules”. 1 & 2 can be boiled to “Don’t test more than one variable at a time.” And 3 is “You can’t quantify everything.” Good rules to live by, but they have always been a part of good research, market or design.

I think what is most important is to define the goal of any research and determine what methodology is best to fulfill that goal, whether it be market research or design research. Without definition of the goal, all you will get is a giant pissing match.

When you meet with the senior leaders, I would use the time to educate them on the different types of data you will obtain using design research methods. Then lay out all of the benefits that data gives in the development process over the data obtained by market research methodologies. It should be an apples to oranges comparison and will be clear why you use one methodology over the other depending on the research goal.

I’d tell you more but KC is a competitor, I’d have to kill you. :wink:

Thanks for the perspective iab, I always appreciate thoughtful feedback, even from a competitor. Most of the people that have gone through this are either in or have come from a competitor, so I am glad you said what you did anyways.

Education is definately part of the approach, which is where the case studies are important. I have found that a couple good examples can be extremely valuable because they are usually self-evident. Emphasizing clarity on the goal of research is also important.

I think the biggest hurdle in the whole shooting match comes back to money. We are at a point in time where our design group has no budget on our own, so we need support from marketing to get the extra dollars to gather design insights. I find myself trying to understand if there is an opportunity to scale back some of the traditional marketing spend on tools like Nielson Bases or other marketing concept driven processes, or whether this is truly another incremental cost that they have to swallow. I don’t claim to have an answer here, but hopefully the leadership would have an opinion if they are persuaded on the value of design output based on design insight versus working from a list of marketing product benefits.

I have the definate advantage as we have an upstream marketing group, autonomous from our “traditional” marketing group (they are downstairs), that works along side of us. They are the ones in the field driving 80% of the research and 95% of relationship building with customers. We go through many, many iterations of prototypes that are used in market trials. Needless to say the earlier concepts are definately “lacking”. Our team keeps the customer happy even when the ideas suck. If I need to get into the field, they will give be a contact who will bend over backwards to accomodate me. It makes my job much easier not to recruit and just make a call.

Tell your bosses that. They will be more likely to throw some money at design research if they find out the competition has several people dedicated to the process.

So the update on this is that the presentation went okay - we pushed past any sensitivity into a good discussion on how to be more collaborative, and this has led to an opportunity for the various design directors to have regular meetings with their marketing research counterparts on the project lists and their associated research plans. Gives design an opportunity to advise on design research methodology earlier, which should decrease problems with funding. Time will tell how effective the shift is, I still haven’t seen any impact yet.