design research -- your take ?

what do you think about design research and how should it be ?

I think it can be very important in various situations - depends on the types of products you are designing - a placemat (can be modified with improvements or just styling) vs. a brand new transportation method.

I believe that contextual research is highly important.

There’s a huge difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Finding that out by observing others is beneficial.

Observing trends can be important to know, but I wouldn’t necessarily follow the “trend” as they don’t seem to stick around on the shelves long.

Does design exist without design research?

Today I think Design Research must include:

  1. Ethnography and contextual work analysis
  2. Participatory Design

I think the web is opening up new possibilities for both.

IMO 80% of research that is undertaken today is misdirected.

There are of course many, many types of research, and not many marketing managers or designers have a true understanding of which type of research is best for each particular case, they just stick to what they know (usually Focus Groups for marketing departments, or user observation for designers).

I also often see that most research gets positioned BEFORE the kick off on the design work, whereas it would often be more effective if it is undertaken in parallel to the initial ideation. For instance, one project we were brought into had had $1.2 million spent on research by an outside resource, then we got briefed, and in the initial ideation sketches we came across an idea that turned everything on its head. The client loved it and it made the whole research useless. That money would have been better spent to evaluate the new ideas alongside the old ones.

Design Research is in its infancy and I believe designers are the ones who can help it grow up. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily do it ourselves though, as there are some excellent specialist resources out there. We should however be helping decide which type of research and where in the timeline it should happen, and to do this we need to truely understand the different types of research available.

I think that is a good call out Paul. I’ve rarely seen it used as effectively as it could be in personal experience. My own fault most of the time. It is best when it is part of the process and not an isolated phase.

i have seen it work very well, and it DOES need to be integral through the entire design and development process. the trick is to maintain a certain discipline and restraint, much like good design. it can be easy to get slowed in it, but controlled effectively, the end result on the design can be efficient and complete, nothing left to question.

agree mostly with what is being said. On top of that I think design research seems to loose it head and tail… I don’t know how best to describe it but just look at the reasearch papers… the quality is not as good as other disciplines of study.

Agreed, but that’s because Design isn’t a discipline of study, it’s a discipline of creation!

when design is quantified in relative business terms, it and the reserch associated with it becomes better understood.

Yesterday I decided to begin writing on strategic design and design management on my brand new blog, but I am surely going to write many articles on design research, too.

Lately I have been running my thoughts on researching the designer profession itself… As thinking of the change the profession is going to make and also better ways to release the creativity of designer. Also doing research on tools to be used, like user acceptance, client wishes etc. should be easier to dig out, to be used as a reference. One thought that came to my head concerned a positive cultural exchange, so that one could have stronger and more diverse concepts. I´ll write it up.

In my opinion, good design just doesn´t exist without a research of some sort. for example, going through products on the market, is a study, even if not as scientific as some others.

See the stories on:

important observations here.

now the question is why is it misdirected …

agree that design is a discipline of creation. As creative individuals we should have an attractive set of skills and intelligences. I also think wisdom is important too…

I don’t seem to see a lot of profs having these qualities. Worse to see a closed mind person who accepts nothing but his own culture, a messy organiser and pure laziness when no one’s watching !!

Thankfully we have enthusiastic profs around. Usually they are the younger generations in their 30s to early 40s