I am currently in a MID program but have a specific interest in design research, consumer insights and strategy. Because my program does not specifically focus on this, I am wondering if anyone has thoughts on how to create an attractive portfolio around these interests. I would greatly appreciate any guidance!

Thank you!

My undergraduate degree had little to no research education. The firm I was working for had little propects in that field too. So instead of just being a sketch monkey, I decided to get a graduate degree with a focus in design research. The research really is the coolest part of design. That knowledge runs the show. Everything after the research is more or less a tactical implementation of what was discovered through the research.

For a portfoilo piece, I would show examples of different methodologies and and the design and implementation of those studies. Design and implementation would include a research objective, possible methodologies, written protocol, recruitement plan, research tool development, data collection, data analysis and conclusions & recommendations. For methodologies I would recommend breadth over depth. Everything from primary to secondary research and qualitative to quantitative research and the multiple methodologies within each.

Also, I am a firm believer education is what you make out of it. Don’t expect to be spoon fed. Go out and get what you need.

Thank you for your insight. Your thoughts have been very helpful in clarifying areas to cover during the remainder of my education as well as how to present them to an employer.

Thanks again!


iab makes some excellent points. However I think as much as breadth is great to have and is important- be careful that your research does come off looking scattered (a bad translation of being divergent), but from that breadth you were able to weed out what information was important to bring forward into your designs. The main contributors to that decision making, showing how design research was integral to the rest of the design process.

I think that is a bit of a misrepresentation. Knowledge is useless without insight on how to use it… So research is only valuable in it relevance to producing actionable insights, and research is not the only thing that produces actionable insights. Be careful not to over inflate its role.

I agree with rachaelkroft. A haphazard approach to breadth would have little value, as would showing the same methodology over and over.

That is why the research objective is so vital. It clarifies the purpose and will lead you to the proper methodology. For example, and bear with me, I’m making this up as I go along. Let’s say you work for Heinz and they want to discover how to increase the enjoyment of the dining experience. With a very broad start, ethnography could fit the bill. From that research, one of many possible nuggets would be that some people have a difficult time squeezing the bottle. And those people seem to skew to an older age. If you pursue this one nugget with more research, you may decide to do one-on-one interviews with key opinion leaders to confirm the difficulty in squeezing. Once that is confirmed, secondary research can be used to determine if there is a large enough market to sustain this soft squeeze concept. You can also determine the age range where it is difficult to squeeze. Quantitative research can determine the decrease in force needed to squeeze and what is optimum for the target user. Ongoing sensory panels and confirmatory ethnography can qualify the increase in the dining experience.

My point being within the same project you can use many methodologies used at the right time following a clear objective. As a potential employer knowing every project requires multiple methodologies, I would want to understand your grasp of them and when they should be used.

As for yo’s comments, yes, he caught me. I have a bias for research. And yes, knowledge can be used incorrectly, history is rife with examples. But without that knowledge there is absolutely no doubt at best you are pissing in the wind and at worst dead in the water.

Also, when presenting ‘research’. I think it is important to think about what that word means in a Design context. We are not a social science, but have borrowed methodologies from that tradition. Our business is creating the future- not confirming and doing what has been already done- which I find is a very social science approach to conducting research.

So when ‘researching’ be sure to check out materials, products, comparable systems etc. the concrete as well as the abstract.

Definitely agree, and to elaborate, research is only one set of methods by which to gain knowledge. What counts is what you do with it. You can do a lot with a relative little. As Rachel was saying the purpose is to feed the process.

Or, in a broader extent, research drives strategy, strategy drives implementation, implementation drives research, … . Rinse and repeat as necessary. And design plays a part in all three. That’s why I think its the greatest job in the world.