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How does research help design?

Designing solutions without researching the problem first can have far-reaching consequences and ultimately be ineffective.
© Torrens University

The reason this method does not state ‘Step 1. Define, Step 2. Research’ (or the other way around), is because in some cases, you may be are given a problem first but then need to do more research to define what the problem is.

For example, a client may come to you and say they need to target more mature-aged customers in their marketing strategies. However, after undertaking some research you discover the reason mature-age customers are dropping off is not because of your client’s current marketing strategy, but because of the client’s complicated online booking process.

Research is the most important stage of the Design Thinking Process.

Designing solutions without researching the problem first would be the same as giving a lollipop to someone who just hurt their ankle falling down the stairs. Sure most people like lollipops and they’re great in some situations, but they will not fix a broken ankle, and won’t prevent the next person from falling down the stairs.

How can research be conducted?

Montage of photos depicting writing, notebooks, charts and brainstorming

SURVEYS Surveys involve questioning and recording the responses of a group or groups of people. These can be face-to-face, online, over the phone or through the mail. Data is a valuable resource, and surveys are a great way to understand consumer needs, gauge how big a problem is or get feedback on something you are trying to improve.

Nowadays, online surveys are becoming more popular in many areas. For example, the creator of the popular video game Fortnite, Epic Games, uses surveys through social media to gain feedback on their game mechanics, form relationships with end users and help with continual improvement of the game.

CASE STUDIES Reviewing recorded information of a similar or past project/s. This is common in the interior design industry, where current briefs or problems are compared against similar situations from the past to determine what can be learned, and improved upon and applied to future projects.

DATA ANALYSIS Reviewing current data available on the subject, such as the demographics of a certain location, is especially helpful when determining a marketing strategy. For example, a client might plan to open up a new Italian restaurant in a downtown CBD location, so researching that location’s demographics (ethnicity, age, education, profession, income level, etc.) might indicate whether that location is suitable.

OBSERVATIONS This could simply be taking part in an experience or process, like going undercover or just watching from a distance while collecting, recording and reviewing information. There are two types of observation: ‘Participatory’ where you take part in what you are researching like Jane Goodall living with Chimpanzees in Tanzania, and ‘non-participatory’ where you observe outside of what you are researching so as not to disturb the subject or environment you are researching.

© Torrens University
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