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Is Research a Crucial Part of Good Design?

Is Research a Crucial Part of  Good Design?

Paul Carew

To do our best work, designers must have a full understanding of the problem to solve the issues at hand. Doing upfront research is a pivotal step in the upfront design process. We must get to know the industry landscape to ensure the creative product will be unique and marketable for our clients. Our clients bring industry expertise to the table that is crucial during the design process. Informed design is more than making it look pretty — it’s the act of designing for a specific audience and moving them to action.

Industry and Competitors

Researching the industry can be a strategic approach to creating a design that truly stands out. It’s important to gather the broad context of what is cliché in the industry (e.g. a gavel for a legal firm). Researching the competitors is an important step that shows how they position themselves in the marketplace. This frame of reference will provide a baseline for future work.

The External Point of View

It’s helpful to get in the heads of the target audience to create design that speaks to a specific demographic. Designers should consider how to attract them based on what they identify with. This can be accomplished through a survey, focus groups (formal or informal), or asking your client to describe what they hear from their customers. Our personal opinion is irrelevant to what will move a product or service. What the target audience thinks is what’s truly relevant in creating informed design.

Computers Don’t Help You Think

While the computer is an incredible research tool, it can limit your brain’s ability to generate and/or process raw ideas. Research is a great way to exercise your brain beyond the internet. Look for inspiration in the real world before hopping on a computer.

Generate Unique Ideas

Research can inform a design approach that allows unique ideas to come to light. An idea can come from uncovering a specific problem or challenge that can lead to a breakthrough design approach. Study the problem, allow your subconscious to wander, consider the external point of view, and unique ideas will come to light.

One-of-a-Kind Design

In a world of computer-aided design and widely available stock imagery, informed design can be the best way to deliver a message in an own-able way. If you use stock images, consider how to use them in a unique way in your designs. This will ensure that you are helping your clients to differentiate from their competitors.

Informed design can be more successful than design for design’s sake. Research will inform your work and allow you to create better design that moves the needle. I encourage you to spend at least a 1/4 of your total time budget on research. Improve your work — spend time with research and slow down the creative process.


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