What is research for?

posted in: Reverse View | 0

Graphic design companies spend a lot of time (or should be) ‘doing research’. Some people, critical of what creatives bring to business, might argue that this is ‘money for old rope’ – paying designers to think and not ‘do’. This attitude is plain old rubbish, because paying designers to think is exactly what clients should be doing.

So, in the context of graphic design, what is research for?

A few years ago, I did some teaching on the BA and MA graphic design courses at Nottingham Trent University. One day, the course leader, Peter Lester, was talking to students on this very subject. He came up with the best explanation I’ve ever heard on the value of design research. He said: ‘research is only there to get you closer to a better design’.Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

What does this mean in practice? What does better design mean? All design commissions begin (or should begin), with a design brief. That brief should be a describe the context in which the design must exist operate and the problems or attitudes it must attempt to change. This is the design or ‘communications gap‘ I blogged about earlier this month. All of these must be specific.

For example:
…’the audience currently thinks ‘x’. We want them to think ‘y’
…’we’re new to the market – we want to be known for ‘x’
…’the unique message we want to leave people with is ‘x’

For me, design research is not about producing loads of presentation boards or reams of paper with obscure workings or references to other peoples’ work. It’s about getting to the heart of the problem as quickly as possible and it has to be useful. Depending on the situation, that useful thing might be:

– a word
– a phrase or saying
– a single image
– a scrawl or scribbled note
– a colour
– a shape
– a texture or surface…

…or combinations of these elements.

Design isn’t called design for nothing. It’s not art. It’s a rational process, leading to a creative output. It always has a specific purpose and an audience, against which the design can be measured. The interesting, exciting and sometimes clever thing about it though, is that the outcome can be both unpredictable and appropriate.

See also:
‘90% of design isn’t design’
‘The Surprising Gap in the Modern Customer Experience Business’