23 Nov 2016

The Importance of Design Research

There’s a common misconception that designers are simply “creatives.” I see design as more of a science than an art. Research is one of the key ways that designers can distinguish their field from simply being a creative endeavor.

Design is about solving problems within a set of constraints. Research helps to identify both the problem and the constraints. You can’t perform quality design work without starting with design research.

Research can be carried about in a variety of fashions depending on the circumstances. If you’re starting with an entirely new product, you might perform user research to understand the needs that the product needs to solve. If you’re fixing problems with an existing product, you might perform evaluative research to understand what areas of the design need to be fixed or rethought. In either case, you’ll probably also perform organizational research to determine what specific problems your design needs to address and to identify the stakeholders who will ultimately approve your work.

Incorporating a research phase into your design projects increases the chances that your design will succeed. Research can also help you sell your design to the client. If your design decisions are based on research, you can use that research as a tool to help defend against subjective feedback from stakeholders regarding items like typeface selection or colors.

Design without research simply a shot in the dark. You might end up with a final product that doesn’t truly solve the problem at hand. You’ll also find yourself defenseless against stakeholders who may suggest changes that could ultimately further harm the design.