To do our best work, designers must have a full understanding of the problem in order to solve the issues at hand. Doing upfront research is a pivotal step to start the 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 important to capture. In order to offer the best possible creative solution, the designer must have the bigger picture in mind. Starting with the client’s point of view is not enough to ensure a unique solution. Informed design is more than typography or making it look pretty —it’s the act of designing for a specific audience and moving them to action.
Following are some thoughts for designers about research:
- 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 or a lightbulb to represent an idea). 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 them. 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 or a salesperson 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 relevant is most important 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. Go to the library. Get outside. Go beyond what is at your fingertips.
- 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 leads 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 the forefront.
- 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 ownable 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.