27 February 2008

Design meets research

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putting people first
by experientia

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Gain, the AIGA journal of business and design, seems to be awake again (after a long slumbering period). The latest contribution, entitled Design Meets Research, is by Debbie Millman and Mike Bainbridge, both of Sterling Brands, one of the leading brand identity firms in the US. Millman is also the editor of Gain.

Qualitative and quantitative market research often get a bad rap in the graphic design industry—and in the marketing world in general. Those that are vehemently against the practice argue that because consumers are generally uncomfortable with change, any type of research probing something truly innovative or revolutionary will likely scare people. Those that are skeptical will question the nature of behavioral dynamics involved in artificial group settings. Even those that are merely dubious will admit that research can stifle creativity. […]

[However,] there is a group of brand consultants and cultural anthropologists alike that believe now that it is not the actual research itself that is the problem. It is rather about how research is often misused, what type of design concepts and stimulus are tested, and how data is analyzed that is most often at fault. When used correctly, research shouldn’t stifle creativity but rather offer designers stronger inspiration and focus.

The authors then continue with a description of some of the mainstays of modern market research: ethnographic research, focus groups, quantitative eye tracking, and online testing. With each is included the advantages, the challenges and the bottom line.

In the autumn AIGA will also organise its biannual Gain: AIGA Business and Design Conference in New York City.

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