The importance of research


Design is valuable

As a Designer, I have no doubts about this. Design fosters meaningful connections between artifacts and individuals. It helps organizations communicate what makes them different. And it helps us create solutions that are relevant for the user or target audiences.

Even on economics, the financial performance between companies that embrace these strategy driven uses of design has been historically better than those that don’t.

But then why are design decisions often based on personal bias and judged on aesthetics?

Design is a research led process 

Designers are often managed by professionals that understand design as a deliverable. Something that must be pretty, look modern, follow a pre-determined briefing, satisfy the client, and often ignore everything else. 

But Design is a methodology, not the visual outcome. It is a research driven process where information and insights are creatively transformed into value and meaning. Where audience relevance is achieved by aligning our creative decisions with research findings and empathy.

It is important to accept this distinction between what is important for the audience and personal taste. The design process needs to be objective and focused on creating value. And research, both formative and evaluative, is how we get there.


Formative research

If we think of Design as a process of connecting the dots, research conducted before starting the creative process is fundamental in being able to identify those dots. Normally called exploratory or formative, this type of research can help you understand the problem, and gather the necessary information to solve it.

Equipped with a proper understanding of the context, goals and audience, we are better suited to start connecting the dots. By starting with research, we have better chances of coming up with solutions that are not only appropriate for the audience, but also serve business goals. As a matter of fact, effective design solutions do hardly happen when working in an information vacuum.

Some tools used:

- Literature review

- Ethnographic studies
- Surveys & Questionnaires
- Personas
- Visualization techniques
- User testing.

- Understand the context

- Define the problem
- Develop judging criteria
- Form hypothesis
- Guide the creative process

Evaluative research

As the name implies, evaluative research is meant to test and learn from the artifacts we create. It generates insights to keep iterating and refining until the best solution is achieved. This is the stage where we evaluate possibilities and outcomes by confronting them against pre-established criteria, or even by testing them with the target audience.

Due to its nature, this type of research is often conducted during the later stages of the creative process.

Some tools used:

- Focus groups

- User testing
- Surveys & Questionnaires
- Analytics

- Validate research insights,

- Test solutions,
- Filter different options
- Refine and optimize.

Research makes design valuable

Design research can provide the necessary information that allows us not only to tackle problems with a thorough understanding but also to evaluate our work. It can keep discussions objective rather than subjectively driven by personal bias. After all, that is the only way to ensure that our design decisions hold any value.

Don’t get me wrong. Aesthetics do matter, but not at the cost of ignoring everything else.

Have a great day,


a Blog by David Mendes