Design and Research had a baby and they called it . . .

Sketches for “Personal Greenhouse” ¬©2007 Dan Soltzberg

Debbie Millman and Mike Bainbridge have posted their article, Design Meets Research, over at Gain: AIGA Journal of Design & Business. The piece provides a quick overview of various tools in the research toolbox, calls out their particular strengths and drawbacks, and makes the point that picking the right tool for the job and using it well are paramount.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article and some of my thoughts in response:

There are a wide variety of research techniques that can have merit for designers. . . There is not, repeat not, one correct way to test design.

I see research very much as a generative tool as well as an evaluative one, and have started to question whether the concept of a border between research and design is really accurate or productive. At the front end of the design process, research is a way of surfacing opportunities and generating ideas. At later stages, it’s a way of refining and validating these ideas as they become concepts and prototypes. In this way, research is a design tool in the same way that drawing is a design tool, except that at the center of the mechanism is the customer/user.

When used correctly, research shouldn’t stifle creativity but rather offer designers stronger inspiration and focus.

By taking a facilitative, collaborative approach to working with companies and design teams, research and research findings can be integrated into the design process in ways that enhance rather than stifle creativity. Keeping the customer/user and their needs prominent throughout the design process needn’t be limiting–having clear goals and constraints ultimately makes a design problem more interesting and leads to better, more elegant solutions.

And better, more elegant solutions are, after all, the end game here.


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