by: David Armano on Design Research Conference Day 1

Day one of IIT ID's Design Research conference is done and I'm already looking forward to day two.  Couple of observations right off the bat:

1. Design and research go hand and hand.
2. Design Research, like any research can be manipulated.

Let's start with point one.  The above video was from Stuart Karten's excellent presentation.  Stuart talked about a technique his teams use called "ModeMapping".  As far as I could tell, ModeMapping starts off with spending considerable time with actual users (not in the focus group or interview setting).  After qualitative research is conducted in the field with multiple users, their "modes" are mapped out.  Modes are kind of like the "mindset" a person is in during a specific event or period (think, "I'm in shopping mode").  The Maps are then compared and analyzed for patterns, "shared experiences" etc.   Stuart also stressed that his teams spend at least an entire day with an individual before a map could be visualized.

The thing that impressed me most about Stuart's presentation was that at the end he showed the actual design solutions which were informed by the research and ModeMapping process.  It was evident right off the bat that the solutions were closely tied to the research.  When I asked him what he attributed this to, his answer was simple and direct.

"It's because our designers do all of the research"

Fair enough.  In digital design—it's often times interaction designers etc. who conduct studies in the field as well as usability tests etc.  But in other areas such as marketing, Planners are the ones who do this type of research.  But Planners aren't typically the ones who end up designing the solution (in most cases).  So here's an interesting scenario—are these two different models with distinct benefits?  Or is marketing so fundamentally different that the people doing the research shouldn't be the ones designing the solutions.  Or are there overlaps?  What do you think?

Now to point #2.  First you have to watch the entire video before reading further.  Don't question why—just do as I say!  There, are you done?  OK, Dan Saffer of Adaptive Path gets us thinking about how research can be abused.  Design research—despite the mystique is still—guess what?  Research.  Which means that like all research, it can be skewed to meet the needs of the researchers.  Dan's presentation was funny and engaging and it made an important point—designers can fall prey to the same temptations as any researcher, framing their findings to support their own agendas.  I thought it was a point worth making, and the delivery was as fun as it was thought provoking.  But what do you think—are designers immune to these temptations?  Oh wait, did I just asked a loaded question?

If you were at the conference, (or not) feel free to speak your mind—it's your turn to talk back.  I'm looking forward to day 2.

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