Months ago, we chatted about how the construction phase of our design process works - that part of the project where we actually get to start designing. This happens after we've met and gotten to know our clients a little bit.
That post gave a pretty broad overview of what's all involved in this phase of a project. So today, we wanted to go even deeper into one of the most important steps we take in the construction phase: research.
Why is research so important?
We believe that anyone can benefit from doing research in most anything that they do. We’re not saying everything you do needs a thesis, hypothesis, and whatever else you’re remembering from high school science class. What we are saying is ask more questions, ask them in a smarter way, and think critically about the answers. In doing so, you’ll save time and money by reducing unknowns and creating a solid foundation to build the right thing, in the most effective way.
Jane Fulton Suri, of IDEO, explains the purpose of research perfectly.
“Research both inspires imagination and informs intuition through a variety of methods with related intents: to expose patterns underlying the rich reality of people’s behaviors and experiences, to explore reactions to probes and prototypes, and to shed light on the unknowing through iterative hypothesis and experiment.”
For us, as designers, we need research because we need to understand who we are creating for. In order for design to be successful, it must serve the needs and desires of real people. Which means, we need to understand those people
How do we do the research?
There are so many ways to research and lots of fancy words and science can be involved. But for us, it’s really all about digging deep into their industry and asking a lot of questions.
Here are some key takeaways from how we do research.
01 – We get to know all the players in their field.
Getting to know our client personally is important, but understanding every option their audience has in front of them is major. Knowing what visuals, language and offers they are putting out helps us to easily see our client's unique perspective.
Knowing all those options also helps us to make them both fit in AND stand out. I say "fit in" as in what is understood and expected in the industry. It's nearly impossible to rise above the expectation if we don't understand what it is.
02 — We have to ask the right questions.
Throughout a project, we have several worksheets that we’ve carefully created and have our clients respond to. It is taken us edit after edit to nail down the final worksheets. The questions in these worksheets are the key to gaining the insight that we need in order to design the best that we can. The key is to keep questions focused on the business goals and the client’s audience, versus just our client's personal opinions and preferences.
For example, one of our questions used to ask: “How do you want your brand to feel?” At the core, this is a good question but we realized that it put the client first and not the client’s audience. Now the question reads, “ When your ideal customer experiences your services, what emotions should the encounter elicit?”
03 — We ask ourselves to answer those questions ourselves.
Our clients are in the industry that we are designing for and always provide us with crazy valuable insight when we send our worksheets their way. However, we always answer the questions from these worksheet ourselves too — again, keeping in mind the clients audience.
This is a crucial step in our research because our clients may have personal assumptions or bias that they aren’t even aware of. Also, insight from others who aren’t as close to the industry as the client, allows us to formulate the simplest and hopefully clearest responses.
In conclusion, we research #allthethings.
(Total sidenote: I think #allthethings is my favorite hashtag ever).
The questions we’re asking and the things we’re googling have to cover every component of our client’s business. We are getting our best results because we are not only looking into what they do, we’re also digging deep into who their audience is, and who is in the same space as them. These are the thing we use to build brands that help clients best convey who they personally are in their field.