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RESEARCH + PROCESS
All designers are familiar with the
creative process, but incorporating
research methods into the
practice of visual communication
presents new challenges. This
chapter takes a closer look at how
designers integrate research and
process, document their fi ndings
systematically, and articulate the
value of their investigations to
both clients and peers.
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Chapter Two: Practicing Research Driven Design
Sometimes simple but often complex, the “process”
used by graphic designers and their respective
studios varies widely.
Whether the project is print, interactive, or three-
dimensional in nature, designers use an established
set of procedures to create innovative solutions
to communication problems. Many studios offer
their methods as proprietary services, noting the
value that process adds in the otherwise intangible
medium of creativity.
The graphic design process, as traditionally de ned,
is modeled around the physical creation of a single
artifact: an annual report, a website, a poster, a
logo, a brochure, and so on. As such, the process is
inevitably project-oriented as well as linear—
it starts with research and progresses through concept
development, prototype, production, and delivery.
Historically, the research phase begins with a review
of a client’s internal documents, interviews with key
personnel or customers, and/or competitor analysis.
These actions help a designer better understand
an organization’s goals and determine strategy and
direction. Though these forms of preliminary research
are invaluable to a project’s success, they are but an
early step in its creation.
Research, as de ned in this book, does not merely
initiate the process but rather augments it by
integrating systematic investigation into each phase of
a project’s development. The research-driven design
process also depends on assessment, or summative
evaluation, which is undertaken throughout the course
of (or even at the end of) a project. This allows the
designer to reconsider assumptions gleaned from
preliminary research. Using this data, the designer may
opt to make adjustments to a design either before or,
in certain situations, after production. This process
of reevaluation creates a culture of consultation. As a
result, research-driven designers can engage in long-
term relationships with their clients, acting as strategic
business partners rather than service providers
assigned to singular commissions.
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Research Concept Development Prototyping Design + Production Assessment
(Analytical) (Creative) (Analytical) (Creative) (Analytical)
Commission Completion
Research Concept Development Prototyping Design + Production
(Analytical) (Creative) (Analytical) (Creative)
Commission Completion
Top
Design is often viewed as a
linear process. It begins with
formative research—defi ne
the problem—then progresses
through concept development,
prototype, production, and
delivery. Process, as depicted
here, focuses on the creation of
a singular artifact or campaign.
Above
Applying research methods
or data in multiple phases
of the design process allows
the designer to rede ne
preliminary assumptions about
a project. While this model may
involve more iteration during
development, better-informed
design decisions more often
lead to successful outcomes.
By adding an assessment phase
to the process, the designer
can track the successes and/or
shortcomings of a project. This
summative consultation is yet
another service designers can
offer to their clients, and it may
help build ongoing relationships,
profi table to both parties.
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