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The Essential Principles of Design Thinking for Market Researchers

How design thinking can improve your overall approach to research

“Design is not just about creating elegant objects or beautifying the world around us. The best designers match necessity to utility, constraint to possibility, and need to demand.” –Tim Brown, CEO, Ideo

Usually, in Monthly Dose of Design, we focus on the visual aspects of design. However, this month we are going to focus on how design thinking can improve your overall approach to research – not just the outputs.

Design thinking refers to a process used by designers and strategists to develop human-centred solutions. The process starts with the audience you’re designing for and ends with solutions that best fit the problem.

We believe that human-centred approaches improve market research as they generate lots of ideas; design different options and test these options to see what the best solution is. Design thinking is a powerful tool because market researchers can use it to apply the same method to different challenges that can be interactive or physical. There are other ways to approach research – but they are problematic:

  • Academic centred approaches are often too theoretical and not practical
  • Process centred approaches often are uninspiring for end clients
  • Technology centred approaches often focus on the platform, data and content but not the people

The basic principles of design thinking are:

Empathise with Your Audience

When starting a project, you need to look laterally at your audience and ask questions like; who these people are, what are their skillsets, should we use high-end technology to meet their needs or something more simplistic and what style of work they would prefer. This needs to be applied across all audiences – participants, clients and stakeholders.

Define the Problem

It is imperative that the researcher, client and stakeholders have a deep understanding of the problem that needs to be solved, otherwise you could generate a lot of insight that lacks meaning. This means your research will not be effective in driving change. By defining the business problem (and therefore the project objectives), which needs to be solved, you can create a more effective, well targeted idea in both how you develop a methodology and communicate insight back to clients via insight outputs.

Ideate as Much as Possible

Within ideation, the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible. As you’re coming up with the ideas, remember to focus on the business problem/project objectives. Ask yourself; what mediums can I use to solve this problem, for example music, videos, augmented reality, virtual reality, interactive games? How do I tell a story with the outputs? What narrative can I create? How can I build a meaningful project experience? Can I communicate the insight in and exciting and purposeful way?

Build Methodological and Output Prototypes

Once you have all your ideas, take a step back and evaluate, always referring to the business problem/project objectives. For each idea ask yourself: does this solve the problem? From here select the best 2-3 ideas to refine and develop. This should be done when both designing the methodology and the insight outputs.

Test Your Solutions

It is imperative to always go back and test your solutions with your audiences. This will keep your solution on track and prevent you straying from the project objective. This can be done by piloting your methodology and getting participant feedback and adjusting accordingly or testing your insight outputs on a small number of clients before sharing with a wider audience.

Next time we will explore the fundamentals of UX design thinking.

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