Posted 15 Jul 2010 - One gratefully received comment
Excellent brands of vodka are meticulously filtered to improve their flavour and purity. Good research needs the same care and attention.
To get the most out of your collected information you must process it and pick out the most pertinent and important aspects so you can begin to identify the best way your clients aims can be achieved.
At this point in my research I usually have a few full notebooks containing interview answers, a folder of cut out examples, old and current graphic products from the client and it’s competitors, a full camera memory card and a portion of my macs memory with various files and bookmarks waiting to be trawled through.
The task is to knock all of this information into shape and make sense of it so you can begin to draw conclusions.
In reality I tend to compile my research as I go along because you simply can’t gather all of the information you want all at once. Sometimes it’s takes a few weeks to contact and meet all of the people whose opinions and input is useful or required.
I will add a note here, that some of your research leads will be complete and utter dead-ends. Surprisingly these are usually more helpful than you might think. Scientists sometimes view a failed experiment as a success because it disproves something.
Since the day I took design seriously I have become a bit of a magpie. If I see something shiney (in a designer-y way) I will pick it up and hoard it. I think this is quite a common practice. Hopefully I’m not alone in having boxes of collected leaflets, packaging, magazines, labels, tickets, photos… you name it. I usually have a sort through these boxes at some point in my research to see if any of it can be recycled into the project.
I like to take the time to type up my various interviews. I find it formalizes things and makes it a lot easier to refer back to later. In fact this is a bit of theme throughout my research, I compile it in such a way that I’m not embarrassed to give it to the client at some point. This can be particularly useful during the feedback stage of a project when you can say: ‘I did it this way because…’
I like to keep a folder of articles and other written Secondary Resources that I’ve read and highlighted and made notes on. If I need to crystalize my thoughts on a body of research I might write a short summary of them using bullet points to clarify the important things I learned from them and what I need to carry forward.
There are plenty of ‘loose’ piece of paper that I collect during research. They might be pictures I’ve taken or samples I’ve collected (some of them from my hoard), but they are, usually, all relevant.
I use scrapbooks as a sketchbook crossover. I’ll stick in the samples etc. and make written notes and sketches in reaction to them. It’s interesting to look back through my old sketchbooks to see how an idea developed and grew from nowhere.
My sketchbooks are probably the roughest looking aspects of my compiled research, but I will sometimes show the client an early idea. Sometimes the sketchbooks turn into mini pieces of design themselves.
I don’t always utilise a moodboard, but it’s an excellent tool to have if you feel like you need a good overview of something. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of a moodboard it’s quite simple. You collect examples of images, logos, colours, basically anything connected to a chosen subject (perhaps an industry of location) then you paste them onto one surface next to one another.
It gives you the opportunity to stand back away from the moodboard (I like to stand the other side of the room) and let common themes, colours and layouts jump out at you. By seeing an amalgamation of ideas and identifying a trend you can assess how to make a new logo/identity fit in, yet stand out.
By the end of this process I can read through all of the research I’ve collected and begin to draw conclusions.
I will sometimes write a simple ‘report’ document that serves as a reminder of the things I’ve discovered and need to keep in mind as I’m generating and developing ideas.
The way I conduct this particular part of my design process might be different to everyone else but that’s the whole point of this blogging thing. Share and share alike! Just because this is the way I do it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Let me know how you compile your research, are there ways I can develop and refine what I do?
This article is part of a series of posts concerning research for graphic design projects.
Articles in this series:
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