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Design Research Planning

I recently completed the "Foundations of Design Research" course offered at It was a great refresher that allowed me to review fundamentals and also introduced me to a few new tools to try in my work. The training host provided a thorough and engaging walk thru of various types of design research, and introduced research tools, planning considerations and frameworks for presenting results. If, like me, you appreciate insight into other designers ways of working or you are looking to better implement design research into your work you should definitely check out the course. (The course is three hours in length and includes a few review exercises as well.)

There were three paradigms fordesign research planning that presented new concepts to me. Two of them KWHL Table and Research Logic Model, I plan to introduce into my work to add another layer of rigor and intent. The third model, based on the Big 6 Information Literacy Model, is a nice high-level framework for an entire design research project that is useful to ensure you are following an appropriate, systematic and repeatable process.

KWHL Table:

A visual aid for iresearch planning and gathering. Each of the four questions represents a single portion of the table that is filled in with answers.

  1. What do we already Know?

  2. What don’t we know?

  3. How will we learn it?

  4. What do we Hope to Learn?

Research Logic Model:

Add rigor to your research and ensure each tool in the plan is appropriate to the objective.

Purpose: What are you trying to achieve? Actions: Specific tasks needed to achieve each goal. Outcomes: What you hope will be the result of each action.

High-Level Design Research Plan:

A process to find, use, evaluate and apply information. Based on the Big 6 Information Literacy Model.

  1. Define the design challenge. Be specific with desired outcomes - Who, What, When, Where - if you want to find a "How" for the "Why".

  2. Seek information. Determine the information that you need to know and the best sources of that information. Consider KWHL and apply the Research Logic Model. Utilize secondary sources of information.

  3. Locate and engage your sources of information. Read, hear, view, touch. Get away from the screen and talk to people. Broad information gathering tools should inform more narrowly focused tools. Secondary research such as market data or literature reviews inform surveys, journey maps and contextual observation inform more focused tools such as user interviews or prototype testing.

  4. Analyze and synthesize the research information. Identify patterns of needs, wants and motivations appropriate to the challenge.

  5. Present the information. Utilize your storytelling skills to highlight key knowledge. Visualize information. Provide a composite picture of people, uses and scenarios. Ensure that your evidence supports your recommendation.

  6. Evaluate your research process. How did you do it? What went well? What can you improve?

// Big 6


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