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Author: mario fierro-hernandez

Recognize the various parts of research in the creative process.

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Hi, everyone. My name is Mario. I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson on research. So today, we'll learn about research and the creative process, and why it's important. So, as always, feel free to stop, fast-forward, and rewind as you see fit. And then, when you're ready to go, let's get started.

We'll start by introducing market research, and market research is a process of gathering information about a company's competition and potential customers. So market research helps a designer plan by figuring out what their competition is offering or doing, and what a customer base wants or likes, and where the market trends are heading. So these simple charts, for example, show average app downloads for both iOS-- which is iPhone-- and Android phones on Christmas holiday, as well as device activation and holiday growth on both platforms during the 2011 holiday, which you'll see here in just a moment.

This is super important because a few years ago, if you were a designer or developer, it would have been a no-brainer to assume you could simply design for one platform, because iOS and iPhones were the phone to have and the market trend at the time. But market research shows you otherwise today. Both platforms remain competitive and worth pursuing, so either avenue. That's huge.

A specific process of market research is called visual audit. And visual audit is research done through a survey or focus groups to help establish a business brand value. So basically, companies and organizations will set up focus groups-- were others, very often times the general public can provide feedback and how well a business communicates what they do, how their brand looks like to their customers, and things like that.

Were you part of a focus group, you might see some designs like these to see how well you recognize the brand, or what they do, et cetera, et cetera. I've actually had the opportunity to experience this first hand through a focus group held for Netflix. And basically, what happened was I was invited to come into their headquarters and look through some various designs for their ads, their interface, and even what the envelopes you get sent in the mail look like, if you're a DVD subscriber.

I got a lot of questions ranging from-- Which one of these interfaces is easier to navigate and why? Is this ad effective? Why or why not? Is this envelope effective and easy to use, yes or no? It's good to know these things as a designer, company or organization-- what types of designs are most effective, intuitive, eye catching, recognizable, and so much more. Which is why research is incredibly important. So this placed a huge role in more than we'd care to guess, quite frankly-- ads, commercials, movies, and tons of other media.

Now, a visual designer will often target research to a particular industry. So, a specific field of service or product of trade in which their client is involved, and will also consider how other visual designers have approached a similar project. A pretty crazy example would be design and research done at BMW. Now, BMW is a well-known car company, and it's known for sleek and aggressive cars with futuristic designs. Designers were tasked on designing the car of the future that was called GINA. And they wanted a car with malleable geometry in mind.

So what designers came up with was using a skin instead of a metal body that would allow the geometry of the car to morph and shift. And so choosing the right type of skin or fabric required research to a particular industry that, in this case, the client-- BMW and other car manufacturers were involved in. So the skin is made from polyurethane-coated spandex. These materials were already used for things like some car covers, foams and seats, armrests, and many other interior and exterior elements of the car.

You can see in this case, a researcher was specifically looking into these materials because they're materials used in past projects, and the materials have proven their use and directly relate to the client's needs, concept, and project. A really beautiful car. Really interesting design, conceptually.

The visual designer will also consider researching the demographics by which the client tends to target, and demographics meaning the given characteristics of the population. And this is really important, because a visual designer will often research the interest of a particular demographic and look for creative ways to relate the product or brand visually.

For example, this is a product by Cisco, and it's called the Umi. It's hardware that allows you to teleconference through your television. Cisco wants to target a very specific demographic. So let's say single males ages maybe between 20 and 35. So what kind of things might relate to them? So you, as a designer, must come up with all sorts of different ideas, but let's say that research shows that males in that age like video games, competition, and they want to see who they're up against.

Then, maybe the designer might choose to go for an ad like this one, that might be the most appealing for them. Video games, large screen, and you get to see who you're up against. But what if Cisco wanted to target couples between 30 and 40, or maybe even grandparents? Then, the designer has to change that up to something that looks more like this. Something more suitable for family for, again, that demographic. Even an ad like this that might make it more pleasing and more obvious as to what purpose the Umi serves as a teleconference machine or device.

So it's very important to keep in mind your target audience when designing, and this is true for any industry. Be it hardware, software, entertainment, or any other. So a visual designer will, often times, find inspiration from an array of sources outside of the client's industry. And sometimes, it's as simple as flipping through magazines of various other industries. Oftentimes, inspiration comes through things like nature-- flowers, trees, weather, and the like.

There are many ways to draw inspiration that aren't limited to the particular industry that assists a designer with formal design considerations, and stylistic approach towards a project and the client. So good things to keep in mind. It's also worth noting that a visual designer should research according to the client specifications-- or specs, for short-- which are the requirements for the job at hand. And what I mean by that is that if a designer is designing a website, and the specs are that it cannot use flash and it has to be optimized for low bandwidth for users that might not have really fast internet connections or reliable internet connections.

Then, the designers should look at other websites-- like this one-- that don't use or require flash, and research what makes that website so fast and optimized-- maybe looking through the code. Likewise, if the job was to design a car with specs that included a hatchback body style, or very low weight, maybe something more specific like 14 feet in length, 5 foot high and 6 feet wide. And the designer would start looking at similarly specced hatchbacks like this one. Something low weight, similar size, and things of that nature.

Well everyone, that ends today's lesson. We'll conclude with our key terms. So our key terms were market research, visual audit, industry, demographics, and specs. I hope you've enjoyed this lesson with me today. My name is Mario, and I will see you next lesson.

Terms to Know

The given characteristics of a population.


A specific field of service or product of trade.

Market Research

The process of gathering information about a company's competition and potential customers.


Short for "specifications;" the requirements for the job at hand.

Visual Audit

Research done through survey or focus groups to help establish a business' brand value.