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In this lesson, you will learn about research in the creative process.

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What's Covered

  1. Market Research
  2. Visual Audit
  3. Industry
  4. Demographics
  5. Specs

1. Market Research

Market research is a process of gathering information about a company's competition and potential customers.

Term to Know

    • Market Research
    • Market research is the process of gathering information about a company's competition and potential customers.

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 the simple charts below 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.

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.


Your friend Mario was asked to participate in a focus group held for Netflix. He was invited to come into their headquarters and look through some various designs for their ads, their interface, and even the envelopes received in the mail (DVD subscribers only).

He answered a lot of questions such as, 
"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.

2. Visual Audit

A specific process of market research is called visual audit.

Term to Know

    • Visual Audit
    • Visual Audit is research done through survey or focus groups to help establish a business's brand value.

Visual audit is research done through a survey or focus groups to help establish a business brand value. Companies and organizations will set up focus groups-- where others, very often times the general public, can provide feedback and how well a business communicates what they do and how their brand looks like to their customers.

Were you part of a focus group, you might see some designs like the one below to see how well you recognize the brand, or what they do.

3. Industry

A visual designer will often target research to a particular industry.

Term to Know

    • Industry
    • A specific field of service or product of trade.

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. 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. 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.

4. Demographics

A visual designer will also consider researching the demographics by which the client tends to target, and demographics meaning the given characteristics of the population.

Term to Know

    • Demographics
    • The given characteristics of a population.

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, the image below 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 the one above, that might be the most appealing for them. Video games, large screen, and you get to see who you're up against.

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 the image below.

Something more suitable for a family 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.

A visual designer will, often times, find inspiration from an array of sources outside of the client's industry. 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.

5. Specs

A visual designer should research according to the client specifications-- or specs.  Specs are the requirements for the job at hand.

Term to Know

    • Specs
    • Short for "specifications" or the requirements for the job at hand.

A designer is designing a website, and the specs indicate that it cannot use flash.  The designers should look at other websites that don't use or require flash.  This is considered research to find out what makes that website so fast and perhaps maybe look through the code to determine how it's optimized.

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. The designer would start looking at similarly specced hatchbacks.


Well, that ends today's lesson on market research. This lesson focused on the various levels that a designer might go through to research their work. The lesson looked at the use of a visual audit, focusing on the industry, demographics, and specs of competitors. Keep up the learning and have a great day!


Terms to Know

The given characteristics of a population.


A specific field of service or product of trade.

Market Research

Market research is the process of gathering information about a company's competition and potential customers.


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

Visual Audit

Visual Audit is research done through survey or focus groups to help establish a business's brand value.