“Research is the scholarly pursuit of new knowledge, discovery, or creative activity in an area with the goal of advancing that area’s frontiers or boundaries.”
Goal of Research & Sketching
The goal of adhering to the early steps of our process–research & sketching–is to ensure high-concept creative/ design.
Qualities of High Concept Design
- High level of entertainment value High degree of originality
- High level of uniqueness (different than the original)
- Highly visual
- Possesses a clear emotional focus (root emotion)
- Targets a broad, general audience or a large niche market.
“High-concept is a type of artistic work that can be easily pitched with a succinctly stated premise.”
In other words, high-concept design is easily sold to clients and stakeholders; your design choices are quantifiable and dependable. This helps ensure client satisfaction and a successful project.
Iterative & Agile
Iterative: Our process is nonlinear. At the beginning of any project, we should lean heavily on research and then sketching, but at times we should test out our digital concepts, particularly logo concepts. But never show refined concepts to the client without their consensus and buy-in of the concepts; thus, showing low fidelity work first is preferred.
The reason we take small steps with our work and with working with our clients is to prevent rework. Rework is the scourge of any project and can kill your project’s profitability.
Agile: Agile project management process is known for being interactive, non-linear, dexterous, and focusing on the user while helping you get to optimal concepts and then deliver work that is purposeful, meaningful, quantifiable, appropriate, and easily sold.
Agile is typically used in development. However, I have come to the conclusion that its principles of taking iterative and incremental steps work extremely effectively with managing your and the client’s expectations, eliminating surprises and the unknown, keeping the client fully engaged, and getting to delivery with a successful project on time and on budget, with NO rework. If, at any time during the process, the client bucks, it is usually because the project was not scoped out properly. If that’s the case, you return and re-scope, getting more money and better-aligning expectations, or part ways with the client.
Why Reword Sucks
Don’t Lose With Rework: My study and understanding of rework and my determination to prevent it at all costs lead me to much of my design process as well as how I manage clients’ expectations.
What is rework? The term rework became popularized in a book called Rework, written by the founders of 37Signals (Basecamp). Its basic message is, “ASAP is poison.” Rework is unaccounted for redoing, correcting, or rebuilding.
Rework is typically the result of a poor or non-existent project process. The symptoms of this are frustration by both the project team and the client. A properly composed Project Charter is a reliable tool to ensure all expectations are managed properly. A project charter outlines all the key stakeholders, the project process, the deliverables, risks, challenges, current situation, goals, and metrics for success/completion. Since defining and sticking to my project process, including using a project charter, I have eliminated all rework, I have done my best work, and I have happy clients. However, you will, and I have run into unreasonable clients that won’t work out no matter what you do. They want free work and want to screw with your process; these are the ones to avoid, fire, or, as I prefer, stick strictly to the process and scope and deliver, but never speak to them again.
Components of Design Research
Competitor Analysis: An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors. This analysis provides both an offensive and defensive strategic context to identify opportunities and threats.
Design Research: is about understanding real people in the context of their everyday lives and then using what we learn to inspire our work.
Design Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Creative inspiration comes from 2 or more sources; if it comes from less, you are stealing. Don’t steal.
Pre & Post Research: Research should be done throughout the project process, including before the final design (mainly identity work) is delivered to the client. It is important to ensure originality in your work, even if you did due diligence. Often the inspiration for our work comes from our sub-consciously, where something we’ve seen in the past comes through. It happens, so be sure to research your work to help prevent any awkward scenarios.
Tools for Design Research
Your Client: Your client is part of the project team. Source from them by way of interview and/ or questionnaire important information on who their competitors are in their market and how they compete, who their neighbors are on their block (literally and figuratively) vying for your visual attention and trying to stand out from the crowd.
Pinterest: Pinterest has emerged as an excellent tool for research and research collaboration with clients and project teams. Creating Pinterest boards for each project is an excellent method of researching and collecting great examples of work, and all members of the project team can contribute, helping keep people engaged. Pinterest is an excellent tool to help get visual concept consensus from all stakeholders as well as amass quality visual inspiration.
Books: Nothing inspires better than good design resources in print, like books and magazines.
Google: Researching for your project via Google is less than ideal. It is very difficult to get the search results needed to properly research your project. But once you have a design, a good practice to Google Image search your work to help ensure the design isn’t too similar to existing designs. However, using a Copyright attorney is the only way to limit any legal risk, and it is recommended that in your contract, you address this and put the responsibility on the client.
Analyze: Identify the current and potential competition. Once the competition has been identified, assess the strengths and weaknesses.
Be sure to assess the following:
- Brand Reputation
- Marketing Materials
- Packaging, Collateral
- Customer Experience