Design Research with Method Inc. at AIGA SF – D. Talks

Jul 20, 2009

We had the opportunity recently to witness a presentation on the role of in design from Method, a Brand Experience Agency in San Francisco.
We’ve done work with Method before and they definitely have a solid team of people working there and it was excellent to hear from a few of them. The talk focused on research and the link that it provides between design teams and the consumer as well as providing some general guidelines to performing effective research. Their approach was interesting, in order to construct their presentation on research, they went out and performed their own little research study by interviewing the strategist, artists, and UX designers at Method about their thoughts regarding research. A large portion of the presentation was told through the people discussing it candidly on video taken from these interviews. One thing that I really liked about this style of presentation is that it allowed us to indirectly get to know some of the people at Method and their views on research and design.

Method founder Kevin Farnham presented quite a bit about Method’s history and a few case studies in which they were able to provide great designs for their clients. Kevin also spoke quite a bit about how valuable research is to the design process, at one point going so far to say that Method has been known to perform research on their own when their clients weren’t willing to dedicate the extra budget.

But, it was UX researcher Adam Dole that spoke at length about what it takes to perform quality research. As a researcher, I was very impressed with what Adam had to say. Of course, I’ve known Adam for quite some time, having gotten to know him when we both worked at NASA, but the laboratory-based quantitative research methods employed at NASA can be a bit different from the research that’s needed to support design. We speak with Adam on a fairly regular basis about research that taps into the user experience and I was very happy to hear him discussing these kinds of qualitative approaches to the audience.

Rather than delve into the specifics of research design and methodology, which can vary tremendously from study to study, Adam focused on expounding some general principles that apply to all research. I felt that his approach was correct, learning the various research designs and methods that Adam could teach would take a tremendous amount of time, much more than the hour that we had allocated for the talk. As proof of that, Adam outlined a list of different research approaches that could be used to get a picture of the user experience. These different research approaches varied from ethnography to simple surveys, but it demonstrated the wealth of tools available to researchers. It was much more valuable to the audience to hear the overarching principles that guide every single research endeavor. These principles included thinking outside the box, which amounts to challenging your own assumptions to see if the solution to any given need is something different than what might be assumed. Other principles included putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes and being “relentlessly curious”, about all important factors in performing excellent research. In the end, I was glad to get a chance to see and hear the Method design team discussing the importance of research and getting a chance to get to know the personalities and perspectives behind all of Method’s great work. I was also glad to hear Kevin’s perspective on the value of good research. And finally, I was very glad to hear Adam discussing research and the guiding principles that sometimes get overlooked even by people with deep research backgrounds.

By: Demetrius Madrigal