Last Wednesday, at the Design Research Conference held at the Spertus Institute in Chicago, a number of presentations centered on the theme of executing design research in different kinds of organizations: corporations, startups, and consultancies. The following presentations gave insight into the practices, methods, and challenges of designers and design researchers at each of these kinds of organizations.
Ken Kellogg and Gina Villavicencio, Senior Directors of User Research at Marriott ecommerce, delivered a talk, "Finding Balance: Making Research Driven Decisions in a Corporate Environment." A key point of the presentation was that, in using research results to drive decisions made in a large organization, it is important to be mindful that different people need different things. Creative professionals are traditionally well-versed in qualitative data. Business-minded decision makers at an organization are likely to be influenced by quantitative analyses. A balance of both is essential for fruitful collaboration between different disciplines in a corporate environment.
Charles Adler, Co-founder and Creative Director of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, gave a talk titled "Designing and Managing with Trust in Mind." Kickstarter has thirty employees, which creates more flexibility with research methodologies and business decisions. Throughout his talk, Adler emphasizes the trust he has in his employees and the decisions they make. He also touches on the company's research methods, which have a personal focus, and merge both qualitative and quantitative methods. They employ interviews and field research, meetups with the community, chat, analytics and usability studies. Adler reflected that an advantage of being a smaller organization was the opportunity to build personal relationships with their users, and from that comes feedback they can apply to future decisions.
Charles Adler's Tools
Charles Adler's Tools
Robert Zolna and Edwin Lee, from the Communication Design team at gravitytank shared a visual approach to create a balance between qualitative and quantitative research in the way the information is communicated to the user. Zolna and Lee's reasoning for using a visual method is to present the data in a way that the user can easily access and understand. One of their design research tips was to put data in a user context to make it familiar. Diving into the visualization of the data more specifically, Zolna and Lee discussed using different shapes and line weights to make the data more dimensional. Other tips they shared were to establish a voice to spark emotional resonance, and choose the right medium to fit your needs.
It's clear from these talks that there are different processes and challenges that design researchers encounter in each type of organization. The method by which qualitative and quantitative data is communicated is key to the success of decision making for the future of an organization.
Ciara studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a BFA with an emphasis in Designed Objects. She is a conceptual designer whose interests include user interaction and social behavior in online gaming, and how they can inform the physical world and the design of tangible objects. Her work focuses on identity, human interaction, and virtual environments, exploring the relationship that people develop with the real world and the virtual.