Peeling the Onion of Design Research

“It has often felt like I am an infant taking steps without knowing where the other foot will land.”

We are in the third week of Austin Center for Design however, at this point, I feel like it has been three months. That is not to say that those three weeks have been terrible but it has often felt like I am an infant taking steps without knowing where the other foot will land.

Design research is such a fascinating subject to be learning but it is completely foreign to the type of research I learned while attending business school as an undergrad. In undergrad I focused on market research and statistical analysis, methods that are closely related to this type of research but are used for very different reasons,  and in design research it is more based on “gut feelings” and, sometimes even throwing out the rules entirely.

I make it sounds like I am put off by this way of doing things but, when I take a step back from it, I am actually enjoying myself a great deal. Some of the interviews and inquiries I’ve done have been so profound and interesting that it almost pains me that I have but five more weeks in IDSE101 and only a few more days left in research before switching to synthesis. My team and I have gone on some great interviews and I have learned so much about animal food products that I would have otherwise never known.

“For the first time since the beginning of the program it made me feel like a great designer…”

Today’s research was particularly interesting. I was given the opportunity to tag along with two other AC4D members on a contextual inquiry they had arranged with a local rancher over in Bastrop, Texas that supplies meat for restaurants in Austin. For the first time since the beginning of the program it made me feel like a great designer and it gave me perspective of what we are attempting to understand through the research process. The first hour or so of the interaction we discussed several things about her ranch and the processes that she goes through on a day to day. As the interview went on She became even more comfortable (and way more talkative!) and she opened up about the difference between European to American cultures in terms of buying foods. She pointed out many interesting accounts, like that people in European cultures buy meat based on quality and ask questions about their meat, while most Americans want consistency with their food, specifically their meat. She spoke many concerns regarding this topic and the back and forth we had created a rapport that I hadn’t yet had with a participant. This is one interview out of the many we have done as a group so far but it was a turning point for me at a point where I was beginning to feel run down and unenthusiastic about the process.

I am glad to see some progress in my abilities to facilitate interviews and even more than that I like the fact that I can see what my work is building towards in the design process. I am excited to further my progression in design research and I know that I have a long way to go before I can start getting really good data for designing great products and services, but it’s encouraging to finally take a step and not fall on my face. I am not great at research, by nature I am probably better at creating graphics and visual design, but I am not discouraged by my inadequacy. I am eager to learn more because I have confidence that at the end of it I will be self-assured in my ability to perform design research at a high level.