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27 Examples of Design Research

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Design research is the creative and systematic investigation of problem spaces, customers, markets and possibilities in preparation for delivering a design. This involves exploratory research whereby you collect existing knowledge followed by development of new knowledge by connecting to clients, users, customers and competitors. Design research also commonly involves brainstorming, the development of concepts and prototyping. The following are design research basics.

Audience Analysis

Defining your audience and their characteristics.

Market Research

A broad term for research of customers and competitors.

Client Interviews

Interviewing the client to discover expectations and recommendations.

Customer Interviews

Interviewing the customer to discover their needs and the way that they use things.

Throwaway Prototypes

Quick, inexpensive and safe prototypes.

Proof of Concept

A test that some element of the design will work.

Design Concept

Developing an artifact that communicates your ideas for a design.

Concept Testing

Testing design concepts with customers/users/clients.

Competitor Analysis

Evaluation of competing designs.

Lead Users

Gaining the input of influential or advanced users.

Experience Sampling

Using customer/user journals to find out how the design will be used.

Needs Analysis

Identifying requirements for a design in terms of customer/user needs.

Context of Use

Identifying how things are actually used in the real world.

Critical Design

Experimental designs that provoke thought and challenge the status quo.

Edge Cases

Uses of a design that are rare but can occur and need to be handled.

Use Cases

Documenting uses of a design.

Evolutionary Prototypes

Prototypes that reflect your vision for the state of the art that are refined over time. Often expensive.

Problem Analysis

Investigating problems the design will solve.


Listing ideas without a filter.

Reverse Brainstorming

Listing ways a design could fail.

Exploratory Research

Researching existing knowledge and things that you will need for a design such as a brand style guide.

Design Analysis

The end-to-end process of researching a design, planning a design and gaining feedback from stakeholders (e.g. clients).


Imposing constraints on the design.


Documenting any assumptions upon which the design will be based.


Trying things in a systematic way in order to collect data.


Mockups and other simulations of designs and design concepts.

Speculative Design

Developing big design ideas without regard to constraints such as client requirements.
Overview: Design Research
The creative and systematic investigation of problem spaces, customers, markets and possibilities in preparation for delivering a design.
Related Concepts

Design Methodology

This is the complete list of articles we have written about design methodology.
Concept Design
Critical Design
Design Concept
Design Management
Design Methodology
Design Process
Design Research
Design Testing
Edge Cases
Experience Sampling
Idea Screening
Lead Users
Safety Design
Slow Design
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