Research Methods Consultant

February 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

I sat down with Sam(antha) and (J.) Brian today to discuss a research project that Sam is working on for a class. A goal of the class is to implement and experience qualitative research methods in a new-to-you context, getting the students out of their comfort zone, which is where most research takes place. Brian and I took the same class last year  (kind of) and were able to offer our advice and experience to her.

I had a meeting and missed Brian’s solo input, but my main point was that she needed to be intentional and purposeful with her methods. There are many options available but to best utilize her short amount of research time (2 weeks for tool development and implementation) she needs to have a clear research goal and idea of how her methods would help her arrive at that point. That said, Brian and I also noted that being focused and purposeful needs a portion of being open to the unexpected. While conducting her research she may come across something unexpected that either changes her thinking or needs to be researched itself. So, be focused and intentional with your qualitative research methods, but be prepared to be flexible and possibly rapidly develop a tool to research an aspect that was hidden before but now has your gut pulling you towards it.

PS – Brian (or anyone else), if you read this, please share your qualitative research advice.


Research- “Into,” “For,” or “Through”- Design

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

As my master’s thesis research proposal approaches being completed, I’ve been considering exactly what the research aspect can and will be. My research proposal – including question and subquestions, justification, and limitations – will determine the type of research but it helps to have a conceptual model to explore and offer guidance.

Previously, I had heard of design research having three types – “for,” “through” and “of” (rather than “into”) – and had my own mental model of such a concept. Today I came across a blog with nice insight into the types of design research and that uses essentially the same model. It’s helpful to read the thoughts of someone else going through a similar process (design research for their PhD) and see a visual model and accompanying explanation of their understanding.

Although I have not met you, I am going to refer to you by your given name. Thanks, Sheila!

Types and approaches of (Design) research
by Sheila Pontis

Ken + Jen Visocky O’Grady

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday, Oct. 27 the husband and wife, tag-team duo of Ken and Jen visited the Herron School of Art + Design auditorium for a speaking engagement. They recently published “A Designer’s Research Manual.” I had a chance to look at the book a few weeks ago and was impressed by the layout and presentation of a sometimes tough topic. Most research-focused books are targeted toward the scientific or scholarly fields so it is nice to see one written for designers, both students and professionals alike. Research is an often overlooked aspect of the visual communications/design process but, as the book description states, “In an increasingly crowded marketplace, embracing research practices will ensure a continued viable role for designers in business.”

I was excited for their appearance and to learn more about their views on design research. Unfortunately, they didn’t really speak about design research. Fortunately, they still gave an interesting presentation, one with valuable information for designers of all ages, and specifically for those transferring from academia to professional practice. Highlights for me included:

  • Design schools breed rock stars. We need more bands.
  • All designers have different skill sets. Know where your strengths are.
  • Maintain a crush list of designers, artists, business people, etc. Identify why you like those on your list and how they became successful. Write your list down. Reach out to them if you can.
  • Your competition may be your ally. Collaborate.
  • Celebrate every single victory. Not just your own.

Postcard from Researchburg

October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment


I’ve been traveling through the vast land of thesis research, reading books and articles the past week and am filtering through them, building my knowledge and stack of key fact cards. In the past week I’ve studied collaborative research methods, citizen participation in government, sense-making, and visualizations. The previous week I visited local government innovation and positive deviance.

After deliberation I’ve narrowed my focus to local government viewed through the design lens of visual sense-making.  After working as a designer for five years at a non-profit organization serving local government needs, I’ve developed an interest in the inputs, processes and outcomes of local governments.  In addition to the books and journals I’ve collected I come across insightful stories existing only on the web. Here is an interesting short article, a longer blog, and a website with beautiful and informative images I came across recently:

Graphing the Stimulus

Transparency is Not Enough (Web2.0 + government)

Information is Beautiful

My plans are to sort through my latest round of gathered info and develop a synthesis of the data. After that I plan to visualize and also write research questions. I’m feeling good about where this is trip is headed.

See you soon,


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