“Design, like the world as a whole, is unpredictable and messy. If you think it boils down to ‘research,’ you’re mistaken,”
Ben McAllister of Frog Design continues to say, “[a]simplistic view of research pervades our culture…. The real world is a complex system inhabited by autonomous individuals. It isn’t so simple or knowable, which is exactly why design can be so valuable. Research can become a crutch to decision-making and that it is sometimes viewed as hard fact,”
The Atlantic recently published two articles on the role of research in design: The ‘Science’ of Good Design: A Dangerous Idea followed by The Art of Design Research (and Why It Matters). They’re good reading and have offer insight into the strengths and weaknesses of research and what is can offer.
Jon French, also of Frog Design, acknowledges McAllister’s skepticism of research, but counters by saying, “Design research is not ‘a science’ and is not necessarily ‘scientific.’ It gives designers and clients a much more nuanced understanding of the people for whom they design while providing knowledge that addresses some of the most fundamental questions we face throughout the process.”
Research has been a large component of our product development process since the 1960 when Robert Propst joined the company. Herman Miller research has always been person-centered, developing a deep understanding of how people work, how they move, how they sit, and what they makes them comfortable. This provides us and our designers a better understanding of the people using our products. But research is an art as much as it is a science, and we also understand that results are not always as cut-and-dry as charts and graphs can make it appear.
Check out the two articles and let us know what you think.