Monthly Dose of Design: A Design Thinking Framework for Market Researchers

January 26, 2021

By Emma Galvin and Nicholas Lee

The Design Thinking (DT) process was developed by The Design Council more than 15 years ago. It’s applied to many areas including business design and product design. While Design Thinking is good but when it comes to DT addressing the specific needs of market researchers, there’s room for improvement.

The last four Monthly Dose of Design articles from Northstar Research looked at every phase of the DT process and how it can be applied to market research.

Designers use Design Thinking to solve problems. It’s a four-step process that begins at the Discover phase, when valuable insights are unearthed and moves to the Deliver phase when you prototype and test solutions to your design brief.

The Design Thinking Framework and Market Research

The DT framework is adapted for market research and needs to cover two main objectives:

  1. To create a more detailed structure around the DT process, which is more understandable to market researchers and their clients
  2. To highlight the strengths and weaknesses of market research and to see how market researchers can use the DT process.

Our market research agency has developed, adapted and modified the typical DT framework to create one that’s specifically designed to be used in market research and meets the above two objectives.

To simplify applying the DT framework to market research, we split the process into three areas:

  • Core market research strengths
  • Secondary market research strengths
  • Developing market research strengths

This framework maps out the strengths and weaknesses specifically for market researchers.

Why is this important? Because market researchers can anticipate which phases will need outside help to complete the project.

While the Discover and Define phases are the same as the traditional DT phases, the remaining phases are different.

Let’s take a look at each in turn:

Phase 3: Ideate

Here’s when you enter the concept development phase of your project. It’s when you explore and create as many possible ideas and solutions to your design challenge/problem.

The aim is to have as many ideas as possible that can be built upon to expand their depth.

Market researchers need this phase to increase insight potential that can be used in innovation. The finely detailed aspects of this phase demonstrate that market researchers can be involved in this phase by thinking of big ideas that go beyond obvious solutions.

Phase 4: Selection

This is when ideas are prioritized and those with the most potential to solve the design challenge/problem are chosen. It’s when we spot potential winners that can be developed into a prototype.

Market researchers need this phase because unlike the traditional DT process, this phase allows for more time and emphasis on “Selection” to get better design outcomes. This phase allows for time to prioritize ideas that can solve the design challenge.

Phase 5: Prototype

It’s now, having chosen your best ideas, that you enter the prototyping stage. Prototyping offers an initial outline of your solution to your design challenge/problem.

Prototypes can be anything from rough sketches and paper interfaces to 3D models and videos.

Market researchers need this phase because once an idea is chosen, the prototype can be expanded to include new variations and possibly be constructed in different ways. Market researchers can then present multiple prototype variants to clients.

Phase 6: Test and Validate

By repeated testing of your prototype, you can then refine it until you’re satisfied it solves your design challenge/problem. The purpose of this phase is to test and validate your prototype until it meets your goal.

Market researchers need this phase because they can be confident they are testing a prototype in a familiar and trusted way. It’s in this final phase where a market researcher’s core strengths lie.

The speed with which Design Thinking takes place means that market researchers have to become more agile in how they approach testing and validation.

In our next Monthly Dose of Design, we’ll talk about the many different levels in design and how you can use design as a strategy.

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