Synthesize with Perspective

To synthesize research effectively a designer must have a perspective. In today’s world of digital information collection tools, a wealth of relevant information can be collected very quickly. However, as the Big Data push can attest to, all the data in the world is useless unless you do something with it. To that end, one must be able to tell what is useless from important, and this is not an absolute scale. That scale is defined by the context applied by the inquirer, which in this case is an experience designer.

At a minimum, an experience designer may simply consider the scope of the project as the frame for qualifying important data. However, that is merely a single aspect of it, and if the framing were left at that, whether from ignorance or intention, they would be doing a serious disservice to the work. Some may take the stance that they should “let the research speak for itself” and while the intent is understand, in the design context it is teeming with loaded implications.

Design is not a science, as much as many would like it to be. Rather it is an art that relies heavily on the human condition, as in emotion, intuition, anxiety and the like. As such, when conducting research in almost any form, whether a survey, contextual interviews, or even something as hands off as cultural probes, the designer is applying their perspective. They have applied it in how the questions are asked. They have applied it in their body language. They have applied it in the artwork. They apply it in everything that they create. To ignore this is to ignore oneself and be actively detrimental to one’s work. Embracing it, on the other hand, is what makes great design so compelling.

Since each of us has a different history, with a different variety of salient moments saved forever in our minds, we are going to assign different levels of importance to different pieces of research. Beyond that, our decisions are affected by our emotional state, level of focus, and even just other things we’ve thought about lately, such as happenings in the news or family affairs. This and more creates the bias that we all have.

Our bias isn’t something that is easily defined, because it is based on our values and also may be adapted to the context of the project. However, to continuously design well, a designer must do their best to recognize and account for it. To begin this process personally, they should reflect on their goals and values as an individual and how they align with those of the project. It can help to write down these discoveries and decisions about one’s perspective, if only to help think about it now and help remember later. However, when working collaboratively, coming to a group consensus about what is valued is imperative to working towards the common goal of uncovering the richest actionable insights.

Therefore it is imperative that designers recognize their natural bias, embrace a perspective and make great designs. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but isn’t great design worth it?