Research DesignResearch Design

Research Design Template

Predict links between industry trends to make better business decisions.

About the Design Research Template

Design research maps encourage your team or clients to develop new business strategies using generative design thinking. American academic Liz Sanders pioneered this visual method to resolve confusion or overlap between research and design methods. 

Whether your team is in problem-solving or problem space definition mode, the maps can help you consider the collective value of many unrelated practices. Connecting the dots between multiple disciplines in design research can remind your internal team or stakeholders that instead of tunnel-visioning toward one way of doing things, you might be able to align design thinking with methods from other industries to drive potential for innovation and change. 

Design research mapping tests out a theory that the best thinking and decision-making tend to combine generative methods (from forms of social engagement or the creative arts) and productive methods (design thinking).      

Keep reading to learn more about design research mapping.

What is a design research map

A design research map is a grid framework showing the relationship between two key intersections in research methodologies: mindset and approach. The map typically has 4 zones with relevant distinct or overlapping methodologies:

  • To be design-led means that either critical or generative trends are driving the designers or researchers involved. You can either be designing for, or with, people. 

  • To be research-led means applying methods historically used by psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and engineers.

  • Designing or researching with a participatory mindset means researchers and designers value users as co-creators in the design process. Practitioners can use findings to shape products or services to meet their needs.

  • Designing or researching with an expert mindset means viewing researchers or designers as experts designing for users and consumers.

A mapping approach helps both user experience designers and clients understand the current state and how tools, methods, and trends will likely shift in the future. 

When to use design research mapping

Design research maps can help anyone new to design research gain a better understanding and awareness of factors driving the adoption of certain methodologies or trends. 

Try using the map as an educational tool to help your team or clients understand design concepts or problem-solving techniques, without relying on the presence of academics or industry veterans in meetings.

As a design practitioner, you can also use design research maps to:

  • Write up design or research proposals or project plans

  • Explain to clients or cross-functional teams why you need to use different research methods

  • Understand the competitive landscape amidst developing methods or trends 

  • Understand the historical context of the design or research tools, methods, and ideas of interest to you

  • Create a long-term vision as trends shift to make strategic business decisions

Ideally, this map should be treated as a living document to spark forward thinking, and support conversations between different departments and stakeholders. 

Create your own design research map

Making your own design research maps is easy. Miro’s whiteboard tool is the perfect canvas to create and share them. Get started by selecting the Design Research Template, then take the following steps to make one of your own.

  1. Invite other teams or clients to discuss or edit the design research placements with you

  2. Design research mapping can suit either client education or cross-functional team alignment. Up to 200 people can collaborate on a single Miro board, so encourage others to join you and offer their input!

  3. Add new grid content if you offer a new research method.

  4. If your team (or client) offers a new design research methodology, encourage them to find a place for it on the map. This can kick-start discussions about the best-fit mindset and approaches for your business. Miro’s 

  5. allows you to turn sketches into shapes or sticky notes as needed.

  6. Edit label text to reflect the industry context you want to present

  7. If you want to represent a different perspective, you can change labels accordingly. Delete or add new methods, edit axis labels, and resize individual bubbles representing changes in overlap or cultural dominance.

  8. Research and add new methods or trends as you learn more

  9. Design research is evolving. As you learn more, experiment with adding, removing, or shifting methods you find, test, or are recommended.

Research Design Template

Get started with this template right now. It’s free

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