Research in general is very important when we first receive a design brief. There are three stages to the design process, starting with the brief, then researching, development & experimentation and finally production – leading to the final outcome. Researching the practice and the content lead to our own research, and therefore these are the two principles I am going to discuss today. Researching our area of practice – whether it be Graphic Communication, Illustration or Photography is very important because we gather an insight into the processes and the areas of the subject.

The first principle, Researching the practice also requires a lot of in-depth knowledge. Researching how the Visual Communicators think is one the main areas of focus. How do they decide what colours, typefaces, media, shape and style of design to use? We can do this by looking, listening, reading, watching, experimenting and exploring. Each of these processes will help us find new areas to experiment with in our own designs. Nothing we do is ‘wasting’ time, everything can be used, but we just need to find the correct way to use it.

Researching the content is essential, as it will be one of the major factors which ‘sell’ our work. The audience is very crucial to research because if you design for the wrong democrat, it won’t engage (as much as it could) with the viewer. The topic and subject need to be well researched as it will lead us to find ‘what’ to include in our work. It will also help us find out what has been researched already, and therefore tell us what we need to find ourselves.

Taking elements from Kolb’s learning cycle, we create a diagram of steps to take when researching. Depending on your style of research, you could start on any of the points; Doing, Reflecting, Planning, Thinking, but eventually you will always make your full way around, often spirally back to the one you started at and doing the process again.

When Stephen Cheetham started designing his set of Illustrations to celebrate the best sneakers from each decade (pictures below), he needed to research an awful lot into the trainer-based culture. First of all, he needed to find the favourite sneakers from each individual decade, and then come to the decision about which to Illustrate. I presume he would have consulted many people that have collections from over many decades, seeking their opinion, as many of the sneakers he categorized were more than something you just put on your feet – for the people who collect and adore trainers, like me, they are an aesthetic item, an item with meaning and a rarity. He would have also needed to find the correct images of the shoes – that highlighted the shape, colours, material and branding, and then applied all of this into his designs. As well as this, I’m sure Cheetham needed to select the style he was going to create these illustrations in – because if his selected style has been used before, the target audience may have already seen similar Illustrations, and not paid as much attention.