One of two ongoing activities of the design process, research forms the backbone of most decisions made by a designer. Typically, research begins immediately after the design brief has been completed and signed off on by the client - and continues until the final design has been accepted by the them. It is a critical component, and a necessary activity to ensure the designer is well informed about the design factors that will influence the finalised design solution.
Initial research activities begin as the designer investigates the profile of the client and/or user, related design factors and the general influences on the potential design solution. In most cases, the designer produces a number of style boards or mood boards. These boards provide a visual snapshot of the client, user and influences that will shape the designer's initial direction. Initial research can also include the investigation of current market trends, user input and current fashion or styles.
When a clear representation of the design direction has been decided on, the designer uses the style boards to begin the visualisation process. At this point, research becomes an ongoing process.
After the initial research has concluded and the design visualisation activities have began, research now becomes ongoing and responsive to the needs of the designer. This means that the designer now uses research to broaden their understanding of specific topics, related to the product or visual communication they are designing. For instance; if a designer was developing a new home automation controller, then the designer would continually reference resources on electronics, visual displays, shock absorbing materials or software engineering - as they develop and refine concepts to ensure that the product could actually be manufactured.