Designing our research deliverables

Last year we had an interesting discussion at STBY about how we design our research deliverables. The conversation was inspired by a presentation from Joanna Rutkowska, where she presented a toolset developed as part of her PhD project. In her research, one of the key questions she asks is: If your research deliverables are design objects, what would they be?

Jonanna offered a set of metaphors to help approach this in her thesis in the image below:

Image created and shared by Jonanna Rutkowska as part of her presentation to STBY.

What Jonanna offers is a simple and lovely way to shift our viewpoint to look at our deliverables. What quality do we want the ‘things’ we deliver to present? What else can we deliver to the design team alongside a report to make our insights playful, experienceable, or inspiring? When we emerge from analysis and synthesis after days of fieldwork, what can we do to effectively communicate our findings, and to tell the stories of the people we met?

For us as researchers at STBY, we don’t want our work to live on shelves, or disappear after being handed over to the design team. We are always in search of better ways to stimulate conversations and actions with our research delivery. In the past months, we tried out new ways that will make our research findings more actionable. Apart from always including a ‘recommendation’ section in our reports, we did a few experiments on smaller deliverables that would sit alongside (or lead the path to) the final report. 

Field signals help communicate emerging insights in the early stages of research 

We have recently created a few small documents we called ‘field signals’, where we share some high-level snippets of what happened in fieldwork whilst we were still in the data collection stage. We believe this would make the research more memorable and informative for our clients as we are drip-feeding them our discoveries. It also offers a grounded experience for the designers, who are often too busy to join the sessions as observers, they get to build a sense of where the final insights come from. 

Digital whiteboards help co-create deliverables with clients 

We tried opening up our analysis process on a collaborative digital whiteboard (sometimes it’s Miro and sometimes it’s Mural). These digital whiteboards turned out to be a great clustering tool for us during the pandemic, and we think this is probably going to stay for a while. We also find a few chances to invite the client to comment at the early emerging patterns we found in the clustering. This is great for the client to see what we have (even though very raw) and point out this might be relevant to a design opportunity their team has been investigating. This allows us to focus energy and dig more in these directions. These early state involvements make our research findings really opportunity-oriented.

Video clips are memorable mini deliverables 

We are also experimenting with some video editing tools that really speed up the process of making video recording presentable and usable. We always knew of course that video clips are a powerful tool to create memorable and experiential deliverables, but processing video clips often takes up a lot of time and it adds up the budget. But now, with new technology, we are looking at quick ways to pull out video clips and make an impactful showcase to make sure our findings are both informative and experienceable.

There are many ways to deliver research findings, and we are keen on experimenting with this. Personally, I think what we at STBY often deliver is like a trace of the world we explored in the study, so our the deliverables are like snapshots of that world. The featured image on the top of this Thought post illustrates this well. It is a picture of fridge magnet souvenirs people get when they go to (often foreign) places, so in a way they are designed as a ‘thing’ that shows you the snapshots of the places they went to.

Do you have a secret tool or tips to share when creating or designing your research deliverables? We would love to hear it!

Qin Han