Design Research, with Grit

Design Research / Innovation / Service Design
...this way

Here’s how Design Research starts

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." Pablo Picasso

The world thinks it’s moving at warp speed. Buzzwords accumulate like snow drifts. It’s time to get to the needle in the haystack. Because successful innovation is innovation that adds value where value didn’t exist before. And Design Research is about finding new ways of putting things together and uncovering new ways of creating and measuring value.

Design Research techniques help us discern patterns, link things together, and create things that relate to people and behaviours. The upshot: efficient, effective and motivating ways of doing.

How to do Human-Centred Design with Design Research

Design Research uncovers, collates, analyses and synthesises 360 degrees of evidence. Evidence in numbers, in human behaviours, in local trends, in global trends, in history. Design Research looks at things from multiple perspectives, formats, and motivations. Ears and eyes wide open – listening, learning, recording. Exploring new paths. Configuring pieces in new ways.

Design Research brings tools to the table that support decision-making from the human point of view, complimenting business modelling, business strategy, and operations.

Evidence-based design. Qualitative and Quantitative. Feelings 
and numbers.

  • Observe, silently.
  • Listen, actively.
  • Question, child-like.

Then, let it SOAK.

And then…

Design Research, with GRIT.


To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home…the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy…

Charles Baudelaire – The Painter in Modern Life


Originality is…Discerning patterns that unlock value

Design Research / Transformation / Innovation / Service Design

Understand – Setting the Stage

  • Conduct Desk Research – get up to speed with the domain and its adjacent domains.
    • Map organisational structure and flow.
    • Interpret existing Customer Research and identify gaps.
    • Competitive Review and Analysis.
  • Conduct Ethnographic Research- observation and conversation. What is done VS what is said to be done.
    • with employees, managers, security guards – the entire internal space (back stage).
    • with end-users / customers – the external space (front stage).


– Peel back to the problem space.

– Frame the right questions.

– Designate ideas for exploration.

– Research Report.

– Knowledge Transfer.

Explore & Innovate – Idea to Prototype

  • Design and Facilitate Workshops.
  • Conversation and Analysis Sessions.
  • Prototype:
    • Conversations.
    • Processes / Operating Procedures.
    • Tools.
  • Field test with end users.


– Answers to the right business question(s).

– How to build and/or implement “the thing.”

– Backlog of ideas for exploration and development.

– Defined success criteria and measurements

– What not to do.

– Knowledge Transfer.

Launch and Evolve – Ears and Eyes Open

  • Establish rhythms of Research and Horizon Scanning that align with an organisation’s project delivery method.
  • Support ongoing research and strategy goals.


– Build, launch, monitor.

– Measure “the thing” against defined success criteria.

– Maintaining product and service relevance.

– Documenting innovation opportunities.

– Knowledge Transfer.


Great steps in human progress are made by things that don’t work the way philosophy thought they should. If things always worked the way they should, you could write the history of world from now on. But they don’t, and it is those deviations from the normal that make human progress.

Charles Kettering




Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem — the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible — his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth.

Charles Eames

  • Caledonian Sleeper
  • Vodafone
  • Telefonica
  • BP
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Orange

Let's get conversing...

"Understanding is an opening of the heart. To understand another person (is) to imitate their feelings in ourselves." - Friedrich Nietzsche