Market/Design Research Process

Any tips from the well-experienced Graphic Designers here for someone with just a few years of experience on the process of conducting research prior to the sketching process?

I usually research competitors to see what works and what is most successful etc but how do you really delve into the psychology of what a consumer/client would be most drawn to for a branding project?

The main things I focus on are which kind of emotions and intentions are most suitable to express, along with colour psychology of course. But it goes much deeper than just using fonts with a feministic quality or the colours pink/red for a primary target audience of women searching for love for example.

Starting to get more and more clients for brand identity projects but I’m really hoping to push my knowledge past the basics now so any kind of advice would be greatly appreciated!

I may not be the most qualified to answer but––what helps me most is a thorough design brief and a good understanding of the client. Learn as much as you can about the client and their business or the problem that needs to be solved. Then, as you stated, research.

As for the sketching process, I’ve learned that sketching absolutely everything helps. This includes what you may first think of as bad ideas too. The “bad” ideas can sometimes find a way to the good side.

Hope this was helpful.

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On lower-budget jobs, much depends on the gut instincts and experience one has after doing the easier-to-do research that it sounds like you’re already doing.

On higher-budget projects, like those we had at the agencies where I’ve worked, we’d use focus groups and various kinds of statistically accurate (within margins of error) surveys. We’d typically sub out this part of the work to companies that specialize in doing it. I’ve worked on jobs where, probably, 90 percent of the budget was spent on this kind of research.

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You might want to read about color psychology.

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Some caution with color psychology is probably warranted. Recent research has indicated that many supposedly innate responses to color are not quite so innate after all — they have as much or more to do with the culture in which one grew up.

For example, most western-oriented cultures regard pink as decidedly feminine, but in some eastern cultures, it’s regarded as masculine.

Even with these kinds of differences, I think it’s still relevant to consider color psychology as long as cultural issues are factored into the equation.

I might recommend Leatrice Eiseman’s book, COLOR: messages and meanings. It doesn’t delve into psychology as much as it deals with the emotional and historical aspects of color — mainly from a Western viewpoint. I’m unsure how well the book’s analysis of color would hold up in, say, Japan or India.

I would usually spend some time with the client (in person) trying to learn about their business and customers from them with the aim of answering these questions:

What does your business do?
Who do you do it for?
How do you stand out?
What are your values?


This is what I’m currently dabbling with. Research is necessary but there’s only so much you can do with either a client that struggles to provide a lot of information or a low budget.

I would love to learn more about what these surveys entail if possible?

I hadn’t initially thought about colour psychology symbolising different things in different cultures, so that is something I will definitely consider when thinking about a target audience.

I will also check that book out at some point, thank you B!

Yes, it’s part of my usual process as I mentioned. Although I’m curious to know how you would delve into it, how do you choose a very specific tone?

I’ll definitely have to add these 2 to the list of questions I usually ask before beginning a project, thank you!

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One thing I always counted in the mix was the clients’ target market. No matter who likes it if the final target market thinks it is bad…well…then it is. Something to think about.

My clients are small and don’t have money for focus groups. I ask them for copies of sales reports. That’s how I know what worked in the past, and that shapes my approach on upcoming projects.

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