No matter where you fall on the creative continuum, great design is usually derived from great observation. The best designers are observers, connectors, thinkers, and trendsetters—but first and foremost we are problem solvers.
We all know the second rule of great design is to define the problem (the first of course being that there are no rules). As hard as we might try, staring at a sheet of paper until a brilliant idea appears doesn’t happen often. We have to do a little homework first. We collect, observe, research, and hypothesize, but the one thing we often forget to do is ask. The hardest part about asking though, is figuring out who to ask.
Here’s an idea. Why not ask everyone?
If you have been to any industry workshop or conference in the last 12 months then you already know that everyone is talking about BIG DATA. The problem with this trend is that at the moment, very few seem to understand how to make sense of it all. There are companies out there right now collecting massive amounts of information through social listening devices, tracking online search patterns, and measuring the popularity of everything you can possibly come in contact with online. This data is a goldmine, and not one nugget based on a small focus group of 10-12 moms in Dallas, or the gut feeling of a senior strategy manager. It’s data based in fact, given to us by a focus group of 2 billion Internet users that we didn’t have to lead to an answer. It’s raw, honest, and real and it’s sitting right under our noses.
Data is the fuel that makes us go as designers, and the time has come to capitalize on the massive amount of information out there. The more specific, unfettered information we can collect, the clearer our problems become. Use the facts to build the sandbox in which your instinct as a designer can live and it will become much easier to identify the solution. There will be no need to guess whether a message is on target or anticipate the reaction of the masses when it was the masses that informed the solution from the start.
I’m not in any way suggesting a wholesale process change. There will never be a day that a computer can process data to produce a unique design solution the way a well-trained designer can. I’m suggesting that every designer explore the way we collect data, add these tools to your arsenal, and supplement the way you observe the world. It will not only improve the overall quality of design, but more importantly the ability of our work to connect with the world we are trying to reach.
David Jones – Senior Art Director, The Variable, a digitally driven marketing lab that invented technologies that tap into the consumer mindset, identify what consumers want and rapidly determine how brands can fill that need. www.thevariable.com