The Designer's Guide to Doing Research: Applying Knowledge to Inform Design
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More About This Title The Designer's Guide to Doing Research: Applying Knowledge to Inform Design


An essential introduction to applying research for busy architects and designers

The competitive design market and the need to create enduring value place high demands on architects and designers to expand their knowledge base to be able to digest and utilize multiple sources of information. Expected by their clients to be well versed on all aspects of a project, time-constrained architects and designers need quick responses in the face of daily challenges. As a result, these professionals must—more than ever—rely on, and apply, readily accessible information culled from sound research to gain a competitive advantage.

The Designer's Guide to Doing Research serves as an introductory guide on the general concepts and processes that define "good" research. Organized logically with the practical tools necessary to obtain research for all facets of the designer's workflow, this book offers:

  • Material written in an accessible format specifically for practitioners

  • Reliable content by experienced authors—a noted environmental psychologist and an interior design educator who is also a practitioner and writer

  • Tools for planning, executing, and utilizing research presented in an easy-to-follow format along with case studies, sources, and applications

Written for all practices and people concerned with the built environment, from architects and interior designers to facility managers, landscape architects, and urban planners, this book serves as an invaluable starting point for gathering and implementing research effectively.


Sally Augustin, PhD, is a practicing environmental psychologist, a principal at Design with Science, and the editor of Research Design Connections. She is regularly invited to speak at schools, research institutions, conferences, and on National Public Radio. Sally is the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley). Learn more about using environmental psychology at Sally's websites, (for residential applications), (for commercial applications), and

Cindy Coleman is a design strategist with Gensler and the editor of the Interior Design Handbook of Professional Practice (published by Interior Design magazine and McGraw-Hill). She is an assistant professor in the Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a contributing editor to both Interior Design magazine and the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Chicago) journal, Chicago Architect.


Foreword: The Necessity for Research vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Before You Do Design Research xi

Research versus Insight xiii

The Research/Design Relationship xiv

Why This Book? xv

Why Research? xvii

Design as Research xviii

Knowing xxii

Thinking and Knowing xxvi

A Scientific Method xxix

Asking the Right Questions xxx

Chapter 1 Design Research and Its Influence on the Practice of Design 1

Generalizing Design Thinking 1

Design Research as a Means for Attraction and Retention 3

Design Research as a Means for Social Reform 3

Design Research as a Response to the Need for Design Speed 3

Design Research to Build a Sustainable Knowledge Base 4

Design Research to Gain Understanding of Cultural Distinctions 5

Design Research as a Source of Value 6

Core Concepts 6

Endnotes 7

A Story of Practice: Making the Implicit Explicit 8

Chapter 2 Researching: Context, Process, General Concepts 19

Economic Context of Design and Research 19

Design Process 22

Research Process 23

“Good” Research 25

Owning the Information 29

Planning and Organizing a Project-Specific Comprehensive Research Plan 30

Overview of Types of Research 32

Differences in Types of Research: Applied or Theoretical 33

Comparing Research Tools 34

Merits of Using Several Different Research Tools to Answer Any Research Question 40

Core Concepts 40

Endnotes 42

Chapter 3 What to Learn 43

Informing Design-Related Change 43

Design-Project-Based Information Gathering 46

Social-Science-Based Information Needs 51

Core Concepts 77

Endnotes 78

Chapter 4 The Goals of Project Initiation 81

Research for Competitive Advantage 81

Secondary Information 84

Peer-Reviewed Studies 87

Literature Reviews 88

Within-Firm Archival Research 100

Experience Sampling Method 100

Design Charettes 109

Endnotes 113

A Story of Practice: A Research-Based Marketing Strategy 114

Chapter 5 The Goals of Investigation 125

Research as a Process of Discovering a Client’s Needs 125

Interviews 127

Cognitive Mapping 142

Repertory Grid 144

Annotated Plans 147

Content Analysis—Verbal Material 148

Content Analysis—Visual 152

Surveys 156

Public Parks Survey 173

Endnotes 176

A Story of Practice: It Starts with Programming 177

Chapter 6 The Goals of Integration in Schematic Design 189

How Research Informs the Schematic Design Process 189

Research Shapes Refining the Design Strategy 191

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) 193

Behavior Mapping 196

Observation 199

Space Syntax 217

Social Network Analysis 218

Discussion Groups 218

Space Simulation 228

Experiments 232

A Story of Practice: Schematic Design 236

A Story of Practice: Design Development 244

Endnotes 266

Chapter 7 The Goals of Implementation 255

How Research Informs the Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) 255

Post-Occupancy Evaluations 257

Case Studies 262

A Story of Practice: Post-Occupancy Evaluation 267

Endnotes 290

Chapter 8 How to Maintain and Access Research Findings 283

Raw Resources 285

Organizational System 287

Additional Considerations 288

Core Concepts 289

Endnote 292

Conclusion: Doing Design Research 291

Additional Sources of Information for Design Researchers 293

Index 295


"The author advises is on the best research techniques to use at each stage of the design process, with helpful chapters on research instruments, data collection techniques, and rules of thumb. With contributions from prominent design researchers, The Designer's Guide to Doing Research is an indispensable read for any student of design research who wants to spring into action." (Contract Magazine, June 2012)

"The book offers a tremendous assortment of research tools, ranging from finely-tuned versions of familiar client survey preference forms to plans for innovative on–site charrettes and keenly focused post–occupancy evaluations." (, February 2012)