Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Research Proposal


Assignment 5

Throughout semester 1 I investigated into the subject of advertising and social networking, using secondary research to support my views and allowing me to evidently verify my opinions. Books such as Emotional Design, Norman, D, and a journal article, Reaching Generation Next, Sylavain, L, were successful in my research however in order to proceed further with the investigation I had to have primary sourced research to create stronger evidence for this subject.

After studying different techniques of primary research I was able to assess the topic and allow myself to take my research further. Visual experiments, observation and interviewing all present valid choices for research approaches into the topic of advertising and social networking and taking my previous results of these methods I was able to determine which suited specific areas of the subject.

I previously undertook an investigation into the question of whether buyers are knowledgeable about what they are buying. I theorised that to determine this answer, the question of where the information was obtained from was most important, believing that advertisement was an essential source of knowledge. I proceeded with the investigation supported by interviews undertaken by a sales adviser (18-24), ‘shopaholic’ (45-55), ‘non- shopaholic’ (18-24) and a couple living together (45-60). The results from this research, however broad, would be a primary source in the investigation of advertisement; showing a brief demographic for products and the affects advertisement had on the consumers. However in order to achieve a more successful result, a different and wider variety of subjects could be carefully interviewed, taking into account the way the questions are phrased. People generally do not always like to openly admit that they are influenced by advertisements so in order to get an honest answer I would have to ask them to account situations and let them tell a story that may present evidence to support my theory. Learning from the last interviews, avoiding ‘closed’ questions prevented dead ends in the conversation and allowed the interviewee to feel more at ease. In addition to the nature of the questions, an opening ‘visual’ question seemed very effective in allowing the subject to relax and feel more open to answer further questions.

The topic of interviewing would not need to be limited to just advertisement, the social networking aspect of the subject has still to be covered and integrating the two topics into the same interview would allow further support for the subject. Interviewing people that use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis would be classed as good subjects; the results, if successful would show how subjective the users are to the advertising integrated into the sites. Creating a control for the interviews such as comparing the results to a group of people who don’t use social networking sites would bring a better balance to the research. Learning from the results between the ‘shopaholic’ and the ‘non-shopaholic’ interview proved that in some cases opposite personas do not always produce opposite results.

Whilst exploring examples of advertisement within social networking site, I came across many successful campaigns that integrated these two sources allowing them to effectively sell their product. This process works on any level of consumerism, and most importantly as a designer selling yourself and your practice follows the same nature. My interest fell primarily on the work of Johanna Basford due to the level of design that was put into this advertising network strategy. Incorporating her own designs and work (that she wishes to be known for) into the world of social networking presented an interactive source of advertising; allowing her brand to ‘stick’ in people’s mind without harassing the networking users. As in the article from the journal, ‘Applied Arts’ (Sylvain 2008, Reaching Generation Next) says, “That community has a fortress around it. And so, it’s getting harder and harder to find a way to get through. The people are there to socialise, not to be sold to. If we’re too aggressive, they’ll find somewhere else to go.”(Tony Chapman, CEO, Capital C, p.40). Basford has successfully infiltrated the social network of Twitter in a fun and interactive way that most of the users will hardly notice that they are participating in an act of advertisement. Therefore arranging an interview with Johanna Basford would get a designer’s view on the subject of social networking being used as a canvas for advertising.

As well as interviewing techniques there is also the method of observation that would use primary research to support the subject. A previous investigation involving observation as a source of research, primarily took the role of observing people, however it would work just as well by observing a social networking site. Instead of watching the mannerisms of people in say a shopping centre an observation of the process people undertake to involve themselves in the ritual of networking would class as supporting evidence. Breaking down the process right from the very beginning such as how to log on to the site, the first thing people appear to do once on the site, the patterns that emerge through the communication between fellow networkers and so on would allow, if thoroughly executed, a deeper understanding of the behaviour conducted buy the users. These results in turn could propose new methods of advertising techniques, filling niches that have been unturned and enabling the full potential of the social networking strengthening sites.

With social networking sites many word of mouth epidemics are started but aren’t necessarily based on advertisements. This is the case of the colour status that spread across the pages of Facebook. The colour represented the colour of bra a female was wearing at the time they updated their status, raising awareness of breast cancer. However it is suggested that the initiation of this viral trend wasn’t started by a breast cancer awareness foundation, instead by a regular user of the networking site. Malorie Lucich a Facebook spokeswomen said “What is particularly unique about this grass-roots campaign is that it seems to have been started by a user or group of users, as opposed to an official entity, and spread virally throughout Facebook,” (Jan 2010, Telegraph.co.uk). This type of evidence could support a cause for an experiment that involved the use of epidemics to spread advertisements. The experiment could initially be based on a simple idea like the example above, and by conducting a trial to produce a viral trend within the networking site would allow me to obtain results based on the complexity of the task. Whether the idea became a successful trend or not would depend on the techniques used in the experiment to make it into a craze.

These proposed research techniques would work with each other to support the views presented in the previous report on Advertising and Networking in Design, offering it primary research strengthening the subject in question.

These research techniques that I have investigated in the past year will allow me to tackle design briefs differently from now on so that I can gain the full potential from my designs. Thinking about previous studio briefs I can easily see how these methods would have benefited the outcome of my projects an example being the furniture project. The brief required us to work as a group to design and create a working piece of furniture out of specified amounts of oak and laminated plywood. My group found the subversion of use an interesting topic to base our design on, the idea that people used their furniture for things other than its original function was an appealing and an ironic fact that we wanted to incorporate into our own design.

Our initial research included looking up books in the library that had examples of furniture design developed with an idea similar to ours. Books such as 1000 Chairs, (Fiell, Charlotte, 1997) were examples of our visual research; also design websites were a well used source in finding examples of furniture design that influenced us one of which was http://www.treehugger.com/. However this method limited mostly to just a visual example of design rather than the thought process behind it, as our design was also based on psychology I think it would have been necessary to research outside our discipline. Making use of the library cross-search resource would have allowed us to research deeper into the topic of subversion; by simply searching for both psychology and furniture design the results would have produced journals and books that had already researched into this subject. Using this method would have perhaps made our development process more structured and productive allowing for a more knowledgeable outcome.

As well as the designer research we decided to obtain primary research to help influence our design, it was important for us to find out exactly how people used their furniture as it was a key aspect in our design. We created a Facebook survey that asked people to tell us of how they used their furniture the ‘wrong’ way. This process allowed us to acquire first hand experiences that strengthened our design features as we based a lot of the design on the responses we received from the survey. The only negative effect of this survey was that it was a case of one question, one answer per person so the results were briefer than they could have been. An interviewing technique would assist this research allowing for a more in depth description of their use of furniture. Learning from the previous interviews shows that sometimes you can achieve a more honest answer from an indirect question than direct question so the results could be strengthened, reinforcing our design characteristics.

As a piece of furniture is an interactive piece of design it is important to know how a person would react to the final design however if the results of this were not desired then success of the design would be weak. To prevent this outcome an experiment could have been implemented to try and foresee the final result. If simple prototypes are designed in order to get a feel for the design, an analysis of the design so far can commence and troubled features in the design can be resolved. For this analysis to succeed an observation of how people interact with the prototype would have to occur thus allowing us to find out whether our design features are seen the same way to a person outside our design group. If the reaction isn’t the desired result then, because the design was only a prototype, there is room for error and it can then be altered.

Another use of an observation technique that would add to research for this project would take a simpler role however would produce good evidence to support the design process. The way that people sat on their seats was also another aspect that influenced our design, even though we did ask people how they did this it wasn’t the most effective result as many people subconsciously position them on seat a certain ways. In order to capture this aspect of habit we must observe people in a natural environment in which sitting is a key activity. The library or any location that fits this description would be acceptable and would allow us to have a more reliable account of how people interact with a seat. The analysis of the comfort and problems that people face whilst sitting for a long time could determine design features that we could have incorporated into our design altering the ‘failed’ elements of the chairs we had observed people on.

These methods of primary and secondary research would have unquestionably helped with our design process, opening our designer minds up to explore the psychology side of the project. If I was to take one thing away from this year it would definitely be that as designers we do have to be so much more open minded about our design process and think outside of the box to allow us to reach our full potential. Perhaps if we had used these techniques in this project a completely different outcome would have resulted, I’m sure for the better. However this just leaves me to think about how to use these processes further in third year as the dissertation process approaches. Knowing now that having primary research as evidence for your theories only strengthens your views and in turn presents you with better results in your designs; basing your designs purely on someone else’s results limits your own outcomes and your design do not reach their full potential. I now understand why research is just as important as the design and will continue to utilise this information in projects to come.


Basford, J, (12.11.09) Twitter Picture, Available: http://www.johannabasford.com/twitterpicture (23.11.09)

Dunn, C (03.17.08) Hanger Chair + Inflatable Table = Small Space Fun, Available: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/hanger-chair-inflatable-table-living-small.php (06.11.09)

Fiell, Charlotte J. 1997. 1000 Chairs. Koln: Benedict Taschen

Gladwell, M. 2005. The Tipping Point. New York London: Time Warner Audio Books: Hachette Audio

Hough, A, (9.1.10) Facebook 'bra colour' status update craze 'raising breast cancer awareness'. Avaliable: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/6954696/Facebook-bra-colour-status-update-craze-raising-breast-cancer-awareness.html (28.3.10)

Lyttle, K, (9.1.10). What’s your colour? Available: http://karenlyttle.blogspot.com/2010/01/whats-ur-colour.html (28.3.10)

Norman, D. 2004. Emotional Design. New York: Basic Books

Sichi, F, (2.12.09) Advertising and Networking in Design, Available: http://fionasichi.blogspot.com/2009/12/advertising-and-networking-in-design.html (27.3.10)

Sichi, F, (26.03.10) Evolution of Twitter Picture, Available: http://fionasichi.blogspot.com/2010/03/evolution-of-twitter-picture.html (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (26.03.10) How Knowledgeable are shoppers about what they are buying?, Available: http://fionasichi.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-knowledgeable-are-shoppers-about.html (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (11.03.10) London Underground and it’s Population, Available: http://fionasichi.blogspot.com/2010/03/ass-3.html (28.3.10)

Sichi, F, (23.11.09) Social Networking, Available: http://fionasichi.blogspot.com/2009/11/social-networking.html (28.3.10)

Sylavain, L. 2008. Reaching Generation Next. Applied Arts. 23,2 (Apr) 40-53.

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