How I Use Research As A Photographer

How employing design research techniques in photography can uncover opportunities to deepen your connections to your subject.

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Research for a National Grid Case Study on visualizing how to show where energy is headed.

But… Why do the research?

In UX design, research is a necessary part of creating a user-centered product. Its purpose is to design a product that makes people feel heard and understood, creating a lasting emotional connection with the users. By using the basic principles of design research, we can:

  • Better understand the product’s end users.
  • Improve your designs based on data-driven research.
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An image from the above case study of the first US electric vehicle charging station.
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An image from the above case study visualizing where the future of energy is headed.

How to research?

Whenever we’re about to take on a new project, we start by asking ourself the 5 W’s. These are our Research Questions.

  • What happened?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
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  • Give us context with domain research, competitive analysis and market research.
  • Conduct interviews — with the subject or people associated with them and their business. If there’s a story, speak with the journalist to gather key takeaways they’ve learned.
  • Use google maps and social media to look at other shoot locations in the surrounding area.

How to use what you learned from research?

Research Synthesis is making sense of the data we’ve gathered to discover what opportunities and implications exist for our design efforts. In design thinking, we start to define our key insights related to our user research by splitting large groups of data into smaller groups with Affinity Diagrams. This is a group activity to gain distance and perspective as well as identify patterns to generate a problem statement to communicate what you are trying to solve for.

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Sketched Concepts from Exploratory Research
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Final Images of sketch Shot 1, Shot 2, and Shot 3

Conclusion

So why is research so important? Research allows us to understand and deeply connect to the subject by being absorbed into their environment with the goal of capturing a moment in time that is difficult to recreate. The design tools might be the same, but understanding and connecting to our subject’s is relative to each singular experience. Overall, the insights we collect through research allows us to make relevant and accessible decisions by forging a deep connection by acquiring empathy. It’s primitive and that’s why I love it. In the end, all we have is our consciousness and how we choose to relate it each other. What better way that to try to gain experience than from someone else?

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Story I photographed on loss and grief for the WSJ

Written by

UX Designer w/ a background as a photographer and digital artist. I’m a visual storyteller dedicated to solving complex problems & producing creative solutions.

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