exploreID: What is Design Research?

Design research is core to the ID experience. Meet ID at design research consultancy Conifer Research for a conversation with practitioners, ID faculty, and ID students to discover more about design research, its significance in organizations today, and how it’s taught and practiced. Ben Jacobson, founder of Conifer and ID adjunct faculty member, will lead us through the design research process and address questions about the field. Quinton Fletchall, senior design researcher at Conifer, and Sara Johnson, ID graduate, adjunct faculty member and innovation platform consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will also join the conversation. The event will be moderated by current MDes student, Prachi Saxena.

About Ben

Ben has over 20 years of consulting experience-helping clients develop innovative products, services and business models from a user-centered perspective. His strengths lie in developing new approaches to gathering critical insights about everyday user behaviors and working with inter-disciplinary teams to invent better user experiences and successful corporate strategies.

Ben founded Conifer Research in 2001 with a mission to produce evergreen research systems and knowledge bases that leverage the enormous potential of ethnographic research. Ben has a Masters degree in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Chicago and a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches Behavioral Observation, and other courses as an Adjunct Faculty member at the Institute of Design.

About Quinton

Quinton is a senior design researcher with Conifer Research, where he has worked on projects across different industries including: health insurance, banking, medical equipment, bathroom interiors, and automotive tech. Before joining Conifer, Quinton worked as a private consultant for an urban design project in Syracuse, NY, and taught industrial design at Syracuse University. 

Quinton holds a M.A. in Communication and Rhetorical Studies and a Bachelors of Industrial Design, both from Syracuse University. 

About Sara

Sara [Jo] Johnson started her career in journalism, moved to visual communication and now contentedly resides in design research, strategy and innovation. She has masters in both Graphic Design and Design Strategy. She co-developed a non-profit, Emergent Structures, a model for reusing construction materials in large-scale and community projects—which brought her endless joy. She taught at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Design Management—while womanning the research curriculum and program. Upon her mom’s death, she tackled a long-term research project on reimagining the death experience for loved ones, including a study—I Remember You Now, I Remember You How—that led some conference audiences to tears. She has recently been leading and shaping innovation incubators and labs, presently with Blue Cross Blue Shield. She also teaches at her alma mater, Institute of Design, to hopefully stretch minds and mindsets. 

About the exploreID series
IIT Institute of Design (ID) gives students the freedom to explore a wide breadth of design disciplines by offering flexible master’s programs. This spring, a series of events—many of them in our new home—will touch on the vast array of pathways students pursue during and after ID, including design research, digital experience, organizing for innovation, and product management. Attend to learn more about the diversity of courses we offer and what design means at ID.