Skip to main contentIBM Design Research

Find the story

Share research insights to create empathy across your team. Craft a story with a meaningful plot, detailed visualizations, and attention to your audience. Create a sense of urgency for your work, and bring your user to life.

Lead with empathy

A successful research Playback makes your user the protagonist, so try to keep people at the center of your story. Communicate meaningful stories—not just a series of unrelated artifacts. Remind your team who the experience impacts, what user pain points or opportunities you address, and the tasks your users need to perform. It’s tempting to only share the negative, but remember to highlight positive moments in the user’s journey, too. See how a team changed the course of a project by centering on the realities of their users.

Define the stakes

To create urgency for your team to take action, define what’s at stake for the user. If a user can’t perform this task successfully, what will happen? Communicate all the working parts and who might be affected. This is a great time to bring in competitive research.

Focus on outcomes

Show your team opportunities to help alleviate pain points, but don’t stop there. Look for new ways to give users a positive outcome. Remember to not settle for average experiences. We aim to create exceptional experiences that impact our users and help us achieve our business goals.

Consider your audience

A good storyteller tailors the narrative to their listener. Ask yourself:

  • Where is the presentation happening?
    • You may need a different medium depending on where the delivery happens, be it online, over the phone, or in person.
  • Who are you presenting to?
    • If you present to your team, perhaps a more hands-on or casual approach to a story is more effective.
    • If you present to an executive or senior executive in the company, they might expect a more formal presentation.
    • If you want to switch up conventions for the sake of the story, tell your audience ahead of time so they can prepare and adjust their expectations accordingly.

Transfer research insights

As you tell the users’ stories, leave the audience with a few big takeaways. These research insights and recommendations will help focus the team. Ensure that the stories you tell have a visceral impact, create urgency to build, and are backed by evidence.

Enhance meaning with visuals

Help others see what you see. Visually communicate research insights to elevate findings and increase value. You can read IBM’s guidance on data visualization here.

Select a medium

Think about the environments in which your research will live. Will you present it to an audience? Will you send a report to your team through email? Will it live online in a shared document? Understanding where and how the research will be documented can create a strong outline and even help you work faster by allowing you to better construct files, templates, and other communication materials.

Keep it simple

Start with the fundamentals. Balance, contrast, scale, dominance, similarity, and hierarchy will provide clarity in your compositions. These principles sound simple, but their combinations and applications are endless. When using visualizations like graphs or charts, think deeply about what you are trying to communicate. For example, while it’s easy to construct a Venn diagram, it may not be the right visual for the job.

Establish a rhythm

Think in patterns. When visually communicating your research, think in terms of relationships over time. What data relates to this insight? Where is this happening the journey? How does everything relate? Help your audience follow the storyline, characters, and relationships through visual cues and consistent layouts.

Stay on brand to stay credible

Visual communication takes time, regardless of your expertise. Connect with those who are trained in visual design. Consider your offering’s attributes and style guide. By adopting your offering’s palette, appropriate type scale, and other brand-specific guidelines, you lessen your workload and reinforce the brand. Make your research deliverables look like they belong in your product or service family.

Where do you come in?

Reflect together on how you tell stories about your users.

The Explorer:

  • How can we solve this pain point for our user?
  • How can we take advantage of this opportunity?
  • How can we improve the user’s experience?
  • What else could this impact?

The Guide:

  • Who is my audience? What will they care about?
  • How can I improve the visual hierarchy of my presentation?
  • Have I told described both the positive and negative?
  • Have I created a sense of urgency?