Focus Group

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Caption: Eloise Hawser’s Look busy: fragmentations and flattering of diversities creates a piece of art. A Good Design Manager should know how to develop his own research in order to improve his knowledge.

After organizing a mini focus group in order to study the energetic and expert world of Indian design in relationship with heritage and traditions, I elaborated some conclusions about this research method. My investigation was about the meanings that refer to design in India and the aspirations of the Indian designers of the future, engaging with their cultural and social context. Nevertheless, the aim of this paper is not to show the findings of the interview, but only to outline the advantages and disadvantages of this method and how it should be implemented.

Particularly indicated to develop ideas or broaden the knowledge about a specific topic, a focus group gives voice to a small number of people, that can freely express and compare opinions. Despite being similar individuals, with interests or a background in common, different interpretations can be raised about the topic, possibly bringing to relevant and unexpected conclusions. The moderator has to ask questions and lead the conversation, with the role of trying not to give his personal opinion about the themes discussed and try to stay apart from the discussion in order to let the dialogue flow without interferences. On the other hand, some interventions could be allowed, in order to direct the conversation into the field expected to be analyzed. Time is a real challenge, because if the group is comfortable words come easily, which makes it difficult to move to the next question without losing the path.

The quantity of reliable sources, information and suggestions that a small group of people can provide, is surprising. But at the same time, some could argue that the opinion of few, could not be enough to describe and critically analyze a broad topic, as for example in my case, Indian design. This complication should be solved with the addition of further studies: with an ethnographic research before, for instance, analyzing and trying to understand the background of people that are going to be interviewed, and with a secondary research referring to the suggestions given by the group.

Overall, doing research through a focus group is a reliable source as well as an interactive and stimulating approach to a specific group of people’s feelings and emotions, that can connect and compare their different personal experiences, knowledge and vision. Dialogue is certainly a marvelous way of discerning and approaching different cultures, but at the same time it has to be supported and improved, by other research methods, in order to make the investigation more complete, rich and reliable.

References:

Laurel, B(2003) Design research: methods and perspectives. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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