Consumer Research versus Trend Research

Because One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Design Research is a unique research supplier in that we provide both custom consumer research and custom design trends research.    We are the only research company that tracks design trends and integrates them with new product research.   Why this linkage?  Because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to design.  If you only subscribe to broad design trends data and create products to align with those trends you are likely not differentiated from your competition.  Design direction has to arise from a combination of current design trends and your brand’s identity and equity.  Which is why it is important to both listen to the trends data and also to listen to your consumers – through research.

How do we integrate design trends data with our research?  We have two mechanisms.

Our American Living Survey™ incorporates a design segmentation.  That’s a way of organizing the components of design into groups or clusters.  Components are color, style, pattern, material, and finish.  In a typical design study, we have consumers first choose which design group they most prefer for a particular product category.  It's important to customize it to the product category because consumers taste/styles vary for different things.   Then respondents review a series of new product designs (which can range in design intensity from very high as with dinnerware to quite low as with appliances or cookware).  We then cross reference the results of the product evaluations with the design segment preferences.  That enables us to explain the strength of the design by consumer design segment.  A given design might be strong because it appeals to a large design segment (such as Contemporary) or because it appeals to multiple design segments (such as Contemporary plus Modern).  Another design might be weaker because it only finds support from those who like a narrow niche  - but that niche may be important to your brand portfolio (such as Farmhouse or Industrial). 

This approach has two advantages.  First, because we have the numbers behind the design segments, clients can see why a new design is preferred, who prefers it and how many people prefer it.  That’s a big advantage over just running a preference study, identifying the best designs and running with them without knowing where their support comes from.  Marketing, merchandising, and line extensions all benefit from understanding the “why” and “who” behind the product appeal.

Another advantage is having an understanding of the potential reach of your design direction.  Suppose your brand is known for a certain look.   Design is often synonymous with brand recognition and becomes part of a brand’s equity.  But design preferences change over time.  If your brand occupies and is synonymous with a segment that is declining in preference, you need to broaden your appeal by migrating your design offerings.  Our design data will help you understand how to do that. 

And remember, all of our design trends data is quantitative.  We don’t just say “here’s a trend” or “this will be big”.  We give you the numbers and we track them over time. 

Call (609.896.1108) or email ( to learn more about how to quantify your understanding of your design positioning and how to integrate design with new product research to maximize the success potential of your products.