Dan Saffer is a funny man. Watch the first five minutes of his presentation How to Lie with Design Research at the Design Research Conference.

This opening is intriguing, especially the remark about “getting on the design research bandwagon” before it takes off for the ultimate goal of making money. Is design research a fad? Will we one day give up design research in favor of designing in blank rooms with no contact with the outside world whatsoever in order to create pure, untainted design solutions?

Another point of intrigue that Dan makes is that the research can lie to reflect the views of the designer or that of the client. I definitely think this is a strong possibility. And only designers who are honest with themselves and truly open to new ideas will not fall pray to this.

Then there’s the role of the client, which reminds me of our work with Motorola last spring. Motorola was really keen on video snacking and people using mobile devices for entertainment. Our research showed that not only were people not interested in video snacking but that their idea of entertainment on mobile devices differed from Motorola’s.

This put the student teams at odds with Motorola when presenting the research findings and initial concepts, as they did not support what the client wanted us to verify. In the end, all teams compromised and created a hybrid solution between what the client wanted and what the research revealed.

Is that bad design? Or the truth about design research?