Research is by far the most important phase of design. Here we understand how individuals will interact with a product, and their biases towards certain materials, colors, and just about anything else.
We utilize focus groups to gain accurate information from the users on how they view colors, product, materials, buttons, textures, etc.
The information gained here impacts the design process and final model dramatically.
Testing the market and competing products allows us to set the standard to beat.
Understanding the competition also grants us the ability to see what has and hasn't worked in the industry before.
This research is sometimes the most eye opening. As we watch individuals go through their normal actions, we are able to truly see how the user acts when uninfluenced.
This research style is especially useful during service design.