Visualizing Research

Part two of our Visual Thinking Strategy series

Now that you’ve defined your problem, it’s time to investigate your problem by conducting and visualizing research. That might mean UX style user interviews, reading articles, watching youtube videos, or just start with some good old fashioned Googling.

Visualization of the key points from this article will serve as a part of our research.


Take visual notes while researching

At Ink Factory, when we’re gathering information about a topic, we like to take visual notes. While we typically create visual notes live as we listen to a speaker, we can also take visual notes while reading an article or interpreting data.

If you’re new to visual note-taking, you can learn step by step how to take visual notes in this blog post. The most important thing to remember when visualizing your research is to:

  • Visually organize your research by connecting related topics
  • Highlight your most important findings with color, icons, or bold text

This will allow you to quickly glance at your research notes later on and find the information you need when creating your solution or plan.

The key points were easy to find in this article that we found during our research. The title of each paragraph is a top way to reduce carbon emissions, which is what we want to highlight in our visual. Each key way to reduce emissions is written in the same font and contained with the same style shape to make it pop. Then details from the article connect to each key idea in a smaller font.

Only capture the information that you feel is important for your goal. We call this filtering–if we included everything in our research in our notes, then the notes would be more difficult to read and understand.


Each visual above is a summary of a specific article

You may have multiple drawings of all your research broken up into different categories, or you may just have one drawing, depending on how complex your problem is and how much research you conducted.


Use a simple pattern for your research notes

In the above example, you can see that the visual note has the title in the middle. Each key point is around the title in a container, and details around those key points are connected to them with arrows or underneath the section as a bulleted list.


We set this pattern for all of our research because it works well for articles and is easy to create quickly. The source is also included in each visual in case we need to go back for more information.


Nervous about starting? Use a light pencil to lay out your notes as you read through your research content. Then, when you have captured all the information you need, go back over your drawing with marker. Erase the pencil when the marker is dry.

Pro tip: Write in all caps for cleaner handwriting that’s easier to read


Visualizing quantitative research

Visualizing the results of quantitative research (like UX research, or web analytics), is a bit different than taking visual notes, and so the above format might not work as well.

In the above example, the problem we’re trying to solve relates to solving a problem for a user (instead of setting a goal for ourselves). If a designer wants to help people go vegan, they might ask their research subjects why they’re interested in going vegan during a user interview. Here, we’ve visualized UX interview results that question. The researcher tallied the number of interview answers that fell into certain categories. Then, they drew a mind-map style visual where the size of the answers corresponded to the number of answers for each question. That allows the researcher to quickly glance back at the results.

When visualizing data, think about your goal for gathering that data in the first place. The researcher wanted to know the most popular reasons for going vegan. So, by making the most-answered topics the largest, the researcher is able to easily glance at the data and remember which topics were most popular.


After your research is complete, you may want to look over your notes and further emphasize your most important findings. Highlight, circle, or star the most important findings in your notes. We sometimes also find it helpful to write a summary of the findings at the bottom of our visualizations. You’re halfway done with your visual strategy! Next up is the fun part: you’ll be generating ideas to solve your problem.