In the book Glimmer(Berger, 2009), Warren Berger discusses the controversy of doing too much research to do effective design.
Bruce Mau has his own philosophy called speculative design. Although he thinks it’s important to get in touch with your customers and understand their lives there is a danger in relying on this too much. Mau uses his speculative design to write down some initial thoughts on a proposed design. (Berger, 2009) Although Mau does do the research he often finds his initial speculative design is correct. (Berger, 2009)
The book discusses opinions from John Thackara and Cameron Sinclair on if designers should stay to their local area in terms of focusing on design improvements. (Berger, 2009) The summary is that while some designers in an attempt to do a lot of research do make mistakes in foreign environments, there are many more examples of designers who have made a significant impact to the world by looking outside their own environment. (Berger, 2009) The Aquaduct, https://www.ideo.com/work/aquaduct , is one such example designed by IDEO designers to tackle the problems of sanitation and transportation of water in developing regions of the world.
I think one area that the book does not address and can sometimes make a different is the passion that drives the designer. A designer who does not have passion for the project and may lack some design skills may rely on research too much. I believe it is this passion that is the difference and gives that person an ability to listen and pay attention better than anyone else.
Berger, W. (2009). Glimmer: how design can transform your life, your business, and maybe even the world. Random House Canada.