User Research in Design

Hi everyone - I am writing a paper for a research conference in India, on ‘User research as an intrinsic part of the design practice.’ In relation to this, I’m looking for examples from practising designers on how they integrate research into their work, timelines and budgets.

I hope to be able to provide examples in three broad categories -
(1) ‘Quick research’ / ‘zero budget’ research methods that designers use to inform and inspire design.
(2) Quick analysis techniques used by designers to create a ‘strong foundation’ for their design or to deconstruct or redefine complex design problems.
(3) Research inspired techniques used to trigger creativity or to focus design.

Please note - I’m looking for practical / innovative examples that are being used by designers and design teams doubling up as researchers. These may be variations of traditional research methods or something completely out of the box. The methods would also characteristically be tightly integrated with design, rather than run as a separate research activity.

I will of course acknowledge any examples I use in my paper. Look forward to hearing some interesting examples!