Design thinking

Recipes for Great Design part 3

Diana Africano Clark

Guerrilla Research

People’s spontaneous reaction to a thing or an experience is a good indication of how intuitive and desirable that thing or experience is. In this segment of Recipes for Great Design, we’ll share about Guerrilla Research – one of the methods Veryday uses to capture spontaneous reactions.

Like Co-Creative Interviews, the Guerrilla Research method fits under the design phase we call “Investigate Contexts.” To read more about Co-Creative Interviews and Investigate Contexts, see part 2 of this series.


There are many types of design research. Although they all aim to understand something about people, contexts, experiences or products, each method is created to uncover a specific kind of information at a particular phase of the design process.

Method 2: Guerrilla Research

Guerrilla Research is a quick, easy and affordable research method. The term “guerrilla” refers to its out-in-the-wild style. Guerrilla Research works well to explore how current products and services work, but it also quickly validates how effective a design is, whether a certain functionality works the way it’s supposed to, and whether a brand or proposition is clear.
Guerrilla Research spontaneously intercepts people while they’re busy working, shopping and living in order to gain genuine feedback about their experiences. By going out in the field to meet people, we can see exactly how they interact with products and services. Sometimes we intercept people at a critical point in an existing journey (e.g., while they’re examining a product in a store) and ask about their motivations, emotions, and needs.

On other occasions, we place mock-ups or prototypes in a public space to prompt reactions and learn about how people respond when they encounter a new or unfamiliar product or service. For example, as we worked with IKEA to explore the future of wireless charging, we wanted to know how people would experience this brand new technology at the moment. Using Guerrilla Research, we set up prototypes of wireless products on the floor of actual IKEA stores. When customers came over to investigate and try out the prototypes, we popped up to get their immediate reaction. Through this research we gathered insights from respondents that helped us design a framework for interaction, recommend priority products and make suggestions for future line extensions.

Goals and benefits of Guerrilla Research 

  • Useful for gauging all-important initial reactions and the intuitiveness of your product.
  • Surveys a wider range of respondents and gathers spontaneous reactions. (A planned research session with recruited respondents, on the other hand, often disproportionately attracts extroverts who like to share their thoughts.)
  • Helpful for seeing your product perform in context. Does it fit with your brand’s desired experience?

Typical Guerrilla Research deliverables

  • Qualitative validation of concepts
  • Reports and presentations that summarize insights

 Core Guerrilla Research activities

  • Gather tools for documentation: cameras, microphones (a smartphone works), paper and pens, etc.
  • Travel to the context where your product or service will be used. Designing a baby carrier? Visit parent groups or baby stores and talk to parents. Designing a digital service for banks? Visit a bank and discuss the current experience with customers.
  • If you’ve already designed a product, put a prototype in context and record people’s reactions. Always ask permission to speak with them or take photos. Briefly outline the purpose of the research and reassure respondents about confidentiality. Be polite if someone doesn’t have time to talk.
  • Use the information you’ve gathered to identify opportunities for change in the market or to validate your concepts.
  • Try this method at all stages of your project to explore existing products or to validate ideas.

Creating value in a quick and simple way 

Guerrilla Research is quick and easy to set up, which means that designers can gain insights without spending too much time and money on preparation. It works well in an agile project environment. It’s not an in-depth interview method and participants may not always match your “target” audience, which means Guerrilla Research is seldom the only method used in a project. But it’s great for building hypotheses and gathering quick, honest opinions about how your design holds up at first glance.