Art and Technology: The Future of Market Research

Data analytics Features Technology

Market research is evolving at an incredible pace. To even define ourselves as researchers rather than insight or business consultants feels out of touch; a point that is reflected in the ever-changing job titles across the industry – the role of ‘Data Scientist’, for example, appeared out of nowhere in the last 15 years, but better reflects the research skill of unlocking sources of data, rather than just the generation of it.


The insight industry’s embracing of technology is a huge driver of the evolution, but we need to take care to defend the art of insight development, as it is integral to ensure organisations continue to recognise and value the skills and expertise insight professionals offer. To finally shake off the dated image of research that other industries seem to hold on to, insight professionals are quickly adopting techniques and technologies that offer new, innovative ways of engaging stakeholders with data – and as a result, making data and insights more accessible.

Blending Art and Technology

Art is used by professionals in many different professions for a communicative and/or aesthetic purpose. It is a form of expression; expression of an idea, emotion, reaction or world view. Art can take a variety of different forms; through literature, paintings, digital graphics, and many other forms, it easily conveys ideas and values inherent in every culture across space and time.

Technology is having a transformative effect across business’, organisations and society, data visualisation is a huge part of this from allowing us to proactively manage our health to digitising assets to allow businesses to learn and grow, it’s big and it’s really meaningful, and rightly so. Blending art with technology enables us to unlock and secure our place in the future of business.

We are already communicating complex information in more digestible ways, such as through this beautiful, brilliant infographic on how to reduce CO2 emissions, that succinctly illuminates the 20 different areas of land use, industry, traffic and buildings that contribute to emissions. This infographic has the power to really change the attitudes towards climate change, by making an insurmountable challenge look actionable and possible. Visualisation such as this allows us to bring to life otherwise boring, monotonous, or overwhelmingly challenging topics and make them engaging.

Artistic Data Visualisation

Communicating data in a meaningful way, like the scientist who made the new graph of global temperatures ‘#showyourstripes’, takes a balance of artistic and technical skill and both these factors are the key ingredients of continued success in the industry.

But for research and insight in the future do we need to deploy even more artistic creativity to stay ahead of the game too? Do research and insight teams need to step further into the field of art to be true innovators and maintain their value?

Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something, so it is a natural pairing to draw more from art to improve insight and capitalise on the technology that we have at our fingertips. Graphics are a really powerful communicator of rich datasets, with some studies suggesting that the visualisation on its own is far more effective at communicating the data than the notes and narrative, so this creates an important imperative to be more artistic in our delivery.

With one piece of art many messages can be conveyed in a powerful way and a much more enduring footprint made. In art you let go of the meaning and let the participant create their own, you grab attention and sometimes shock, subvert and often surprise, for example what do you remember about Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde cow? Perhaps it is the sentiment: ‘we are all the same inside?’, or simply ‘it was gruesome’. But looking deeper into the interpretation, does the message about the much-slaughtered beast resonate more now within the context of the climate crisis?

In that respect, Hirst’s exhibit is an example of a strong, powerful and enduring message, delivered in a really innovative visual format. Art is created with a message in mind, but with a less strict hold on the interpretation, creating intrigue and making the audience more curious,; so we need to look to more innovative formats for insight delivery – using visuals in new ways: artistic and insightful postcards, for instance, we’ve discovered are working very well to communicate the important insights generated from a short-term qualitative study on consumer perception. But even performances and animations – more fun and novelty, more reflection, more direct links to data and more open sourcing to create insight that endures and even creates a legacy.

There are a large variety of other creative ways in which insights can be represented. With the growing commercialisation of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology, researchers and businesses could collaborate in order to create a digital visual representation of the insights. There are many techniques and tools ready for us to explore and use to the best of our ability in order to make insights engaging and impactful again.

The Future of Market Research

As insight professionals, we have become obsessed with how we will convey a tight message. Artists are all about the pulsing expression that they can create through their own preferred medium. It isn’t enough to produce data and written reports anymore, we really need to creatively engage with our audiences to add value through enduring mental images that truly hit the mark.

The future for market research is about stepping out of data and into the creative world, and we have seen so many great examples of this ‘letting go’ in the use of real time data to inform dynamic, animated data visualisations. Research as it once was doesn’t really exist anymore, data and the great insights of the future rely on technology and art, agility and creativity, words and pictures that continue to foster action in a world of information overload and burgeoning desire for peace and tranquillity.

Maria Twigge, Research Director – FlexMR