Designers who Research and Researchers who Research


How do folks balance the tension between the researcher as the primary researcher and designers who are doing research to better understand what to design for? That is, what is the researcher’s unique value add; or, why do we need UX reseach as a specialty?

To focus this topic: how have folks collaborated with designers who are also doing research?

[Edit 1: typo]


I’ve written a bit about that here:
“Defending Specialization — Strengthening Our Craft” @Kel_Moran

Would love to hear other’s thoughts.


That is such an excellent question!

That article is great @Kelly-elly! Thank you for sharing that.

UX Designers conducting research originally were researchers who struggled to find work doing research because the market did hold value on it. That’s changed now which is great and tbh why this community emerged (woohoo!)

UX Designers are from such broad backgrounds that you never know what type of structure there might be from their research efforts, graphic designers even more so.

If you come from a design education, you will always be encouraged to research and understand your subject, from that perspective I think it’s all good. I see the greatest tension coming from the difference in how the findings are documented, analysed and presented to others.

My experiences have been that most designers, unknowingly most of the time, bias there reporting / findings to prove their hypothesis of how/why something should be made in the way they had already determined they wanted to go. In contrast people with research backgrounds on the whole are more driven to remove bias and not provide any direction at all with the understanding that their role was to gather intelligence and not make recommendations based on it.


This is the most painful part of many of my jobs, being the “UX” of interaction design or agile teams, and being regularly told I’m not needed because the designers do it. Only the product people and designers… they tend to do exactly this. So when I come in and tell everyone none of the users I worked with liked or even understood X project I get drowned out with a volume of work that is fundamentally flawed.

Then I get branded either the bad guy or the incompetent.


This is a very pertinent topic for me. I’m the only researcher in my “department”, so I work across streams and I’m part of the design “chapter”.
In my case, me and the design lead have actually been talking about this topic, but from the perspective of how I, as a researcher, can help designers do their jobs better while focusing on facts and research findings rather than on their own or their managers’ biases.
One thing that we have sort of agreed on being a potentially good way forward is for me to focus on bigger, more generative research projects while helping to provide some guidance for the designers to do more evaluative testing on their own and light, bite-sized research with a goal of validating their work and the impact it has.
Right now I’m looking into drafting some sort of product research roadmap that shows what kind of research should be done at what stage, that will help not only with having research on the forefront of product owners minds but also help push forward the notion that designers can and should do their own research, but with a lense of validating their own work, both for themselves and as one way to prove the business and their managers what the impact of their work is.
This very much work in progress, so happy to hear what others have to say on this approach!


Hi @Kelly-elly,

I enjoyed your article, thank you for sharing it!

Specialization and collaborating enable researchers and designers to both be more productive. But there’s also a need to differentiate, and I think that’s where the addition of skills comes in – you are more unique the more skills you have. But then the more skills you have, the less you use any one of those skills. Finding the right way to balance a broad skill set and unique contribution is not easy. Related to this are ‘democratization of UX’ supporters who want more people to add UX skills, rather than wanting UX people to add more UX skills. But they find themselves in the same place: specialization and collaboration are more productive.

One specific observation I have is on a remark toward the end of your article that research and design skills are complementary. I would be more precise: they are complementary to product success, but they are substitutes for each other.

Thanks for joining the discussion and sharing your article.

[Edit 1: markdown formatting]


This great blog post by Will Myddleton might help he nails it!


Yeah that’s a great article by Will Middleton. I especially like, “Most people only change their mind when they experience things themselves.” Very true. You can’t just throw research over the wall, or thump a findings report on someone’s desk. And still, having an experienced researcher guiding the team makes the team’s work valuable.