In Search Of

Seven design researchers write about their odd and wonderful discoveries on the job.

Illustrations by Neven Raja Samara

Introduction by Denise Gershbein

Ask any seven designers their view of design research, and you will likely get seven different responses. Why that happens is up for interpretation. Some say it’s because different jobs require different goals. Others contend that it’s because we filter observations through our own life experiences. I say it’s because the world is full of surprises.

Whether it’s discovering Barbie dolls in dishwashers while finding out how people collect them or going undercover as a Girl Scout leader to understand the teenage mindset, the job of a design researcher is to uncover and illuminate something about the user experience that was previously unknown.

The best designers approach research without preconceptions. They are ready to absorb and integrate the obvious as well as the hidden, the stated and the unspoken, the ideal as well as the real. Design researchers are always moved by what they see, and it’s that serendipitous moment of discovery and illumination that lifts designer and user alike. The final outcome, whether it’s a product, a service, or a system, is far more meaningful and resonant because of the work we do.

What follows is a collection of stories from seven frog designers that offer a peek into a day in the life of a design researcher. Each tale illuminates those wonderful moments when observation becomes insight and our way of noticing the world is forever changed.