One-Year-Later Self-Reflection on Research’s Role in Design

Since I started my study in Human-Centered Design and looked into Experience Design job market, I have noticed the skill, which I have deeply believed should be the most crucial skill for delivering great experience design, is not commonly emphasized in experience designer’s job descriptions. As you can tell from reading my 1-year-old post, this observation brought shock, confusion, and disorientation to that 1-year-younger-me.

Recently, I have re-read my old post and tried to understand my thought process behind the anxiety, I started asking myself, “Why did you care about identifying-problems skill that much? Do you still think so after one year?” I didn’t have a clear answer when I started asking myself the first question; I knew the answer was there, but vague. So I put it in the back of my head, as usual, keep getting back to it, trying to pull my real thoughts out.

The answer was finally getting clear, after I figured out, when I said “problem”, I meant “needs”.

So, why do I define “identifying needs” as the top priority skill that I should focus on? It depended on my understanding of Experience Design. So, you may then wonder what is my version of Experience Design’s definition? While there may be thousand various versions defined by professionals in this field and related fields, mine, essentially, is — to deliver experience. What experience? — The experience that human has been needing, wanting, curious, or dreaming of. Among all of needs and desires, some of them can be explicitly requested, some can be sensed without well verbalized, some are even hidden underneath of consciousness. Above all, the ability of “identifying needs” is the key. Research techniques are tools helping designers to discover needs. Both, for instances, seeing insight through observing and interpreting appearance and representations and planning interview sessions that can win participants’ trust and enable them feel naturally to share the true needs and motivations are approaches. Besides, formal research sessions may not applicable, but techniques in research can also be used to collect business requirements, technique constrains, and extra contextual information. It is the foundation of design, guiding every single design decision making.

So, do I still think so after one year? I may have already answered implicitly — Yes. After one year, after gaining more knowledge and practical experience in the field as a experience designer, I still think “identifying needs” is one of essential skills for experience designers. And, surprisingly, I believe in it even more. As we, human, becomes more conscious of experience, being satisfied in needs that are explicitly requested (functional product) will become a general bottom line, and the demand in getting needs and desires fulfilled that are subtle, hidden underneath of consciousness may increase; similar to the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

While “identifying needs” is essential, of course, delivering proper experience design is composed of another crucial piece, which is creating solutions (solving problems).

Thank you all for spending time reading my post, and it’s very nice meeting you. I’ve been reading articles on Medium since I started my study in product experience design. I appreciate the knowledge and experience shared by every single professional in the experience design field, and being motivated and excited to share what I’ve observed and thoughts emerging along my learning and practicing. Please feel free to share any feedbacks and comments with me. It would be a wonderful learning process for me!

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