Can and will UX designers take on more global roles?


Hello uxmastery! My name is Trey and I just started getting into UX design. Right now I’m pretty much learning UX by self study. The past few days I can’t help but get excited because I finally realized that design & design thinking is amazingly beautiful. In realizing this, all of these questions about what a UX designer can achieve keep running through my head.

Can UX designers take on reforming the school system to make better curriculums? Maybe even find ways to better educate people in third world countries or help bring some type of infrastructure to impoverished areas. The roles that can be taken in health care, this an article I recently read How Bad UX Killed Jenny. Where were designers when NYC built their subways? Why aren’t they accessible for everybody? All of those to me barely scratch the surface on what can be explored.

I guess a better question to ask might be: How can UX designers use design thinking to help shape the world and how can design thinking be facilitated into these organizations looking to make a change?

In High Resolution’s interview with Jared Spool, Jared Spool briefly speaks on how the focus of your product or service should be how is it going to make a change in the world. When he said that it really brought those questions I asked earlier back to the forefront of my mind.

Am I confusing the realm of a UX designer with something else?
Would another phase of UX design be taking on more global roles outside of the digital space, if not, why? If so, are we currently doing this?
Is that a role UX designers can fit in or is that role better suited for other areas of design?

What are your thoughts?


Every year of the last few decades I have read similar articles by many different types of specialist. From 1980, I can still remember pleas for better design and engineering in relation to Flixborough, Three Mile Island and American Airlines 191.

It is admirable to want to improve the world and to think of others. Just be aware of the limitations of your specialty.

The “user” paradigm is only one of many ways we can think about the world around us. These conceptual models all have weaknesses and limitations. The same applies to “design” and “engineering” and whatever.

When you apply such concepts to eveything you invariably overextend yourself and fail. So as long you understand the limitations of the conceptual model you are using then you have a better chance to avoid the problems created by applying it.


No, not really. I think we are all responsible for cultural and social change, and if this industry gives us a platform from which to do that, fantastic.


Wow! Amazing thread. So many questions I don’t know where to start.

I think the answer is yes, but they can’t do it alone. Many people aren’t even aware that UX even exists, much less how powerful it can be. I believe that that is the first step, educating people so that they are aware.

Remah’s example about Three Mile Island is, unfortunately, a perfect example. As was said in a book club thread, “To design effectively, we must accept people for who they are rather than who we wish them to be.” (I don’t know if I’m quoting @docBOOM herself or if she was quoting Don Norman, but it’s awesome!)

Whoever designed the switches and stuff at Three Mile Island obviously had no idea that something like UX Design was even a possibility. :frowning: The good news is that people are learning, some faster than others, but they’re learning.

I think that people like you are going to help people learn. :slight_smile:



Wow, I’m not familiar with any of those incidents. I need to look into those! I think you hit a great point that I wasn’t thinking of. Sounds silly but, I was really only looking at what barriers can possibly be broken and not thinking about knowing the limitations of what you do. Hopefully we can start building teams that can help with that


Even with just starting to learn UX, I still don’t think I’ve gotten a grasp on how powerful UX can be!

I’m so happy that you posted that link in the comment because I actually bought that book recently, but I’m currently reading other UX books and now I’m even more excited to start Don Norman’s book

It’s weird, a part of me currently feels like designers just need to bum-rush the stage of these fields and say “we’re here too!” to let people know that they are valuable. Another part of me is thinking “maybe they just need to keep course and steer straight picking up those along the way”. As you said, they’re learning. I think as long as they are learning, it’s a step somewhere.
Oh god, imagine designers going full on Planet of the Apes! lol

Aw man I have so much to learn. It’s exciting!