User researchers of product design of physical goods?



Hi guys, I’m extremely new; I’m just learning about all of this. I have a question, I hope you can help me with it: does the job title “user researcher” only exist in digital product (apps, sotfware, websites…) design companies or does it also exist in product design of physical goods companies?

Thanks in advance guys :slight_smile:?


It can be applied to digital goods, physical good, or processes.

There is definitely a limitation, however, in that some programs really emphasize what Don Norman calls “pixel twiddling”. If the educational background is really hyper-focused on the interface design portion, sometimes the translation to other processes is a bit harder.

However, there does seem to be a constant push within the field to keep from defining UX as the design of interfaces. This is partially shown in the increase of distinction between UX Designers and UX Researchers, but many organizations don’t really understand or discriminate between the two.

For the record, that distinction is one of the things that’s driving my job search. As an engineer, I’m not nearly as competitive in purely software side of things, trained in analysis and experimentation, not design.


Thanks, that’s really useful! If anyone else has something more to add I’d really appreciate it :grinning:!

The thing is, each time I browse about “user researchers” I only find information related to digital products. I’m sure that theoretically it can be applied to the three, but it seems like there is NO job market for user researchers in physical goods and service design projects. I might be wrong; like I said, I’m just starting to learn about this. What do you think?


This could be the problem. Rather than searching for UX or user researchers you could go down another path. Try ‘system design’ or ‘healthcare design’ or something similar. Don Norman designed healthcare systems and wrote prolifically about it.


Another useful area to look at would be under “service design”. If you’re looking into the science of it all, “human factors” is a good tag to start with, as well.

If there are particular areas of consideration you want to know more about, feel free to ask me and I might be able to find some good references for you.


Thank you HAWK and treyroady. So UX design is exclusively regarding digital products? That’s a question I’ve also had, and it seemed to me your answers implied that.

I’ll look up the terms you’ve mentioned :slightly_smiling_face:.


No no no no no. It’s definitely not. But it is commonly used (and often misunderstood) in that way.


Oh wow HAWK! I was starting to think that it was. So you mean that UX design also covers physical goods and services as well? Can you please share me some links that talk about UX design outside the realm of digital products? I had searched about it and didn’t find anything.

Thank you guys!


Also try “industrial design” (that’s what my degree is in!) and “applied ergonomics” :slight_smile:


Andy Vitale talks about treating culture as a UX design challenge.

Don Norman’s design lab apply a human-centric approach to redesigning healthcare

Natalie Eustace looks at the UX of everyday things

As does Don Norman in The Design of Everyday Things

That should give you somewhere to start, as will Trey and Ash’s suggestions.


Thank you guys for your links and terms. You’re very kind and helpful! I looked up a bit regarding what you guys have mentioned and the links.

OK, the following is something very vague I understand about UX: Research is done on potential users. Designs are made centered on the user, with the help of information gathered from research. The product is developed based on the designs.

I know it’s more complex than that, but I understand those three are key roles of UX: research, design, and development. Now, I understand that it isn’t uncommon for there to be a person, or team, devoted only to research, and it isn’t uncommon as well that people that work on research aren’t designers. Does that type of research job profile exist regarding for example the design of physical goods? I mean a non-designer that researches the potential users, their customs and needs, and whose resulting information will help the design process.


I’m loving this conversation. I’m learning so much!


You need this:


I came from product design (physical goods). As Ashlea mentioned it’s often referred to as Industrial Design. There aren’t as many people devoted solely to research as there are in UX. Generally, the designer or design team does it as a part of the design process. We tend to have smaller teams so we’re not as siloed. Even bigger design firms may not have the bandwidth for a dedicated research team unless they’re in applied ergonomics or a similar specialty.

Core 77 is a great place to check out the world of product design. The student forum is a good place to poke around for info.

I hope that helps.


Thank you guys once more.

That link was very useful HAWK. And tcsfo, you’re answer was very clear. Core77 was a great suggestion, I’m using their forum as well :slight_smile:.


sometimes the term ‘product designer’ is used both for software and hardware system design


Glad to help, I hope it works out for you.