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The Life of a Design Researcher

Meet Julia, an incredible person with a really cool job. Ever wonder how companies know what products to make next, or how to improve their current products. Read on to learn what type of person finds these things out.

How would you describe your job?

I am a design researcher for Milwaukee Tool, where I go out to construction sites to talk to and observe users to identify opportunities for new products.

What does your day to day look like?

On research intensive days, I am going from jobsite to jobsite meeting with tradesmen and watching them work, and I am taking in their pain points and motivators for a specific task. On analysis heavy days, I am in the office sorting through all the research data on the computer or on sticky notes and synthesizing the information into actionable insights. Some days I do a mix of both.

How did you end up in your job/field?

Habitat for Humanity was my first exposure to the dynamic construction industry. I knew I wanted to be a design researcher because I loved systematic problem solving, but it wasn't until I found Milwaukee Tool that I was able to re-invigorate that excitement about construction.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that the user is the main focus of most of the decisions in my department. It's not uncommon to hear in a meeting, "What would the users think about that?". It's also nice not being stuck in an office all the time. Seeing how buildings come together is pretty fascinating.

What is your favorite example of a well engineered or well designed thing?

Daisy Sour Cream came out with a new squeeze container about a year ago. It seems like a simple product change, but they identified the pain point of people dirtying a spoon to use their sour cream. Up until then, their packaging and their competition's packaging was stagnant, and they were able to differentiate themselves through their new design.

What’s something you think people need to fix?

The airline boarding process for people who use wheelchairs. This was one of many issues that came up during my thesis project that people who use wheelchairs face while flying. I could go on forever about this one.

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