Design Research Lead


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Is your superpower translating business questions into human-centered ones to uncover insights that inform the design process and potential futures? 

Thrive on driving impact at scale – at the design organization, global enterprise, and societal level? 

If the answers are ‘yes’, this may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.  

Our Client’s Design Organization 

Our client’s design organization is human-centered and at the cutting edge of the company’s most strategically critical work, designing people’s and society’s needs into the heart of the company’s next generation of products, services and experiences, and they are designing at scale.  The ultimate goal is to design new products, services and ventures that customers love, and that drive business profitability. 

Position Overview 

Our client is seeking Design Research Leads (DRLs) who are pioneers versus settlers and catalysts versus agitators to guide teams through a journey of human-centered research to uncover insights that contribute to all phases of the design process. They will champion the voice of the user and will leverage inspiration to discover hidden opportunities. Design Research works with Design Strategy to translate stakeholders business questions into human-centered ones. DRLs develop multi-method, qualitative research plans interwoven with design sprints and apply Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design discovery methodologies to their sense-making. They devise tangible ways to communicate discovered insights and understanding, effectively modifying the discourse with stakeholders and helping them understand potential futures.

What you’ll do (among other things)

  • Lead interdisciplinary teams through the design process, where collaboration is imperative. 
  • Design and plan research, including recruiting users, experts, analogous companies and services. 
  • Experiment with different tools and methods. 
  • Use methods such as observation, analogous research, concept evaluation, and participatory design. 
  • Design inspirational research experiences for your project team. 
  • Synthesize research findings and unearth systems-level patterns and frameworks. 
  • Partner with other disciplines to develop visual aids for research, e.g. flashcards, storyboards. 
  • Create research stimuli to support understanding user needs and test assumptions. 
  • Facilitate research events such as co-creation workshops. 
  • Conduct external benchmarking to inform the design research plan. 
  • Develop personas, user profiles, design principles and creative storytelling tools. 
  • Make research findings relevant and impactful for design through a variety of formats such as decks, videos, experiences and exhibits. 
  • Test concepts and prototypes, and iterate the design based on user feedback. 
  • Provide direction and vision around research approach and deliverables. 
  • Balance team autonomy and guidance. 
  • Help ensure critiques and key check-ins are scheduled and well organized. 
  • Manage research budget, including participant compensation. 
  • Communicate research to internal stakeholders and external partners. 
  • Support development of the Design Research practice across the community 

What you’ll bring  

The ideal candidate will be/have:

  • Comfortable with complexity and ambiguity —finding opportunities and clear paths to complex future challenges in ambiguous environments 
  • The courage to be provocative and the curiosity to make connections that enable people to move more freely 
  • Radically collaborative, solving problems with teams across the organization 
  • The resilience to navigate constant change and the agility to pivot to a different direction based on other team members’ work 
  • The empathy, humility, and patience to meet the organization where it is on its transformation journey and to lead in a high-growth and constantly changing environment, which may not provide academically optimal contexts 
  • Comfortable facilitating senior stakeholder discussions as a trusted advisor 
  • Exceptional communication and diplomacy skills to challenge the status quo and current understanding of the problems 
  • Inspired by others’ unique stories 

What you’ll need 

  • Bachelor’s degree in social, behavioral, or cognitive sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology) or other research-oriented disciplines within Humanities, Cultural studies, Political Science, Business, or Design 
  • 7+ years of qualitative research (and consultant) experience  
  • A sound ability to lead a team, scope a research process, lead fieldwork, and conduct interviews and user feedback sessions with working prototypes. 
  • 2+ years’ experience leading highly collaborative teams in human-centered design. 
  • Experience applying research insights to products, services, and experiences. 


  • Master’s or PhD degree in social, behavioral, or cognitive sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology) or other research-oriented disciplines within Humanities, Cultural studies, Political Science, Business, or Design 
  • 10+ years of qualitative research (and consultant) experience 
  • Experience using design thinking principles or methods 
  • Experience as a researcher in a design context 
  • Experience working with engineering and design teams 
  • Passion for the automotive and transportation industry 
  • Experience designing and/or facilitating group collaboration workshops 

Work Authorization 

Candidates must be legally authorized to work in the United States on a permanent basis. Verification of employment eligibility will be required at the time of hire. Visa sponsorship is not available for this position. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Our client is an equal opportunity employer committed to a culturally diverse workforce. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status or protected veteran status. 

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