Senior Design Researcher


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Job title: Senior Design Researcher

Work Location: Remote at least until Mar 2022, but preference for those currently living in or willing to relocate to Chicago, IL

Role: Open to both Full-time or Contract

Reports to: Director, Design Research & Strategy



Highland is a digital product and innovation consultancy based in Chicago. We research, design, and build digital products and experiences for mission-driven organizations and customer-centric companies. Over 21 years, our team of researchers, strategists, designers, and developers has helped organizations launch over 260 digital products, turning their biggest uncertainties into opportunities for growth.

We often refer to what we design as ‘Experiences that Matter’: digital products and experiences that make the world a better place to live in. We primarily work with leaders of mid-market services companies and corporate innovation labs at large companies.

Our mission is rooted in Human Flourishing—inspired by research conducted at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. We design our work to help human beings flourish, while allowing ourselves to flourish as well. For us, our values—People First, Give a Damn, Be Curious, and Be Transparent—are not just things to hang on the wall, but something we live by every day and call each other out on.

The Design Research & Strategy (DRS) practice is led by David Whited and Amrita Kulkarni, nurturing a team with previous lives in music, theology, architecture, philosophy, industrial design, and many others. We read books together, challenge each other, question everything, rumble with vulnerability, and live human everyday.


Project Context

Highland serves clients at every stage in their journey—from early stage, generative research all the way to new product launch. The Senior Design Researcher plays a key role in many parts of that process:

Project-related Responsibilities

  • Research Approaches: Able to craft original Design Research and 3-5 methods for each project context.
  • Research Operations: Work with the team to define Research Plans, Recruitment, Screeners, Field/Discussion Guides, etc. as needed for projects.
  • Primary Research: Confident in complex user research facilitation, debrief across project contexts.
  • Synthesis: Able to design synthesis approaches and coach team through sense-making, Guiding Principles, Design Directives, & Frameworks.
  • Deliverables: Craft compelling narratives with project story, outcomes, and opportunities. Manage project/client timelines, deliverables, & budget as needed.
  • Client Relationships: Cultivate meaningful client relationships through insightful interactions, confident facilitation, & thought clarity.
  • Strategic Design: Clarify value propositions, business models, product concepts, service blueprints, and other foundational components of new experiences.

Coaching & Teaching the Process

  • Mentorship: Devote time to guide and support the team/client through the value of Design Thinking approaches.
  • Discerning: Able to communicate confidently and distinguish between generative, evaluative, & co-creation research, analysis & synthesis, market research & Design Research, expressed wants & unexpressed needs, problems & opportunities.

Participating in the Wider Dialogue

  • Radiator: Radiating stories and work from Highland through webinars, blogs, lectures, papers, & presentations.
  • Connector: Connecting the dots across industry happenings, inviting participation with Highlanders.
  • Networker: Nurturing a growing network of mentors, peers, mentees, and other creatives in the industry.
  • Sharer: Sharing learnings, insights, and observations from events, reading, networks, and other professional experiences with wider DRS + PD team.
  • Initiator: A sparker of ideas, questionner of the status quo, and participator in initiatives within DRS and across Highland.

Developing Yourself

  • Empathic: Able to understand and feel others’ point of view seamlessly.
  • Observant: Able to notice immediate surrounding and discern subtle behavioral cues, trends and patterns.
  • Conceptual: Able to grasp and communicate intangible concepts
  • Self-aware: Deep understanding of self, knowing one’s own boundaries, dispositions, and tendencies.
  • Associative: Able to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields
  • Systemic: Able to think big picture, beyond immediate context and issue across work/other work contexts.



The Senior Design Researcher embodies the Highland Values:

  • People First: What we make and how we work should make it a little bit better to be alive: for us, our clients, and their customers.
  • Be Curious: The big picture is everyone's responsibility. There is always more to learn. We are generous in teaching what we know.
  • Be Open: We respond to problems with solutions, not blame. Vulnerability, while risky, leads to trust and understanding. We're accountable to our clients and to each other. Even when things aren't going well.
  • Give a Damn: Our client's goals are our goals. We do work we can be proud of. Quality is non-negotiable.


We’d love to see:

  • A commitment to be unabashedly human, bringing your whole self to work
  • Self-awareness and knowledge of what you seek in your professional career
  • An ‘ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ mindset, ability to pivot quickly
  • Restless desire to learn and ample energy to try new things
  • Confident interpersonal skills and an impulse to co-create
  • Ability to think visually and a tendency to forget whose idea it was
  • Lack of fear to express opinions, question things, and suggest wild ideas
  • Self-motivation, constantly finding ways to contribute, able to manage ambiguity
  • Disposed to check-in with others frequently, willing to listen and learn from others
  • Able to demonstrate genuine concern and thoughtfulness for the well-being of others around you
  • Discerning and observant, able to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated worlds
  • Express yourself through a range of personal/professional interests, hobbies, and passions
  • Time-conscious and organized; able to inspire trust and confidence by meaning what you say


Education and Experience Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in Design, Architecture, Ethnography, or Humanities preferred.
    Other comparable training is acceptable.
  • 6+ years of proven experience.
  • At least 4 years of human-centered research or innovation consulting experience
  • Excellent written, visual, and verbal communication skills, with ability to communicate confidently and effectively with clients.
  • Skill in applied UX design and/or visual design is valued but not required.


Physical Requirements:

  • Ability to safely and successfully perform the essential job functions consistent with the ADA, FMLA and other federal, state and local standards, including meeting qualitative and/or quantitative productivity standards.
  • Ability to maintain regular, punctual attendance consistent with the ADA, FMLA and other federal, state and local standards.
  • Must be able to lift and carry up to 50 lbs.
  • Must be able to talk, listen and speak clearly on the telephone.



Full-time salary and benefits based on current market value.


Application Guidelines:

  • Click here to apply.
  • Please attach a professional resume.
  • Please share a PDF or website link of your portfolio giving us a detailed view of your process, team, responsibilities, decisions, and outcomes.
  • Instead of a cover letter, please answer any 3 questions from the below list:
    • What are some of your favorite arguments about Design Research?
    • Who has been your favorite manager at a job, and why?
    • What would your work colleagues say is your most admirable quality?
    • What are some unexpressed needs you see hidden in plain sight across your daily life?
    • When you think about all of your academic experience, which was the most trajectory-setting course you ever took? Why?
    • What are two things within 10 feet of your laptop right now that tell a story about you?
    • What has been the biggest learning/failure of your professional life?
    • What has been the most favorite place you’ve ever lived? Why?
    • What object in your high school bedroom was the most foretelling of the person you would become?

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