How Research Experience Informs Design Career
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In Chapter 9 of 18 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, interaction designer and researcher Lauren Serota shares how her design career has developed. After high school DJ and Music PR jobs, Serota attends Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to study industrial design. Over time she focuses on formative design stages, specifically design. After multiple early career jobs, she lands a design researcher job at Lextant. Serota is an interaction designer at frog design.


Erik: What informed your decision to choose design research as a career and how did you act on it? Lauren: So it wasn’t a decision that I knew I had made. I went to school for industrial design, and while I was studying industrial design, I knew I loved people. You know, I used to work in PR when I was in high school, and I DJ’d, I was always out, and I loved people, and I was thinking okay, we’re making these things and they’re beautiful, I have to understand how they look, but we’re making these things that ultimately are gonna get produced by the millions and people are gonna use, so I wanna learn more about the people component. So I took a lot of anthropology classes and did whatever I could to kind of broaden my understanding of culture while I was at SCAD to kind of complement my industrial design degree. And then I got out, and I had this – this portfolio that was a product design portfolio. It was a good product design portfolio, but instead of, you know, I had this much sketching and this much research, which was not what product design companies were looking for. They want somebody to sketch and produce beautiful renderings, and so I was kind of lost because I was like oh, well you know, I like the whole process. I didn’t realize I really liked the beginning, and at that time, I think it was, at least to my knowledge; it was more difficult to go into design research. A lot of consultancies even had people doing it but they didn’t have roles for it, and clients, totally, you know, they would have their consumer insights department doing things or their marketing department doing research. Design research hadn’t gotten over this hump of common recognition so I didn’t know there was an opportunity for me to do that, so I kind of floundered around a little bit and did a bunch of – a bunch of things in my career that ended up being extremely beneficial, you know, I worked as a recruiter, I worked with a trend research company, and then finally, I was presented an opportunity to join Lextant as a design researcher, and I thought ‘oh, that’s exactly what I wanna do.’ It’s the beginning part of the process that I always knew I loved, but I didn’t know that I’d be able to find a role just doing that. I think, as it was becoming more of a normal thing for consultancies to hire this type of person, I was getting a little more experience and it came just at the right time for me. And then in terms of coming into Frog, it was really beneficial that I had that experience because I also had this design background, so. Then I really understood that design research alone isn’t – it’s a skill set, and it’s a variety of things you can apply, but ultimately, it’s just one kind of piece of a bigger designer puzzle, you know. So ideally, in one – you know, at some point in time, I’d love to be in a role where I can do design research, interactive design, and visual design. I’m not very good at visual design right now, but I think that all of those things play really well together, but right now, they’re a little bit segmented in the industry. So it’s gone from being like I don’t know what it is to like this isolated thing and now kind of into this part of a bigger role.