Wait, What Do You Do?

I am on a quest. A journey to find my tribe of professionals doing the work I am passionate about. At this point in my career, I have a clear understanding of where I want to go--as well as the things I don't want to be doing. As I set the course for my trajectory, the terminology is fuzzy and ever-shifting. 

I am mediating the balance between using terms people are familiar with (but might misunderstand) and inventing a new descriptor of my skills. Research-based strategy is what holds my interest. I believe that deep investigation should determine the end product--not the other way around. This process should sometimes leads to an app, other times an object, other times a service system, or even an organizational restructuring (because often external user pains are simply caused by internal breakdowns). In my current position, output most often looks like cross-departmental workshops, internal documents (pdfs and presentations) and business tools such as a content marketing strategy with implementation plans. It also it looks like more traditional UX Research and UX Design for our company website. Is there a term that expresses the breath of this umbrella of aptitudes? 


A survey of my attempts at descriptors: 

In Grad school: Design Researcher, Design Thinker, Transformation Designer, Information Designer, Information Interaction Designer, Systems Thinker, Product Service System Designer, Experience Designer, Facilitator, Creative Problem Solver…Innovation Expert? 

In recent years: User Experience Designer, Design Researcher, Curriculum Designer, Design Educator, User Experience Strategist, Consumer Insights Strategist, Product Designer, Content Strategist, Brand Strategist, Marketer…Universalist.  

Because I believe obsessing over discovery makes a better output. Because I love a big, tangled juicy problem to investigate. Because people are messy and systems are messy, and relationships, groups, organizations, products, technology are all one big mess needing constant innovation. For me, the highest satisfaction is found in discovering a root cause that is driving something undesirable in the system—these are wildly powerful. A nugget of truth, once exposed, can shift a paradigm. The mere act of bringing these deeply embedded hidden truths to the light often lends itself to an elegant solution.

It is often said that the best design solutions seem ‘obvious.’ But designing the obvious only exists when we have the best understanding of the complexity of people, process and problems driving the system. Triangulating research into real, actionable strategies with roadmaps. That is my jam.  

So, is there a term to describe this obsession? I’m not sure yet. For now, I’ll keep plugging away, doing my thing.  

Karen Whistler