Design Research Portfolio

A couple of weeks ago I posted a thread asking about non consumer electronic companies that I could go into as a designer. I would like to thank anyone who replied with advice to that thread, you are all very helpful. After spending some time to think about where I want to go as a designer I have discovered that the part of design I have always enjoyed is the user research and identifying problems. With that said I would like to know if anyone has examples or advice on how to create a professional portfolio. I have probably contributed to maybe two intense professional user research projects in my career and one of them is around 90 pages of insights and user testing. I am not sure how to show this work in a condensed version. Also I was wondering about design research agencies, are there any out there that you know of (besides IDEO). Thanks!

Not an expert by any means but I’d imagine focusing on the key results, outcomes and insights, and telling a story about how you got there. I’m struggling with something similar, where I have an especially personal investment in the visual presentation of a ~30 page report publication. I think it becomes more compelling if the context of the research and publication are presented. Save yourself the headache later and be especially clear of what role you played, how you contributed, if it was decisive, etcetera. And of course, share with us and get better feedback as you figure it out!


There was something floating around on the internet on what IDEO looks for when hiring, try searching for it, if I come across it I will post it here.

Design Research portfolios are all about your process and how you synthesize data to uncover design actionable insights. If I was reviewing your work I would be looking for evidence that you have gotten out into the world to observe people in context to really start to understand how they live, work, play, etc… From there I would want to know that you don’t just report back what you saw, but rather synthesize and interpreter what you are seeing into opportunity to improve their live, solve problems, and bring joy to activities. To be a great DESIGN researcher, you have to know how to understand the emotional connections and challenges of the consumer. Emotion is what pulls us apart from other research functions such as Market Research.

I would also be looking at how you conduct research. Great researches get creative on designing research and learning plans to be tailored to the specific needs of the study. No matter how you plan your study, I would expect for the study to be 1) in context, 2) stimulus used for learning, 3) people focused and not product focused.

I hope this helps. Throw some work up in the boards and we will be happy to give you feedback.


A Design Studio is an intense ideation session used by development teams to generate a range of potential design solutions to a problem. By bringing together a multidisciplinary team, a Design Studio ensures that all voices and disciplines are heard in the design process instead of relegating design to a single, genius designer.

If you participated in a well-run Design Studio, you would first hear a summary of the user research that had been done up to that point and arrive at a shared understanding of the user needs and the business constraints. Next, you would work alone or with a partner to sketch potential design solutions as many as possible. (The focus is on quantity rather than quality). After 30 minutes or so, you place your designs on the wall and present them to the group for critique, describing how each of your sketches solves the design problem. Once all the designs have been presented, the sketching process repeats with teams iterating on the most promising ideas.

That’s the theory, anyway. Visit