Differences between design research and UX research?

Hi everyone. Nice to meet you guys. I’m new here. I hope you can help me with a question I have.

I’ve found a lot of information on the Web about “design research” and “UX resarch”. Is there a difference or are they two names for the same referent? Here are just one blog post of each one:

Design research: A Day in the Life of a Design Researcher | ideo.com

UX research: Blog | UserTesting

Really hope you can help me with my question. Thanks in advance :slight_smile:.

Short answer:
They’re the same.

Longer answer:
Titles that describe design professionals’ roles (especially researchers’ roles) can vary from shop to shop. These titles describe very similar roles and activities: performing research in support of new product development.

The examples you linked describe research activities typical to the beginning of a development process that emphasizes designing to meet human needs and behaviors. People who have those titles (UX Researcher, Design Researcher, etc.) likely practice multiple methods of research based on how far along the development process is. Further along the process these same people might be testing prototypes with users to validate that the embodiment of the design vision performs as defined by the underlying needs research.

They are similar, but not necessarily the same.

Both describe researchers who may use similar methods for understanding the motivators that drive the design physical or software products.

Design Researchers will typically work with traditional ID environments. UX researchers typically will focus more on companies that build software products.

Some of their methods are identical but some pieces are more unique if you are working with hardware or software as your primary business. Likewise you will also see Human Factors engineers which may overlap with some design research activities like prototyping and usability evaluations.

Thank you so much guys! You made it so clear.

Good call: UX usually refers to realms that are more software-heavy than hardware heavy.

@Gerardo: glad it was helpful!

What I would consider design research is more foundational. Typically done at the upfront of a design process (hardware or software) and will involve some or all of the following:

  • ethnographic sessions
  • retail intercepts
  • online user review synthesis
  • professional review synthesis
  • aesthetic trend scraping
  • tech trend scraping
  • category/industry trend scraping

A good design research output will synthesize all of these inputs into a concise set of recommendations or insights in an executive overview. That deck might include key opportunity areas and use cases for a potential product. This will then feed the hardware/software design and engineering teams when exploring archetypes, feature set, product specs etc… that then will feed into the product design process (hardware or software)

I consider UX research to come after that when refining use cases, then later in the design process to test interaction models.

To put it not suscinclty, design research is more broad (it can also be more expensive and more easily skipped, a fully immersed team can do most of it on the go, gurilla style). UX research tends to be more tactical, testing based, and empirical. Those are broad statements of course, the line between them blurs and people missuse terms all the time.

In essence they are the same, UX just insinuates that the outcome of the process will be a digitally mediated experience.
A design researcher often works in a larger context of society and an academic community and is more knowledge-oriented though I am generalizing a bit.

One difference that we also see is because design researchers typically work in a larger context, they can start to work by implementing design solutions a priori in the context before studying that context, establishing a research through design methodology. For example implementing interactive furniture in public spaces to study the effects on social behavior. While in UX typically it is more solution-testing oriented with single-user situations.

and don’t forget to look into IxD…

Thank you yo and ralphzoontjens. That’s really helpful :slight_smile:.