Design Research: Getting to know Your Users

Part of “Breakthroughs: Where Inspiration and Technology Meet,” a members-only webinar series designed by Adobe and AIGA

Design research—an investigation based on empathy, insight and understanding—is a fundamental element of building successful digital experiences. Using established methodologies borrowed from other fields such as anthropology and psychology, design research helps designers discover what tasks people accomplish with digital services and devices, where they want to perform these tasks and what kind of information they need to complete them.

In this session, Shiloh Barnat, vice president of interaction design at Lokion Interactive, and Adobe expert Sharma Hendel explored design research tools and tactics used to create successful screen-based experiences including:

  • Personas
  • Mental models
  • Stories and scenarios
  • Contextual inquiry
  • User interviews
  • Experience maps
  • Quantitative versus qualitative research

This webinar was recorded on June 20, 2012. Watch this session.


Shilo BarnatShiloh Barnat is vice president of interaction design at Lokion Interactive in Memphis. Since joining Lokion in 2005, Shiloh has cultivated a thriving IxD practice including introducing the region’s first dedicated usability lab, a growing team of IxD professionals and products like Thinkfactory and Buzzwatch. Barnat’s past work includes a stint at the University of San Francisco, where she pioneered distance education by introducing and supporting online certification programs. Since arriving in Memphis, she has conducted strategic brainstorming, audience research, information architecture, interaction design and usability studies for clients like ALSAC / St. Jude, AutoZone, FedEx, GE, HGTV, International Paper, Nokia and Viking Range.

Sharma HendelSharma Hendel, PhD, has twelve years of experience with software strategic planning, design and empirical research to investigate user behavior. She came into user research by way of academia, with a PhD in Cognitive Science. After five years of conducting design research at Microsoft–(most notably, on Office 2007)–Dr. Hendel moved to Adobe in 2005 to work on Creative products, spending the last seven years combining her interest in customer research with a desire to design more intuitive experiences. In her current role, Dr. Hendel is both a designer and a researcher, managing a team of 11 people who help develop customer-centric strategy across all of Adobe's products, including the design for Creative Cloud. 

Callie Neylan 200pxSession moderator Callie Neylan is a designer, researcher and writer who has worked in visual and interaction design for renowned design firms Gensler and Teague, and nonprofit media organization NPR. She has served as adjunct faculty at the University of Washington and the Maryland Institute College of Art, teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses in design. She is an award-winning designer whose work has been recognized by Communication Arts, I.D. and AIGA, and featured in The New York Times, Fast Company and on Gizmodo. Callie holds an MFA in design from the University of Washington in Seattle and is currently an assistant design professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

About this series

This second “Breakthroughs” webinar series will focus on designing for mobile. Developed jointly by Adobe and AIGA, the series will explore the ways that today’s studios are creating innovative, multi-platform experiences as well as the tools they are using to achieve them. Each session helps you learn new techniques and methodologies that will ensure success when adding mobile to your design repertoire.

Presenting sponsor

Adobe 65pxAdobe Systems, Inc. is proud to be the Official AIGA Sponsor for Design Solutions. Together with AIGA, Adobe is creating innovative programs that give members a voice, nurture young designers and actively engage the creative community in dialogues about the important issues in the fields of design and technology.