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Editor’s Note: A Blurring of Boundaries

One hot topic within the user-experience and usability professions, as UX readers understand it, is how we relate to the worlds of marketing, market research, marketing communications, and branding. Almost all of our sister/brother professions—like industrial/product design, user-interface/interaction design, graphic/visual design, and ethnography/social research—have faced a growing blurring of boundaries of profession-definitions, principles, and techniques. For example, some major industrial/product design firms, having extended their efforts into user-interface design (relabeled interaction design), have now moved toward service design and brand strategy as a path to continued successful practice. Other firms in the usability community find themselves competing with market research firms to conduct surveys, tests, and focus groups. Much is in motion, with subsequent commotion, and sometimes emotional responses.

For years, UPA and CHI communities kept marketing at a distance. CHI held its first special-interest group session on the subject in 2001, almost twenty years after its founding, inviting marketing professionals to speak about their interests and objectives. It was a unique opportunity to learn what our different professions had in common, as well as what distinguished us. (I wrote about this in my Fast Forward Column, Interactions,11:5, September-October 2004, pp. 14-21.)

To my knowledge, UPA has yet to offer such a core session, although it has started to market the concept of marketing in its idea-innovation sessions. UPA’s involvement with Catalyze (, a professional portal seeking to bring together the communities of business analysts and user-experience professionals, has potent content and links, but Catalyze, too, has no specific top-level references to marketing and market research.

The future lies wide open for new discussions, debates, and relationships with market research firms and organizations. One way to begin to understand and build bridges to this world is to discuss the topic in these pages. Not every major challenge or question can be addressed, but guest editor J.O. Bugental has done an admirable job of collecting substantial, knowledgeable contributors who will give you much to consider. Where you go next is up to you. Read on, learn, and enjoy.