Roxana Galusca & Kristen Shirkey

Roxana is a Senior User Researcher at Llamasoft. Kristen is a UX Designer at Grainger.


UX for Social Change: Re-deploying UX Methodologies for Social Justice

10:30 AM–11:20 AM

This presentation draws on speakers’ experiences as UX professionals working on a variety of social justice issues, from homelessness to gender and civil rights. Using insights from participatory design, we argue that UX professionals have the right skills and are perfectly positioned to work with marginalized communities to support changes from within these communities.

To exemplify our theoretical points, we will describe our work in projects such as the Homeless Design Project, the Working World economic justice initiative, and the Voters not Politicians program. In all of the above cases, we used UX research methodologies to understand the experiences of various marginalized communities and design for social and economic justice.

What our presentation showcases are how we repurposed the UX toolkit to engage with communities that are usually not at the center of tech development, such as communities of color, low-income communities, and homeless individuals. Far from suggesting that tech can solve complex socio-economic problems, we focus instead on the process itself of researching and designing with such communities in mind and to effect social change. Creating for the marginalized, we argue, is similar to designing “mobile-first,” in that it forces the critical perspective of what’s essential and ends up benefiting the larger whole.


Roxana Galusca is a Sr. User Researcher at Llamasoft in Ann Arbor. She has led and conducted research studies in academic, non-profit, and corporate contexts. She enjoys exploring and innovating new qualitative methodologies and is most passionate about Participatory Design (PD) approaches. She sometimes puts back her academic hat and writes on a variety of issues from social media and electoral politics to UX research in underrepresented communities.

Kristen is a UX Designer at Grainger and recently moved from Detroit to Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance and a Master of Science in Information degree, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. Kristen uses her heuristic evaluation expertise to help groups like Voters Not Politicians make their website more user-friendly. She actively pursues ways to use her skills to help make the world a better place. Feel free to come to talk to her about Harry Potter and how the story gets more relevant every day."

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