• Innovation
  • Recruitment

Psychographic recruitment for innovation and conception studies

Utilizing an innovative recruitment approach, we developed new concepts in collaboration with participants.


An automotive OEM was interested in new infotainment system concepts for future autonomous cars. Due to procurement restrictions on client side, the original study setup and budget were more suited for a standard UX test, rather than for a study design that would foster the creative atmosphere needed to address the OEM’s challenge. The study budget also did not allow for regular recruitment of “creative participants” based on socio-demographic aspects (e.g. people in creative jobs).


We proposed to reduce the number of participants and to increase the amount of time spent with each participant while adhering to the original study setup and budget (thereby avoiding issues with the client’s invoicing and purchase departments). The additional budget for recruitment we freed up by reducing the overall number of participants was used to recruit a more specific – and creative – group of participants utilizing psychographic criteria rather than socio-demographic factors.


The increased time spent in a simulative environment and the creative participant group resulted in the generation of several relevant and novel feature concepts. This will help the OEM to create a more innovative proposition for future infotainment systems in autonomous vehicles.

Pitching for a creative project with sub-optimal framework

Our client (similar to many OEMs) contracts agencies through the procurement department. This means agencies must adhere to the methodological approach provided by the OEM and cannot propose alternative methods that the agency feels may better answer the research question. However, once the contract has been awarded, agencies often get a certain amount of freedom to tweak certain aspects of the study method if it stays within the originally specified budget.

Participants for concept and innovation studies are usually recruited from “the creative crowd”, though you don’t recruit this crowd by asking people if they are ‘creative’. Instead, we recruit from creative professions. However, recruiting based on job description is a time consuming and costly enterprise as this groups is usually highly sought after for UX and innovation research. Many are also either unwilling or unable (due to time constraints or employer policy) to participate in research/innovation projects. Therefore, recruiting these participants relying on their job title was not a viable option in this project.

Using psychographic recruitment helped increase outcome quality on a limited budget.

Psychographic recruitment based on personal drivers

Fortunately, we have an Employee Experience team that uses a method to identify the qualities we sought for the study that would align with our budget: The team frequently uses the analysis of personal drivers to create a better understanding of employee needs and requirements for HR and management. Employees rate the contribution of aspects of their work towards their personal job satisfaction. Using those ratings, we build individual profiles which facilitate a better understanding of what needs to be done to increase employee loyalty and happiness (and ultimately productivity). Our team has applied this method across several industries from insurance and administrative work to engineering and creativity-focused companies and has thereby created a coherent understanding of what type of profile is most commonly associated with specific types of people and jobs. However, they have also learned that people with diverging (from the majority) characteristics exist in many fields of work. This is what we made use of in our recruitment for this project.

During our recruitment process, using an online survey tool, we asked potential participants to rank satisfaction drivers within their work environment. We were looking for people who matched profiles that our Employee Experience team encounters in creative environments, such as design agencies or innovation teams, without limiting their professional backgrounds to these areas. In addition, via phone interviews, our recruiters screened those we had identified as creative to ensure they could eloquently provide thoughts and ideas.

As a result, we were able to recruit participants who almost exclusively did not come from the usual “creative” industries but who nonetheless were able to discuss, create, and co-develop new concepts for the self-driving car’s infotainment system.

Additional method tweaks to increase creative output

The original method proposed by the client only allowed 30 minutes of discussion in a simulated environment, followed by 30 minutes of reflective work. We instead proposed a split of 50 min/10 min which allowed the participants to spend more time on elaborating and refining ideas. We expected that many participants would reach the height of their creative productivity near the end of the session, so we provided them with a feedback channel to report additional concepts and ideas they would come up with after the session had already ended.


Utilizing psychographic recruitment and a tweaked session structure, we managed to generate several novel and high-quality concepts and ideas. The psychographic approach to recruitment provided us with a high percentage of creative participants – from outside of the usual “creative” industries – and allowed us to stay within the project budget.


Jan Panhoff

Jan started working as a UX professional in 2004 after finishing his M.Sc. in Digital Media. For more than 10 years, he supported eBay as an embedded UX consultant. Jan’s main focus at uintent is automotive and innovation research.

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