Design Researcher

The Parsons Entrepreneurial Lab (ELab) is a

design-led research lab dedicated to entrepreneurial practice and innovation.

"We believe that researching and strategizing for your business from a purely economical or market-based perspective is outdated and misses important components of the human experience. Design-led research uses the tools of design thinking and thinking-through-making to capture, synthesize, and analyze data to turn it into knowledge."

Design-led research takes a fresh perspective at creating value within a business, testing assumptions, and forecasting into the future.


2019, I was hired to support research for the Creative Entrepreneurship E-Learning Landscape Report. The objective of this research report was to present the global trends impacting E-learning today and identify opportunities therein to support entrepreneurs. Also, aimed at identifying the tools and resources most desired by creative entrepreneurs from both a student and market perspective to identify the best point of entry.

Key Research Questions were:

  • Thoroughly explore the experiences of creative entrepreneurs – including their goals, dreams, challenges, obstacles, and pain-points

  • Understand the skills and help that creative entrepreneurs need to successfully start their own business but might not have yet

  • Identify how experiences and needs vary across fields, and how offerings can be tailored to each

  • Evaluate how the educational offering should be structured, including as it relates to number of classes, program structure, credentialing, and pricing

  • Investigate where creative entrepreneurs currently go to learn these skills, and which organizations are the Entrepreneurship Academy’s competitors

Methodology Used:

A combination of desk research and ethnographic methods we identified trends, needs and opportunities in the creative E-learning marketplace. Although there are many other global trends impacting creative entrepreneurs and their e-learning as a whole, such as the upcoming election, the state of the economy, and new technologies, we focus primarily on the trends affecting the stakeholders within and around these learners to understand how these changes might impact the domestic creative entrepreneurial e-learning sector.

1. Trends in Creative Entrepreneurship:

The evolving creative sectors

In the past five years, tech’s impact has led to shifts and growth in creative freelance market. Online tools have made it easier for freelancers to find and manage work; this includes managing clients and managing their finances. However, for digital creatives, while the tools have gotten better and more integrated, they have also

allowed for more competition from global suppliers who can undercut local suppliers for graphics, web, and

design services. This access to work posted online, while creating a form of democratization, has created an unsustainable market

Alternative millennial workers have consistently earned less than their full-time peers for more than a decade. And 43% of alternative workers have listed insufficient pay as their reason for leaving the freelancing industry.

- Report by Deloitte, Technology and the Future of Work: Millennials in the Gig Economy

There are currently 57.3 million freelancers in America, an increase of 3.7 million in the past five years. Of these, an estimated two-thirds use freelancing to supplement their income while also holding a traditional job.

A 2019 study by The Design Journal, a Routledge publication, found that 60 percent of fashion designers in the UK are self-employed, which reflects a trend in the creative industries that reveals a common drive for entrepreneurialism. Along with this, they found that creative professionals, whether an entrepreneur or not, must market their capacities to ensure they are needed and paid. As a result, creatives are entrepreneurs by default.

2. Trends in Global E-Learning:

The global e-learning market was valued at $190 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $238 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 8.5% between 2019-2024. Some predictions even project this size to breach the $300 billion mark by 2025.

Cultural factors driving this growth include's the rising need and awareness among working professionals to enhance skill-based proficiencies, growing adoption of self-paced learning modules by the corporate sector to enhance talent retention and engagement and the global digital expansion of education.

Over the last decade, e-learning services have evolved to suit changing consumer preferences and to incorporate new technologies. Key among these developments that will continue to fuel growth are:

  • Models such as video-based learning, gamification, and virtual classrooms that are high on engagement levels and perceived effectiveness

  • The popularity of microlearning, using of bite-sized learning modules and short-term learning activities

  • Flexible formats for courses, certifications and degree programs that facilitate job placement, and transition to other disciplines

3. Trends in Life Long Learning:

Adult education today

The acceleration of technological innovation has led to rapid change and demand for new skills for businesses across industry. This new market has led to surging needs from companies who must invest in education and advancing their employees as a way to gain a competitive advantage.

This incessant need to keep up from both business and individual has lead to growth in the adult, corporate education, and executive education.

Technological change demands stronger and more continuous connections between education and employment. The ROI between education and employer is not as linear as it once was.

- The Economist, 2017

Please click here link to access the full report.

Perhaps, in my role I executed primary research, recruited stakeholders and created discussion guides for the focus group interviews. One was aimed at creative entrepreneurs, while the other was targeting service providers. The individuals selected for one-on-one interviews, intercepts, and focus groups were screened in advance during a 15-minute phone call. Various stakeholders were targeted in the creative entrepreneurial ecosystem to better understand what the current drivers are, what are the unmet needs, desires, and trends.