Archives for posts with tag: designethnography
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HFI Animate: 5 UX meltdowns and how to avoid them with Dr. Eric Schaffer

December 2, 2011 //

Dr. Eric Schaffer talks about 5 UX meltdowns and how they can be avoided.

Download a poster of the animation HERE!

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Design at Scale (Smart Salon)

September 25, 2011 //

“It’s a great time for design, and a great time for us to have an impact…”

Nice short video investigating how to scale design throughout a conference and beyond. Get a sneak peak of Design at Scale in this video!

Check it out HERE!

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“Design is a funny word…” (more Steve Jobs wisdom)

September 25, 2011 //

This is an amazing quote by Steve Jobs from 1996 (I have to credit my husband @patterncapturer for finding this one)…It’s the perfect way to describe how we should approach design and why Design Ethnography is valuable…

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

[Wired, February 1996]

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“Rather than strategizing against competitors, you should empathize with your customers. Everything else falls into place afterward.” (via Co. Design)

September 3, 2011 //

This is an interesting article about companies who focus on the competition rather than simplifying the user experience…”Rather than strategizing against competitors, you should empathize with your customers. Everything else falls into place afterward.”

This statement below is spot on and why I believe Design Ethnography can lead us to create better experiences for the user …careful observation and meaningful conversation…

“The first step in creating user experiences that are truly differentiating is to stop thinking about differentiation and start feeling your customers’ pain firsthand. Some of our best design concepts come from watching a user write something on a sticky note, or print something out for comparison, or manipulate raw data in an Excel spreadsheet, or walk over to ask Joe in accounting a question. We are able to see these inefficiencies in a system only through careful observation and meaningful conversation.”

Read the whole article HERE!

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Blue Fab Field Notes – must have!

August 27, 2011 //

Want! No….totally need these for…you guessed it, taking Field Notes!!!

Check out these exclusive Field Notes… Get a set of three graph-ruled notebooks with blue covers, making them perfect for your idea sketches and brilliant plans to take over the world. Each book includes 48 pages and is bound with a rugged three staple saddle stitch process.

Get yours HERE! (Hurry, currently on sale too!!!)


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A critical designer???s favorite muse

July 13, 2011 //

(Originally posted on the Stokefire blog HERE!)

This is my fifth post inspired by one of the essays in the book “Design Anthropology – Object Culture in the 21st Century” by Alison J. Clarke. This chapter “The anthropological object in design: from Victor Papanek to Superstudio” is written by Alison J. Clarke (the mastermind herself).

I, like many, many others, have always found the designs by the iconic Charles and Ray Eames to be inspiring (to say the least).

The older I got and the more involved in the design community I became, the more I understood and appreciated the beauty of form and function in sync. I developed a lasting fascination with innovative and functional household and kitchen products and a love for simplistic, modern furniture and architecture. I think this appreciation came about mostly through my habit of what I would call “obsessive observing and analyzing” of my surroundings (and with that, it’s objects) and by exploring what the great designers who came before have accomplished.

So very fittingly, this chapter by Alison J. Clarke “explores the historical relation of design to anthropology, its objects and methodologies” and she points out that the tools and objects we use in our lives are much more meaningful once understood in the context of the user and society. Clarke explains that “objects and tools represent a particular field of investigation; they lend themselves much better to being used as keys in the interpretation of complex relationships. Objects are the direct witness of the creative drive.”

It is well known that the Eamses had a very anthropological approach to their design and Clarke refers to design historian Pat Kirmham, who knew that they were influenced by the mixing of objects of authentic origin and popular culture. “The Eamses changed the way people thought about objects, largely by presenting them in new ways and by encouraging different ways of perceiving, grouping, and displaying them [...] they used toys and everyday objects to illustrate design principles [...] and they emphasized the need to understand the contexts in which material culture was produced and used.”

In another happy coincidence, I am currently reading “An Eames Primer” by Eames Demetrios, who is Charles and Ray’s grandson. In this book, he “offers an in-depth look at the couple’s prolific legacy – one that has placed them among the most important American designers of the twentieth century.”

My husband and I both share an immense respect and admiration for what Charles and Ray Eames accomplished and for the life they led. I love the Eamses’ belief that “design is a process, rather than a single outcome – a process that’s never really over.” The Eamses, in my eyes, were real Design Ethnographers. They believed that you learn by doing and that through the process of one project a new project is often born (“each iteration offered another opportunity to hone the material tighter and tighter”). They understood that photography was an integral part of the design process as it was a way of discovering and exploring. And even when a task required new skills, the Eames office would “rather learn how to do it themselves than send it out.”

The author of this chapter suggests that “there has been a seismic shift in design culture of the last decades, whereby ‘users’ and methods of anthropological inquiry have emerged as the key means of deciphering the nuances of object/subject relations. But the anthropological object (…) has long been the critical designer’s favorite muse.

Eames Demetrios has a unique perspective on Charles and Ray’s work and life; he truly understands their slogan ‘innovate as a last resort’. Nowadays, many people throw around the word ‘innovation’ and call on companies to strive for innovation above all else. But I think today’s understanding of the term ‘innovation’ doesn’t take into account the things to be learned from the Eamses’ approach. To them, “the danger of innovation was the chance of losing the wisdom that had gone into the development of the idea to that point.”

A critical designer therefore understands that our everyday objects can only be truly understood within the context of the user and he gains wisdom from the process of developing an idea or product.

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Everybody reads the same story differently (might be one of my FAV ad campaigns ever!) via NOTCOT

July 1, 2011 //
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Everybody reads the same story differently (might be one of my FAV ad campaigns ever!) via NOTCOT

July 1, 2011 //
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Opportunity, the choice to take creative risks and the ???luck factor??? ??? a story of criminals and creatives

June 23, 2011 //

Posted by: ???
Lena Blackstock

This is my fourth post inspired by one of the essays in the book Design Anthropology – Object Culture in the 21st Century by Alison J. Clarke. This chapter “Criminality and Creativity: What’s at Stake in Designing against Crime.” is written by Lorraine Gamman and Adam Thorpe.

As I work my way through this book, I am fascinated by how much each chapter presents a new, yet related, intriguing concept surrounding Design Ethnography. This Chapter by Lorraine Gamman and Adam Thorpe introduces the project Design Against Crime Centre (DACRC) and the idea of “thinking thief.”

To be honest, I wasn’t as intrigued by this topic as I was by some others in this book – I had never considered channeling my creative and ethnographic work into “crime prevention” but I quickly realized that not only would it be awesome to have one of those “Get a Grip” holders for my purse, or that Puma bike, but they touch on an insanely intriguing idea here: the many similarities in characteristics among the criminal types and creatives.

I think the inner-always-curious-observer-of-human-characteristics in me was immediately drawn in by this idea “that many designers and criminals appear to share certain characteristics that are less common in other groups.“

So, what do criminals, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives have in common?

The authors quote J. Garwood, who indicates, “there is preliminary evidence for seeing the world differently if you have been an offender (…) because to those with an offender’s eye, opportunity is everywhere they go.” They also draw on some suggestions by Kee Dorst, who explains that “the way artists and designers behave is similar because they too, are constantly looking for opportunities from which they may profit – financially or otherwise. An opportunity for innovation or change presents the creative with a possibility to interact with an idea, materials, technology, or a social situation and the choice to take creative risks.” I love this statement: “an opportunity to interact with an idea, materials, technology, or a social situation and the choice to take creative risks.” Isn’t that what it is all about? Creatives interact and creatives take risks…and I guess the same applies to criminals.

Gamman and Thorpe also touch on the ‘luck factor’ (which was researched by Richard Wiseman). The idea is that “usually, the difference between criminals and creatives is that the former are more likely to break the law, even if both groups assume that they are ‘luckier’ (or are simply less risk averse) than others. Richard Wiseman in his research into the ‘luck factor’ has pointed out that many people, including some creatives, attribute luck to what is really just a kind of positive thinking.” So creative and criminal types alike see opportunity everywhere they go, they act on the choice to take creative risks and they think positively.

My question is, what makes one person move to one side of the spectrum, and another to the opposite?

Gamman and Thorpe give some insight into this: “Clearly there are differences (as well as similarities) between creatives and criminals; one of the most significant we observe is that the former usually have a collective account about the function of their work or have a sense of the higher purpose of its meaning. They also find innovative ways of making social comment and artistic meanings as well as generating capital to earn a living.” I think there is truth to this, artists, creatives and entrepreneurs seek some sort of higher purpose and meaning from their work. However, I think another main factor has got to be a personal moral foundation that we each carry within us – whether this foundation was created by our parents, our friends, our education, our teachers and mentors or through our choices in life and our ability to learn from them (or most likely a combination of all those factors).

All in all, I think that Gamman and Thorpe make a very valid statement: there is indeed much “for designers to learn, and perhaps gain, from observing criminal creativity.

Make sure to visit their project – the Design Against Crime Research Center at this link:


See the original post over at the Stokefire blog HERE!

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