Archives for posts with tag: designthinking

While we are at it…here is another one: Design the new business – a documentary!

About the film:

“We believe design is the new way of doing business, and we set out to find keys to success through the making of a documentary.Fascinating interviews with industry leaders will unveil the creative ways in which design is changing mindsets across industries….We are searching for the truth behind the “design thinking” smoke and mirrors.”

You can now watch the full movie on their site HERE!


This certainly looks like it will be worth a watch…”Design & Thinking” is a documentary about…you guessed it, “design thinking”.

About the film:

“Design Thinking was applied as a term and methodology by a design firm in 2008. It was received as a tool to solve every problem, from daily life decisions to business challenges to world hunger problems. Attention and debates followed; some insisted on design education in all K-12 schools, some declared it is just marketing tool for that firm, some hoped it would turn his company into Apple. Some said it’s nothing new, just a new packaging of how creative people do things.”

Let the discussions begin…Find out more HERE!

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]

(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.

Great little video explaining some of the basics of Design Thinking…thinking I’m going to have to put this book on my wish list! Check out more HERE!

Check out my latest post on using rapid ethnography to make sure we pursue the right problem – still inspired by Alison J Clarke’s book “Design Anthropology – Object Culture in the 21st Century”…

Any design shops out there who have encountered problems with merging ethnographic methods into their fast-paced environment of design?

Read the whole blog below or see the original post over at Stokefire HERE!


This is my third 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 ethnography in design” is written by Jo-Anne Bichard and Rama Gheerawo.

Bichard and Gheerawo conclude that “the longer studies and observational methods of research that ethnography favors can lead to fundamental truths about the way individuals or groups behave, but in a time-pressured project, designers have to deal with shorter time frames and provoke responses rather than waiting for interesting behavior to be revealed. The search is for creative insights rather than an expansive understanding of every aspect of a user’s life.” This “creative insight” is what we at Stokefire call finding the right problem.

Tobias Rees, a Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, proposes that “the future design of the anthropological project will take its cue from design and the design studio, by allowing anthropological research to resist being dominated by ‘well established theories and/or tactic norms of what fieldwork is’ – in effect, for the practice of anthropology to resist its traditional disciplinary ‘function and form’, where the anthropologist and ethnographer become designers. In turn, if anthropologists and ethnographers appear to be becoming designers as such, then perhaps designers should allow themselves to reflect on their ‘field’ and ‘work’ more as anthropologists and ethnographers.”

How do YOU make sure that you are pursuing the right problem?

This is my second post inspired by one of the essays in the book “Design Anthropology – Object Culture in the 21st Century” by Alison J. Clarke. This chapter, “Prototyping the Social: Temporality and Speculative Futures at the Intersection of Design and Culture” is written by Jamer Hunt, Director of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Rice University.

If ethnography can help us understand the present and design can help drive us into the future (and this is what Jamer Hunt suggests), I think exploring Design Ethnography to help us create better products, designs and solutions, will lead us in the right direction.

Originally posted on the Stokefire blog, HERE!