Design Anthropologists’ Role in SMEs: Unveiling Aptitude and Attitude

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Research collaboration and methods development within user-centered design and the emerging discipline of user-driven innovation have traditionally taken place in research institutions and large forward-looking enterprises. Due to this fact, concepts, methodologies, approaches have primarily gained foothold in companies with resources, competencies and organizational support to make sense of this seemingly fruitful but somehow elitist approach. The roles that the design anthropologist plays in user-driven innovation will depend on size and competencies of the specific organization. The economic realities of small-to-medium sized companies (SMEs) suggest a more holistic research perspective from the single design anthropologist that potentially constitutes the entire (and affordable) user experience department of the SME. This paper suggests a plausible approach for utilizing the skills of a design anthropologist in a small manufacturing company based on experience from two collaborative projects. Rather than informing about ‘how we look at users’ the design anthropologist may inform and reframe the company’s potential for innovation.

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