Tell Me Why You Did That: Learning “Ethnography” from the Design Studio

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This paper questions the role and form of ethnography in the studio setting through a comparative analysis of interviews with service and brand designers, and the promotional rhetoric of the studio organizations in which they work. It proposes that the way in which designers practice ‘ethnography’ consists of an adapted and hybrid methodological approach based not on theoretically informed data collection, analysis and interpretation, but instead of an assemblage of embodied research approaches. The ways in which designers substitute proxy audience membership, performance and praxiography for traditional ethnographic methods in their creative work and their acts of negotiation between the structural expectations of the studio organization and their own practice of cultural production are considered.

Keywords: Design Ethnography, Design Research, Methodology, Practice

  1 comment for “Tell Me Why You Did That: Learning “Ethnography” from the Design Studio

  1. This is a very relevant article to my decision, as an anthropology major with a background in web and graphic design, to apply to a PhD program in order to study design research, and design anthroplogical methodologies in particular, within a design school. Thank you so much for your hard work and research on this very important emerging dynamic within the field of design! I perceive it as a foundational piece towards my own research interests and will share it often.

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