Design Ethnography is a modern approach of the old-fashioned method ‘research and analysis’.

It is based around personal experience whether that be in the form of an interview, shadow session or directed storytelling etc. There are several other research methods within the bracket of Design Ethnography some of these are: generative research methods, story waves, directed storytelling, contextual interview, affinity mapping, shadowing sessions. It is very focused on the participant/user and understanding their lives, body language, behaviour and how that connects with their understanding of the project they are participating in. Their data could be anything from images, words and numbers that would be communicated from the participant to the researcher. This all adds to the insights gained from taking part in the type of research methods under the bracket of Design Ethnography. We use design ethnography to gain insight to what the participant is like and how comfortable they feel in certain situations. As part of design ethnography it is so important to document all of the findings and collected data, as if it isn’t documented in any way then it doesn’t really count as found evidence and proves no real purpose.

As part of this module ‘Design Methods for Insight Gathering‘ we have had to practice out a few variations of design ethnography. This has been a challenge in some ways, however after conducting a shadow session, affinity mapping session and a contextual interview I have had an overall good experience of what design ethnography is, and I can understand why it is a great research method for practitioners to carry out. I was able to gain real insight into how a fourth year Interior student works, what photography means to a first year student, and how (as a class) we gained insights into our future by using some of the research methods under the design ethnography bracket.I was able to have a very quick understanding of how personal design ethnography can get, as you do have to ‘put yourself out there’ in order to gain the research you need. Confidence comes with design ethnography as you must have the confidence to ask personal questions and really get to know someone through the methods listed above.

I feel that design ethnography would be a fantastic approach for a practitioner to use as it is such a hands on method of collecting research. You can apply methods of ethnography to any project and gain insight into that research. Therefore allowing the practitioner to have more understanding thoughts on the participants life. With that there comes a level of trust gained. The participant is essentially allowing someone to know all about their lives and thoughts, which can be quite a daunting thing for some people to do.

So, why do we use ethnography in the design form? 

It helps us gain insight into the issues needing solved within a project.

It allows the practitioner to gain experience with communicating with people.

It can identify large pieces of data and give the practitioner the facilities to narrow that data down and categorise it into sensible, manageable segments of research.