Saturday, May 24, 2008

Design anthropology: What can it add to your design practice?

Design anthropology

Designers primarily concern themselves with how to create a "successful" communication, product, or experience. But with the past 10 years of globalization, digitalization, and ever increasing design complexity, designers have come to realize that to answer the question of design "success" requires that they answer that question of how the processes and artifacts of design help define what it means to be human. This "humanness" can range from how humans control the environment through tools (homo faber); how high-heeled shoes affect natural ways of walking; to moral issues of how participation in the design process empowers marginalized communities. In this space, the practice and theory of design anthropology has emerged.
Design anthropology: What is it?

Design anthropology is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the role of design artifacts and processes in defining what it means to be human (e.g., human nature). It is more than lists of user requirements in a design brief, which makes it different from contextual inquiry, some forms of design research, and qualitative focus groups. Design anthropology offers challenges to existing ideas about human experiences and values.

For example, I conducted a project for a large retail company in which I was expected to deliver an information architecture for the website. The method used was a standard card sorting exercise, but I also did research into how humans classify information. In addition to the information architecture, I delivered statements about the continued meaning of gender classifications. In the course of conducting the card sort, I learned that men and women continued to classify domestic products based on stereotypical gendered spaces of male equals outside/garage, and female equals inside. This was in spite of their lived gendered roles where the women where the heavy power-tool users and the men used blenders to make smoothies for the kids. My colleagues pointed out that my anthropological perspective produced insights beyond what the card-sort could deliver. The fact that the classification of consumer products lagged behind contemporary gender roles had strategic implication for how the client should and should not arrange the website site or retail spaces."    (Continued via Putting people first, Adobe - Design Center, Dori Tunstall)    [Usability Resources]

Gendered classification of consumer products. - Usability, User Interface Design

Gendered classification of consumer products.


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