Do you like to watch people? Do you enjoy exploring how people interact with and behave in the world? Do you enjoy designing relevant things so people can get the help they need? You may be a design researcher. And better yet, you need ethnography. Ellen Isaacs gives us some great insights into ethnography: its usage, operation, and benefits.

To be an ethnographer, you need your ability to look, a willingness to go to all kinds of places, and excellent documentation skills.

As an ethnographer (and design researcher), your job is to document these cultures in as high definition as possible. What do they say, and how do they say it? Where do they go? When do they do the things they do? All good questions. The first step is to define who you want to study and who you don’t. This has to be a specific culture/people group who “clump together” clearly as a cohesive unit. Once you’ve defined the places, times, and ways a cultural group holds together, you’re ready to find out the good stuff through applying research methods.

Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University