3 Things to ALWAYS consider in your fieldwork

There are always too many things to think about in the field. So the key to making it work out is to categorize and develop a model before you go out.  This model will, of course, be different for everyone but these are three buckets that usually help people ground their research.


Cultural norms guide good marketing, design, and development. As an example, cultures shape how people understand what is “food.” While it is seen as strange to eat bugs in the West, they are a major source of protein in many parts of the world.  Ethnography looks to uncover these norms and how they shape what we say, do, and believe. Uncovering how people internalize these cultural norms gives us insight to what “makes sense” and allows us to design brands that will resonate rather than confuse or offend.


How people get things done is another significant point of investigation for an ethnographer, showing us how cultural roles, beliefs about what is correct, and the order in which events take place shape interaction with place, and tool or a brand. For example, shopping is frequently done by someone other than the consumer and involves a series of steps and interactions.  Uncovering these processes lets us design and message to people at the right points in their journey.


People have to make sense of the world around them and assign meaning to their shared lives. Rituals, morality, cosmology, even how we choose to clean our teeth are all endowed with meaning.  For example, knowing that you wear black to a funeral stems from associations we have between that color and death. Ethnography uncovers not only the meaning people assign to the world, but how that meaning comes about.




Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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