Context Isn’t Easy or: if you wouldn’t complain to your surgeon about taking her time, don’t complain to your design team

Products are more than they seem. This is true for both marketing and design. Many of us have largely been taught to focus on functional goals and actions, and to be fair there are many good reasons to understand functional needs. Unfortunately, the approach, which is rekindled every few years under a different guise (e.g. […]

Hunting and Design

I have hunted, but I am, truth be told, not a hunter. I am one of the millions of people who consumes meat without as much thought as it probably deserves and certainly less effort than it should entail. But I am also a former chef and having learned that trade well before I went […]

Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

The Importance of Learning Participant Observation

Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn. There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories. Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely […]

A Different Approach to Focus Groups

When something becomes a running joke on every sitcom since the 80s, you know it’s been overdone. The traditional focus groups is overdone. But I don’t think the focus group, or something akin to it more precisely, is dead. It’s an imperfect methodology but it has its place and it can be done well – if […]

Fieldwork Part 2: Hemophilia

Coming out of the field, two themes emerged again and again from our research: the idea of rite of passage and the importance of control. Rites of passage in adulthood serve as a symbolic transition into a new state of being, with certain responsibilities, actions, benefits, and social roles. In the case of non-compliant sufferers […]

Fieldwork Part 1: Hemophilia

David has hemophilia. Three days a week, he wakes up, showers, dresses, and sticks a needle into a vein. He’s been doing this since he was a child. He does this three days a week, for fifteen minutes each time, because if he doesn’t, a fall or scrape can land him in the hospital – […]

Yellowstone’s Wolves and Reintroducing a Brand

Two decades ago, Yellowstone National Park was suffering. It was the victim of defoliation, erosion, and an unbalanced ecosystem. But in 1995, everything changed. That was the year wolves were reintroduced to the park. Prior to the return of wolves, deer, elk, and bison populations had increased substantially, resulting in overgrazing, particularly of willows and […]

ROI and the Intersection of Exploration

When chemists at Oregon State University discovered a brilliant new blue pigment serendipitously, they were not thinking about creating art. But in a true art meets science moment, an applied visual arts major began using the blue pigments in her artwork as part of an internship in Subramanian’s laboratory. This was also her first foray into the […]

Brands and Self-Creation

The old brand model advocated the creation of an external brand image to influence consumers. It talked about benefits, it talked about the company, it promised to give you sex appeal. Those times are long past. This is partly due to the sheer number of channels in which people interact, but I believe there is […]