Weather, Whiskey, and Brand Making

The weather turned cold overnight and with that change came the anticipation of building a fire in the pit outside, cracking a bottle of whiskey, grabbing a blanket, and indulging in the annual tradition of spending the wee hours ushering in fall. Now, I am a seasonal drinker – in warm weather I lean towards […]

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 […]

Concepts of “Home”

I grew up on the edge of the Great Plains. To this day, there is a smell that comes with the arrival of summer that is unique, I’m in awe of a thunderstorm as it rolls in, and I am a bit uncomfortable when there are too many trees around. The plains are home. So, […]

Gen X and Travel Marketing

There’s a fixation with youth. There’s also a fixation with Boomers. But do a little math and it becomes abundantly clear that Gen-Xers, who are currently age 40-54, are naturally the up-and-coming (or recently-there) empty nesters as of 2019. And that spells opportunity. Gen Xers won’t be seniors for another 10 to 15 years. They’re […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

The “Authenticity” of Culinary Tourism

When walking around in highly frequented areas of France, Italy, or San Francisco there are no shortage of restaurants boasting assurances of authenticity and regional cuisine, but how many of the claims provide diners with accurate representations of the regions culinary history and traditions? Does the same hold true in New York? Or Alabama? I […]

Fostering a More Creative Work Environment: Purpose, Power, and Politics

Creativity and innovation are always in demand.  Well, to be more accurate, the ideas of wanting creativity and innovation are always in demand. The reality is often far different. Most of us recognize the necessity of creative processes at work, regardless of whether we’re taking about strategic planning, insights development, product design, or the next big […]