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Ethnography Makes Products

That my team — a design team — does research, has at times confused colleagues unfamiliar with design methods. Some expect that customer research is produced solely from the market research team and that any design findings only come out of the usability lab. So, to set the scene on our latest field study I presented an introduction about how ethnography has played a part in the product design and innovation of many brands we are familiar with.

Learning through making

Earlier in the year I had the good fortune of presenting to a class from the University of Technology, Sydney’s Interaction Design course. As someone who occasionally hires designers, experience in user testing and a sincere integration of users in the design process is what makes candidates stand out. Why? Because this is what reduces errors, minimizes IT and build change requests and helps ensure users can understand and use our products. It’s a mistake to think something has to be detailed and almost production ready to be tested. Test ideas, test sketches, test digital, test services. Test early, iteratively and often.

Innovation is about arguing, not brainstorming.

“the idea behind brainstorming is right. To innovate, we need environments that support imaginative thinking, where we can go through many crazy, tangential, and even bad ideas to come up with good ones. We need to work both collaboratively and individually. We also need a healthy amount of heated discussion, even arguing. We need places where someone can throw out a thought, have it critiqued, and not feel so judged that they become defensive and shut down. Yet this creative process is not necessarily supported by the traditional tenets of brainstorming: group collaboration, all ideas held equal, nothing judged.