Design Anthropology

28 May 2008|tommy

Dori Tunstall (professor of design anthropology at University of Illinois, Chicago) has just written a great piece for the Adobe Design Center’s Think Tank on the intersection of anthropology and design.

In her brief article she clearly describes how an understanding of culture and people informs good design. She presents case studies and a simple academic framework for an anthropological understanding of people that makes design successful and powerful. This is a great read.

It may seem like an obvious argument on the surface: designing for a “known” is much better than designing for an “unknown”. But one of the things that Tunstall does so well is characterize what it means to be “known”. She correctly reminds us that anthropology has moved beyond a primarily colonial focus on the exotic “other” and has brought huge value to design and innovation by focusing on notions of change, identity, and power – and that all these things help us know people and design well for them.

Design Anthropology is not about understanding behavior, but rather about understanding, in Dr. Tunstall’s words, “what it means to be human.”

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