Ethnography and Industrial Design
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Ethnography is among the many tools used in social research. It refers to a set of methods and techniques used primarily by anthropologists in their fieldwork. It is about observing people during specific periods of time or while performing particular actions and writing about what was observed. Because people rarely do exactly as they state, a purpose of conducting an ethnographic study is to uncover meanings about an issue that may not be available through traditional evaluation methods. Field research has the capability of leading researchers and designers to the understanding of peopleâ s needs, wants and expectations; thus, resulting in successful product design. Without conducting field research, the ability of a designer to satisfy consumerâ s genuine needs and demands is severely restricted. Cognitive, physical and cultural differences are factors which distinguish us from one another. Such factors should not be neglected when studying the design process. Could it be possible, for example, that an attribute such as oneâ s gender can influence and effect decision making or outcome of a project? Although difficult to answer definitively, applying ethnographic research methods can enable us to gain a deeper perspective of the issue. The present study applied ethnographic research methods in examining differences throughout the design process. A total of eight students (four males and four females) from the Industrial Design department in the college of Architecture and Urban Studies at VA Tech were chosen to participate. In further support of previous gender studies conducted, this research attempts to show that females do have a tendency to communicate more throughout the design process. In addition, females tend to engage in more of a communal type of design process. Males, on the other hand, were more likely to work independently, with very little or no interaction among each other.
- Masters Theses