Being a design anthropologist, I conduct tons of hands-on research: I know that anything from the shape of a door handle to what music is playing at a coffee shop can give me insights into the interests, creative energy, and the local culture. That said, I’m also a mess when it comes to organizing the research material I gather: from the sporadic notes on my phone to pieces of torn paper on my desk, to piles of magazines, journals, and books scattered around the studio. Not to mention all the digital cloud storage services that flourished around various periods of my work.
Going through a similar experience, San Francisco-based design researcher Jan Chipchase decided to write a manual for himself and his team on how to travel, observe, and get insights from observations. The Field Study Handbook is a hefty and beautiful result of the work: 524 pages of beautifully printed sheets bound in embossed linen cover. This volume is destined to find its place on a design researcher’s shelf.
If you want to understand what motivates Tokyo teens or Afghan arms dealers, I can put a team on the ground and figure it out. My work has taken me to the four corners of the earth from trend-setting cities to remote mountain villages. The Handbook is for anyone that needs to understand people across cultures, to impact design, product, and strategy.
— Jan Chipchase
The six types of field study
- Exploratory. What is interesting about the subject and why?
- Foundational. How with this impact our business? How do people do this?
- Generative. Generate ideas and concepts and test them.
- Communicative. How can one find value in a subject and communicate it to the world?
- Evaluative. What are the obstacles and issues on the subject?
- Applicative. Put an idea to work into a wider context.
More spreads from the book
The Field Study Handbook
by Jan Chipchase