Informing Design

  • Andrew Crabtree
  • Mark Rouncefield
  • Peter Tolmie
Part of the Human–Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


The point and purpose of doing ethnography here is to ‘inform’ design – i.e., to help designers figure out what to build and give concrete shape to computing systems. It is worth stating the obvious, as it all too often seems to get forgotten in ethnographic discourses surrounding design that doing ethnography is not about ethnography per se but about design. So how can ethnography give shape to design? What practical approaches can be used to leverage ethnographic findings for design purposes? How can it be used to figure out what to build? It has often been said that it is very difficult to relate ethnographic findings to design: that ethnography produces rich or ‘thick’ descriptions of work whereas design is necessarily about abstraction and therefore requires some means of parsing and reducing the complexity represented by thick descriptions of work to develop computational models that may subsequently be implemented in computing systems. Over two decades of practical involvement in design a range of approaches have emerged and/or been appropriated to help ethnographers make their studies relevant to design and translate them into design resources ‘telling’ designers what to build. Our purpose here is to outline these.


Design Concept Smart Phone Rural Place Software Requirement Specification Sanity Check 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Crabtree
    • 1
  • Mark Rouncefield
    • 2
  • Peter Tolmie
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Computer ScienceUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.School of Computing and CommunicationsLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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