Communication Design + Ethnography
As part of a Design Thinking Studio at CMU, I wrote, illustrated, and produced a ‘manual’ for non-designers to navigate design (thinking).
Contribution | Solo project, including concept development, interviewing, writing, illustration & book production
Tools | Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Surveying
Time frame | 3 weeks research/development, 2 weeks production
My approach to making a 'design thinking manual’ was to dodge the more conceptual and generalized lessons of traditional design thinking education, and lead the reader directly to the action by providing an ethnographic peep into human-centered designers in their habitats – their habits, methods, beliefs and visions for design.
Exploration + Ideation
My approach was motivated by my own impatience, having been interested in design myself for some years I felt limited by abstracted ‘process’ theory, and curious about what modern ‘human-centered’ design work actually looks like outside of wireframes and whiteboards. The process started with exploring themes that were personally interesting, identifying theorists and practitioners who’s work resonated with me, and brainstorming possible formats or stories that could tie each piece together in response to the brief.
My next step was to consider what categories of content and book sections I wanted to include, and testing how these might be laid out visually and structurally.
Interview Design + Prep
The majority of my time was spent planning and preparing question & activity sheets for designers I planned to interview. I did this by testing possible interview questions by answering them myself, and then assessing the output based on whether it conveyed the kind of ethnographic insight that brought meaning to the reader. I decided to replace questions about process diagramming and “tips for budding designers” with a speculative futures artifact, in order to draw juicier insights from interviewees using a more concise (yet creative!) ask.
I sent the resulting interview (below) to 12 designers I admired, five of whom were in a position to complete it within the short time frame I had.
Production + Binding
I then copy edited their words and translated their imagery in to a consistent style by tracing them with transparent paper and scanning the resulting images.
I produced cover art in Illustrator, wrote mini-essays that outlined western post-industrial design ‘waves’ including design thinking and it’s criticisms, and formatted/typeset the book using InDesign. The first copy of the book was entirely cut and bound by hand. The final copy was machine bound, with the cover attached by hand.