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Why This Anthropologist Loves (and is frustrated by) Design(-ers)*

*Warning. This is a guise to promote the app, Design School Cheats, which I helped create with the lovely and talented Cara Oba and Kyle Oba of the design shop, Pas de Chocolat. At this time, it would be appropriate to visit iTunes and download it. The first section “LOOK” (like a designer) is free.


Anyway, what was I saying?

I stumbled into design from an already frustrated place. The year is 2007. I had a BA in Fine Arts that was a blast to obtain. I love art, galleries, museums. But had little job prospects outside of secretarial work in galleries and museums. Not that there’s anything wrong with secretarial work. I’m just bad at it. Had I gone to secretary school for 4 months I could have done my job better. So I run back to the university to do a master’s program. In applied anthropology. Using anthropology to solve problems. The trick with applied anthro, is that you have to find something to apply the anthropology to. I went around looking for problems to solve.

And you know who loves solving problems? Yup. Designers.

My prof, who had worked with the chair of industrial design for several years, hooked me up with a design project, working with design students. Which led to another design project. Then another. Pretty soon, I was in the design trenches, brainstorming, post-iting, concepting, ideating (psst, those are really all the same activity).

What’s frustrating about design, where is the rub against anthropology? In broad strokes, Designers tend to

  1. jump to solutions.
  2. make assumptions about who they are designing for and what they do or want.
  3. care more about how a presentation looks than making sure all the words in it are spelled correctly.
  4. be hyper-aware of what’s cool or not, and put effort into making sure that they are on the cooler side.

But, what I (especially at first) found frustrating about design, is now why I continue to seek out design work and design partners. Solutions are a way to test theory. Get the idea out in the world and see what happens to it. We can research forever, and not know how to move forward. Gotta jump at some point. Making a presentation look awesome, makes people want to engage with it. If I work with a cool designer, someone who is on the forefront of trends, then I don’t have to look cool all the time.

This is part of the reason why I was interested in co-creating Design School Cheats. Because I am frustrated by design and like to poke fun at designers and design process (like when we say “designers don’t read” – cheat #24). But I tease from a loving place, and I have done a lot of interesting work only because designers make work interesting.

Now, I’m in a haze, not a pure anthropologist, not a designer, but a curious admirer and connector of things and ideas.

If you want to learn more about design, or maybe you are designer that needs a little laugh, check out our fabu app: Design School Cheats. Did I mention it’s free? Also, don’t be startled by the 17+ rating. We mention drinking and smoking and sometimes say “shit” and this makes us debauched.

2 thoughts on “Why This Anthropologist Loves (and is frustrated by) Design(-ers)*

  1. haha! that app is about right.

  2. […] post on the overall process, while Alicia Dornadic, the mainland member of the team, has written about the design philosophy behind the […]

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