Anthropological Thinking in Product Design

When you think of product design specialists, anthropologists are probably not the first profession to pop into your brain.  However, when you think about what anthropologists do, their impact on the field of product design should be obvious.  Anthropologists study human behavior across cultures and social groups, and that knowledge is invaluable when it comes…

When you think of product design specialists, anthropologists are probably not the first profession to pop into your brain.  However, when you think about what anthropologists do, their impact on the field of product design should be obvious.  Anthropologists study human behavior across cultures and social groups, and that knowledge is invaluable when it comes to understanding how products will be used by actual people around the world.

Understanding People and Their Needs

An anthropologist named Alexandra Zafiroglu, a product design specialist and alumnus of the University of Delaware, has presented her extensive research into the benefits of anthropological research in the area of product design.  Zafiroglu, the lead researcher for Intel’s smart home experiences, tries to understand the way users utilize products, their desires, their needs, and their values.  This information helps to inform her product designs in a very useful way, understanding the mundane parts of everyday life in order to see how products would actually affect people.

Studying Human Behavior

Zafiroglu’s latest presentation titled “TVs, Cars and Homes: How Anthropology Contributes to ‘Smart’ Product Design” demonstrates her research around the world as she has explored Swedish laundry rooms, taken RV trips, and examined student housing in Indonesia.  The goal is to see how people actually live and how they actually use real products.  This can be used to inform product design because one gets a sense of how everyday life shapes the choices that people make, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Understanding the Emotional Context

Anthropological research gives product designers a sense of how people feel in their lives individually but also how they interact with their cultures and communities.  It gives a much more accurate sense of the way products will actually be received and used by consumers around the world.

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