Ethnographic Research for Service and Product Design

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Meeting Room 1B, State Library of Queensland

Brisbane City, QLD 4101


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Ethnography provides the tools designers need to study the ways we live, work and play.

Ethnography is relevant to the job of a designer because it helps us understand the why and how of human behaviour. It gives us the methods we need to gain a deeper understanding of people and their lives.

In a government context, ethnographic research is used to explore the everyday interactions between people and the public service. It is used to generate insights from real-life stories that can inspire service, product and policy responses, and it helps decision makers understand and work with the complexities of everyday life.

This two-day workshop will introduce you to the tools and methods you need to become a better researcher. It will give you a mix of theory and practical experience that you can directly apply to your design and research projects.

Join us for for both days for $900.

Day One - Ethnography, Design and the Public Service
(26th October)

Day One provides an introduction to ethnography, its connection to design, and its potential for addressing complex organisational and social issues involved in service delivery. The focus will be on human-centred research and design challenges in government, including the education of decision makers and influencers to comprehend and translate learnings into policy innovation and reform.

The day focuses on giving practitioners an understanding of key methodologies and approaches to ethnographic research, including how to appropriately engage and ‘be there with people’ to understand their worlds. It will provide attendees with the tools and understanding required to apply ethnography to their design projects. This day also offers a chance for reflective practice where we will ask attendees to draw on their own design project experiences in government.

Key topics covered include:

  • An introduction to ethnography and why it is valuable

  • The connections between ethnography and design

  • The challenges and opportunities of research and design in government and organisational contexts, including reflection on our collective project experiences

Day One closes with applied research practice around the question: What's it like to be a designer and researcher in government? The data generated from this will be used in Day Two.

Day Two - Building a Case for Change
(27th October)

Day Two provides an introduction to collaborative sense-making, communication techniques, and ethnographic methods that help designers use research data in effective ways. We will work with data generated on Day One in order to identify problems and opportunities for public service design work.

Key topics covered include:

  • "Collective hunch-making" - methods for making sense of research data with others

  • Introduction to qualitative data coding

  • Using journey maps and sketches to communicate a problem

  • Identifying opportunities and building a case for change, using research data

  • How to use stories to inspire service, product and policy responses

What will you learn?

By the end of the two days you will have learned:

  • The basics of ethnography and how it is used

  • Core ethnographic methods and their connection to design

  • How to apply ethnographic methods on a design project, with guided activities and reusable templates

  • How and why to use ethnographic methods to research people and their lives, (including minority groups, such as indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities)

  • How and why to use ethnography to research organisational and front line staff

  • How to use ethnographic research data to inform design outcomes

  • How to use ethnographic data to tell stories within your organisation and make a case for change

Who should take this course?

This course is for design professionals in government who are interested in building a deeper understanding of ethnographic practices and approaches

Why us?

PaperGiant is a strategic design agency that helps organisations understand and solve complex problems. We have worked extensively across the public and private sector, and have developed expertise in government at all levels, in health, education, social justice, community development and finance.

We have worked with the Australian, State and Local Governments, Telstra, ANZ, the Digital Transformation Agency and Victorian Legal Aid.

This course is taught by Chris Marmo and Katie Vasey, two anthropologists with over 15 years of applied research and design experience.

Dr Chris Marmo is research director at PaperGiant and is one of Australia’s most experienced researchers and designers.

Dr Katie Vasey is senior design researcher at PaperGiant. She holds a PhD in Anthropology, and has taught applied ethnography on Master of Business Administration programs at Brown University, Australian Catholic University and RMIT University. She was a senior educational designer at Deakin University before joining PaperGiant.


If you have any questions about this workshop, please get in touch with chris@papergiant.net

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Meeting Room 1B, State Library of Queensland

Brisbane City, QLD 4101


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No Refunds

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