Book: Design and Anthropology

Design and Anthropology
Edited by Wendy Gunn, University of Southern Denmark and Jared Donovan, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Ashgate, 2012
Hardcover and ebook

Design and Anthropology challenges conventional thinking regarding the nature of design and creativity, in a way that acknowledges the improvisatory skills and perceptual acuity of people. Combining theoretical investigations and documentation of practice based experiments, it addresses methodological questions concerning the re-conceptualisation of the relation between design and use from both theoretical and practice-based positions.

Concerned with what it means to draw ‘users’ into processes of designing and producing this book emphasises the creativity of design and the emergence of objects in social situations and collaborative endeavours.

Organised around the themes of perception and the user-producer, skilled practices of designing and using, and the relation between people and things, the book contains the latest work of researchers from academia and industry, to enhance our understanding of ethnographic practice and develop a research agenda for the emergent field of design anthropology.

Drawing together work from anthropologists, philosophers, designers, engineers, scholars of innovation and theatre practitioners, Design and Anthropology will appeal to anthropologists and to those working in the fields of design and innovation, and the philosophy of technology and engineering.


  • Preface
  • Design anthropology: an introduction, Wendy Gunn and Jared Donovan

Part I Using and Producing:

  • Introduction: the perception of the user-producer, Tim Ingold
  • The patient as skilled practitioner, Kyle Kilbourn
  • Hearing poorly with skill, Dennis Day
  • Gliding effortlessly through life? Surfaces and friction, Griet Scheldeman
  • An institutional view of user improvisation and design, Max Rolfstam and Jacob Buur

Part II Designing and Using:

  • Introduction: defining moments, Johan Redström
  • The time it takes to make: design and use in architecture and archaeology, Lesley McFadyen
  • Moving from objects to possibilities, Jared Donovan and Wendy Gunn
  • Emergence of user identity in social interaction, Henry Larsen and Claus Have
  • The role of supply chains in product design, Benedicte Brøgger

Part III People and Things:

  • Introduction: humanity in design, Peter-Paul Verbeek
    • Anthropological fieldwork and designing potentials, Mette Kjärsgaard and Ton Otto
  • Designing behaviour, Nynke Tromp and Paul Hekkert
  • Emergent artefacts of ethnography and processual engagements of design, Jamie Wallace
  • Theories and figures of technical mediation, Steven Dorrestijn

Epilogue: Utopian things, Pelle Ehn


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