Our Method


We apply design ethnography to business areas that are not yet “designed” - research, strategic planning, marketing and management - through designers’ aesthetic faculties and visualizing ability, and ethnographers’ observation and ability of structuralizing.


1. Discover the Future Signs in Market

Research Phase – Get inspired by information on trends, consumers and social environments for future

 ⁃    Consumer ethnographic research 

 ⁃    Consumer insight analysis

 ⁃    Design/Fashion/Lifestyle trend analysis

 ⁃    Trend forecasting on social values, culture and technology

 ⁃    Industry trends watching

 ⁃    Millennials Generation Analysis

 ⁃    Area Potential Analysis

2. Clarify Core Values in Your Company

Interpretation Phase - Turn your company’s values, resources and culture into visual/verbal expressions

 ⁃    Ethnographic research on internal communications
 ⁃    Key resources clarification
 ⁃    Dialogue among executives and employees
 ⁃    Internal culture, history and values analysis
 ⁃    Workshop planning and running

3. Define the “Crossing Point”

Idea Seeding Phase - Find the point where the market potential and your company’s strength match

 ⁃    Business environment forecast
 ⁃    Vision making 
 ⁃    Defining Functional Requirements for competitive advantage
 ⁃    Targeting
 ⁃    Positioning map
 ⁃    Business/Product/Service Ideas

4. Plan the Steps for Your Future

Scenario Planning Phase - Plan the action process towards idealistic future

 ⁃    Futuristic Scenario
 ⁃    Visualization/Verbalization/Structuralization
 ⁃    Target interview
 ⁃    Desirability testing
 ⁃    Marketing strategy planning
 ⁃    Branding strategy planning
 ⁃    Vision sharing

5. Visualize Your Future Actions

Design Phase - Tell your future with design

 ⁃    Brand identity model development
 ⁃    Public relations support
 ⁃    Design ethnographer training 
 ⁃    Book/leaflet design
 ⁃    Public relations video 
 ⁃    •    Website/SNS contents creation

What is Design Ethnography?

Design ethnography combines designer’s intuition, which is the ability to convert/edit information into tangible form by interpreting it using aesthetic faculties, with an ethnographer’s instinct, which is the ability to understand and/or to interpret unconscious behavior through observation, and research application.

Various ideas and innovations are possible when we directly stimulate attendees’ inspiration with images, music and graphics without neither verbalizing nor digitizing data, due to the differences of people’s sensitivity, specialty and sense of purpose.

What is design?

Design also includes the meaning of “pattern”, “form”, and “layout” in Japanese. Due to the translated meanings, design has been taken as a work “to color and form” or “to form something into a shape” or “to layout figures and patterns.”Recently design is used in the process of planning, a system and a service that realizes people’s “behavior” in better way.

What is ethnography?

Ethnography originates in “ethno-: race” and “-graphy: description.” This is originally used as a technical term in cultural anthropology and sociology for the practice of observing and recording behavioral patterns of a societal or designated study group during fieldwork.These days, ethnography is not only used as one of most important marketing research methods for product development but also applied to several different fields such as human resources development and project management.

“Intuitive induction” : probe a future with multiple scenarios

 Have you experienced launching an uncool and disappointing product or service even though you spent so much time conducting marketing research, making personas, segmenting, finding market superiority and more? 

Design Ethnography uses “intuitive induction,” an underlying way of thinking, which is beneficial for analysis when existing business models and marketing methods don’t work and the market environment changes too drastically.

Intuitive induction is the opposite of the usual analytical process which requires the accumulation of statistical theories and principles from research results but creates a new future directly from observation. We imagine “a very happy future (multiple endings) for customers” from “observation derived by multiple points of views” and create “a product and/or service which foreshadows the future (multiple scenarios)” by counting backward to it.

We take products and services provided by companies as only one of multiple options (foreshadowing) that customers encounter during the process of attaining a happy future. That is to say, it is similar how TV dramas usually prepare several different endings, and creators seek the most attractive storyline that gets them to one of those endings.

Unlike conventional quantitative and qualitative research, design ethnography does not focus on “gathering evidence from the past and present” to support the correctness of logic and conclusions. Instead, its focus is on “getting hints to the future” which could be a seed of a new good idea and innovation.


How to proceed with intuitive induction

① Multiple point of views: observe events at a site

②Multiple good endings: imagine several different “happy customers’ futures” from observation results.

③Multiple scenarios: derive various ideas and innovations that will be a “foreshadowing of product and service” by creating backwards from the future.

Instead of pursuing the correctness of conclusions and theory, it is important to believe in the intuition of the participants while accepting their uncertainty and ambiguity. By emphasizing how many future possibilities can be found, they can discover many ideas and innovations.

conventional inductive method

conventional deductive method

Disadvantages of “induction” and “deduction” in research

In general, it takes a long time to develop a new product and service if you use common induction and deduction methods to analyze the market. Moreover, as you accumulate logics without failure, the conclusion becomes common practice and you will miss many gemstones of innovation, or “uncertain but possible” findings. 


What is conventional inductive method used in research and analysis?

①Case: collect similar cases in the past and present
②Conclusion: align common terms gathered from the cases into one conclusion
③Principle: generalize principles linking cases and conclusions

What is conventional deductive method used in research and analysis?

①Major promise: decide the first premise from existing marketing and other theories 

②Minor promise: build a logic by combining or connecting premises

③Conclusion: generalize inevitable conclusion that has passed all premises

© 2014-2020 by DESIGN ETHNOGRAPHY ,Inc. 

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