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Nan Chen
Zhang Zhang
KT Lowe
• a methodological strategy used to
provide descriptions of human
societies, which as a methodology does
not prescribe any particular method
(e.g. observation, interview,
questionnaire), but instead prescribes
the nature of the study
A Branch of anthropology
Why Ethnography?
Ethnographer’s work
Corporate ethnography
• Corporate ethnography isn’t just for
innovation anymore. It’s central to
gaining a full understanding of your
customers and the business itself. The
ethnographic work at my company,
Intel, and other firms now informs
functions such as strategy and long-
range planning.
Ethnography – Observatory
Market Research
• Ethnography comes from social
research and anthropology. Instead of
asking consumers what they believe or
what they have done as we do in
survey research, we watch what
consumers do.
Intel’s Ethnopraphy Research
Drawbacks of Ethnography
• Time-consuming
• Expensive
• Not “an ethnographer”, but an
ethnographer of something.
Ethnography in CHI Community
• In the CHI community, “ethnography”
has come to mean any sort of
qualitative field work used to gather
requirements for a product.
• to define and design new products for
our company.
Ethnography vs. Requirement
is the art and
science of
representing other
cultures visually.
Ethnography is the Tool for Better Graphic
• Help designers to know their
audiences better
• Lead to more compelling and
innovative design
• Ethnography is a systematic process
Help designers to know their audiences
Ethnography informs graphic design by revealing a
deep understanding of people.

Lead to more compelling and
innovative design
Ethnography allows designers to see patterns of
thinking and behavior of people in a real world
Ethnography is systematic process
The beauty of ethnography is that what one observes
is visually compelling, real and meaningful without
being staged.

Main Functions of Ethnology in Graphic
• Understand audiences

• Identify barriers

• Deliver worldly
Understand audiences
• Discover Meaning
• Understand Cultural Norms
• Clarify people’s real emotions and
Identify barriers
• Identify people’s “pain points”
• Observe the solutions of design
• Create local features
Deliver worldly

• Create global marketplaces

• Make communications powerful
– Be Local
– Be Universal
– Or Both?
Case study: Universal? or Local?
Restroom signs in different countries

Iran Japan
USA Georgia State Netherlands

USA Williamsburg
Universal Restroom signs
Universal Public Signs
Case study
• Commercial brand


Coca Cola logos in different

Chinese Arabic Thai

Japanese Bulgarian Hebrew

The Universal Use of “Pointing”

USA 1917
UK 1914 Germany 1915
Italy 1917 Soviet Union 1920
Graphic design: The
Differences between
German and Chinese
What To Say
And How to Say It
Graphic design, advertising ,
politics and ethnic markets in
What Does a Graphic Do?
• A graphic acts as an identifier
– Logos represent companies
– Instruction manuals contain graphics that
identify steps in a process
• Graphics communicate messages to an
audience, and are of particular
importance to non-native speakers
• Graphics can be used to represent a
particular cause, neighborhood, event,
party or ethnic/social group
Message graphics

The first US anti-

Breast Cancer smoking campaign AIDS Awareness
What Does Advertising Do?
• Communicates messages about products
to various audiences
• Differentiates one product from another
- Nike vs. Reebok
• Works as part of a wider marketing
campaign which includes pricing and
• Helps forge emotional ties to a product
(or individual, in the case of a political
Melting pot…

Or mosaic?
The America of Today
• America has been changing from a
“melting pot” to a “mosaic” model, in
which immigrants and their children
retain more of their own culture and
exercise it in their daily lives
• Graphic designers will no longer
target a “general audience”, but a
number of individual audiences
Similar concept, two audiences
• Stereotypes can be created; overuse of
an image, especially one that
exaggerates characteristics, can
become a stereotype in time
Modern responses to
stereotypical images
What Not to Do
• Don’t hit people over the head with
“ethnic’ images or font

• Don’t forget that people are more

than ethnic, political or gender
• Don’t forget that your audience may
be skewed by age as well as ethnicity
• Don’t forget that every major category
is made up of lots of smaller ones
What does this mean?
How To Say It
• Immerse yourself: Shop at ethnic
markets, watch foreign television, expose
yourself to others
• Learn what’s important to that
• Learn what’s taboo as well
• Be sensitive to age ranges within groups
– younger people tend to have much different
preferences from older people
– Immigration status also has an impact
What’s Meaningful?
• Everyone wants to see themselves
• Every culture has markers of pride,
and they are expressed differently –
• You cannot assume that you can
design one image and expect it to
work universally for all cultures, or
even all subsets of a single culture.
Calaveras: Why are these images
meaningful? To whom?
What data to collect
• Target group (Hispanic, Asian,
• Target subgroup (Punjabi, 2nd-
generation, under 30)
• Income level
• Level of education
• Known behavioral patterns
• Known taboos, lucky symbols, cultural
associations and sources of pride
Emerging groups:
LGBT Community
• 8-10% of general population, cutting across
all races/genders/religions
• Affluent and educated – 60% hold college
degrees, estimated $800 billion in total
disposable income
• Brand conscious
• Spend 33% more on vacations – target
demographic for travel industry
• While mainstream media rarely targets LGBT
individuals, trade publications often have
LGBT-specific campaigns (Out, The Advocate)
2007 American Airlines 2009 Sweet Lesbian Travel

Travel Ad Campaigns targeted to

LGBT audiences