‘So why did you go from anthropology to design?’
This is one of the most common questions I have been asked during my search for a job these last two weeks. What’s really funny though is that I technically went from design to anthropology, not the other way around.
And, rather than looking at these two as completely separate disciplines, I actually bring them together in the work I do! Anthropology is really just the study of how and why people do what they do. I choose to use my anthropological training to better understand users, which helps increase the usability of the work I do in interface design. I of course am always striving to learn and do more, and this is why I just applied for an interdisciplinary information science PhD program where I will be customizing my coursework toward Human Computer Interaction.
When I talk about my studies and my work I tend to get excited because I am very passionate about what I do. Depending on who I am talking to this can work either for or against me, but I can’t help it – I love my profession!
I have also studied and participated in design anthropology research which is related, but not exactly the same. This is the more anthropological side than design side, whereas what I do as a usability and interface engineer is more design heavy, but I feel it’s important to understand both sides and how they compliment each other.
I think Dori Tunstall says it best:
Design anthropology does not place separate emphasis on values, or design, or experience, which are the domains of philosophy, academic design research, and psychology, respectively. Rather, design anthropology focuses on the interconnecting threads among all three, requiring hybrid practices. The outcomes of design anthropology include statements providing some deeper understanding of human nature as well as designed communications, products, and experiences.
And this is why my undergrad is an interdisciplinary degree in philosophy, psychology, and anthropology!
I love interconnecting disciplines and finding ways very different things fit together that would otherwise go unnoticed if I did not have such diverse knowledge. This combined with myÂ background in information architecture, interaction design, web/graphic design, and web programming gives me both the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary to correctly assess and alleviate usability issues for a variety of products and services. Combine that with my passion for doing what I do and you have someone that doesn’t do this just for a job, no I do it because I enjoy it and believe users really do need an advocate. That, and I am a user too.