Teach Your Children Well: (How and) Why Design Anthropology Speaks to Our Students


  • Lisa DiCarlo




Teaching, design anthropology


This paper explores design anthropology as a topic of study among university students.  After establishing a working definition of design anthropology, I will use a case study from class to illustrate several aspects of the discipline that appeal to students: holism in research, understanding before action, and stakeholder engagement. I conclude with a discussion of the importance of informed intervention as an appealing outcome for students.


A Better World by Design. http://betterworldxdesign.com/index.html.

Clarke, Alison J., ed. (2018). Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition. New York: Bloomsbury.

Colletta, Lisa. (2010). “The Ultimate Utility of Nonutility.” Academe. September-October 2010. Retrieved from https://www.aaup.org/article/ultimate-utility-nonutility#.

Crouch, Christopher, and Jane Pearce. (2013). Doing Research in Design. Oxford: Berg.

Di Carlo, L., H. McGowan and S. Rottenberg et al. (2014). “Anthropology in a Design, Engineering and Commerce Curriculum” in Handbook of Anthropology in Business, 247-265. New York: Routledge.

Gunn, Wendy, T. Otto and R.C. Smith. (2013). Design Anthropology Theory and Practice. New York: Bloomsbury.

Hanson, Natalie. (2016). Design Anthropology: Discovery and Evidence of Emerging Pathways in Anthropology. Retrieved from https://nataliehanson.com/2016/11/18/aaa16-design-anthro/.

Papanek, Victor. (1971). Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. New York: Pantheon Books.

Pearson, Charles. (2015). “What Does an Ethnographer Do?” (Diagram) Retrieved from https://medium.com/startup-study-group/my-two-years-as-an- anthropologist-on-the-photoshop-team-e700acb7d3d5.

Prestero, T. (2012). Timothy Prestero: Design for people, not awards. [Video file.] Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/timothy_prestero_design_for_people_not_awards.

Squires, Susan and B. Byrne, eds. (2002). Creating Breakthrough Ideas: Anthropologists and Designers in the Product Development Industry. Bergin and Garvey.

Suchman, Lucy. (2011). “Anthropological Limitations and the Relocation of Design.” Annual Review of Anthropology 40: 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.041608.105640