Borrowing from elements of Cultural AnthropologyDesign ThinkingParticipatory Design, and Cultural Dimensions Theory, the following toolkit proposes a disruptive new methodology—Participatory Design Thinking—which may enable designers to better identify the biases that impact design outcomes. This methodology embeds open-sourced, participatory activities directly into the established Design Thinking workflow, helping designers instigate change from within communities by ceding some decision-making power to community members and building upon local knowledge.

From ancient cave paintings to post-modernism, one of the fundamental traits of humanity is our ability to create. As anthropologist Franz Boas wrote, “there are no peoples without religion or without art.” Yet, the commercialization of design practice following the Industrial Revolution has produced degrees of separation between those who design and those who consume. While trained designers contribute greatly to cultural progress, the contemporary obsession with consumerism and commodity fetishism has elevated designers to positions of power, excluding communities from creative innovation and insulating designers from user experience (Marx, Florida, Tai). This can lead to design which is motivated by profit over people. 

Design Thinking in part aims to bridge these two motivations by positioning empathy at the head of its process, but empathy is an ambiguous term that risks being interpreted in ways that lead to superficial speculations about user experience. Participatory Design Thinking aims to correct these misinterpretations by providing the tools for designers to connect to, collaborate with, and empower users as a necessary part of the process.

The resources included on this website are broken up into four main categories:

  • Getting Started – Here you will find an introduction to the background research and justifications behind the Participatory Design Thinking workflow.
  • The Toolkit – This section comprises a crowd-sourced collection of Method Cards containing various participatory activities, as well as a handy guide for How to Use This Toolkit.
  • More Resources – Here you will find links to helpful utilities and additional texts for further reading.
  • Community – As a participatory methodology, this toolkit encourages conversation, criticism, and connectivity at all levels. Within this forum, you can find the space to make your voice heard!

Once you’ve had a look around, feel free to Create an Account so that you can join the Design Anthropology community.

How to Use This Toolkit

The Design Anthropology Toolkit is an online thesis project by Russell Pinkston,
Master of Art + Design candidate at North Carolina State University.