The Picture Story in Design

Henri Cartier Bresson once said, “Sometimes there is one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigor and richness, and whose content so radiates outward from it, that this single picture is a whole story in itself.”

During the 1970s and 1980s, social scientists at Xerox Parc and other technology corporations paved the way for the use of ethnography in the research and design process. During the 1990s, consumer anthropology started to make its way into mainstream business consulting partly because of the transformative impact of an all-of-a-sudden networked and more complex world. Design research, the popularized practice of understanding what makes people tick in order to design meaningfully for them, is born of these histories. 

Visual anthropology, the use of photography, film, video, and other media to capture the social and cultural context of people and their native environments, is a subfield that along with photojournalism has provided designers with another powerful method of inquiry.

[Read the rest of this essay on Fast Company.]

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