jan chipchase

What is Design Anthropology? “I have no idea”. Interview with Jan Chipchase

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Jan is an award-winning researcher, designer, author and the founder of Studio D. He also founded field equipment brand SDR Traveller. He was previously Principal Scientist at Nokia’s Tokyo research lab, and Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at design consultancy, frog and works frequently with commercial, nonprofit and government clients. With home bases in San Francisco and Tokyo, he specialises in understanding edge-of-grid communities and working in challenging environments.


What is Design Anthropology?

I have no idea.


What is respectful, ethical and conscious design?

It starts with the way we frame our very first hire, and ends long after the project is delivered. All of our design decisions flow from that trust that we earn from our participants.


What are the tools and methods combined which form anthropology and design that you mostly apply to your projects?

Principles are far more interesting than tools. These are ours:

  1. Align on intent
  2. Understand your touchpoints
  3. You are only as good as your local team
  4. Everything flows from where you stay
  5. Adopt a multilayered recruiting strategy
  6. Put the participant wellbeing first
  7. Let the data breathe
  8. Normal rules don’t apply
  9. Support recovery time


Tell us about one of your favourite projects involving design + anthropology.

Our favourite project is actually redacted. If you want a sense of what we get up to on projects, you can read this (the list tells the real story between the lines):

Go to Chipchase’s favorite project


Imagine the world in 2050 – what are some of the challenges that design anthropologists will be facing and dealing with?

They’ll still be wondering whether they have a place in a world that is increasingly automated. Those that generate value from asking smarter questions will still have a long career ahead of them.

Graduated in Social and Cultural Anthropology by the University of Granada and Master in Research and Rational Use of Medicines by the University of Valencia. This young researcher has worked in the public and private sector - both nationally and internationally - on consumer issues.

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