Whilst many contemporary studies of design have claimed to be using ethnographic methods, the techniques which have been employed often diverge from the characteristics of pure ethnography as used in traditional anthropological and sociological research. We argue that this is entirely appropriate for applied ethnography that is conducted in pursuit of explicit design goals. In this paper, we explore the relationship between pure and applied ethnography, and their use in cognitive and social research. We also discuss how the outcomes of applied ethnography can be applied to i) the design of a computer-based design support tool and ii) the development of controlled experimental studies that retain sufficient ecological validity to capture realistic design expertise. We additionally argue that objectivity in empirical studies of design can be obtained only by triangulating observations across methodologies that embrace both ethnographic and laboratory-based traditions.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Design Studies 21 (4), 2000, © ELSEVIER.