March 17: AnthroDesign: Cultural practices as design guides

TASCHA Talk: Mohammed Mohammed

March 17, 2011

Mohammed Mohammed talked about the emerging convergence of design and anthropology which has come to be known as AnthroDesign. Leveraging their understanding of human practices, more and more anthropologists are finding uses for anthropology outside of the academy. Ethnography, in particular, has become a favored tool for deep and complex exploration of human practices in a given ecosystem. Over the past decade, many companies have embraced ethnographic research and hired a broad cadre of social scientists — including anthropologists — to collaboratively work with designers, engineers, business professionals, and others in their product development teams.

Drawing on his experiences in the academy, industry, and the philanthropic sector, Mohammed traced the trajectory of AnthroDesign from the intellectual adventure of a fledgling community of industry practitioners towards a key product-cycle domain as well as its re-absorption back into the academy as an area of study. He also discussed a parallel movement in design from individual inspiration towards design thinking and praxis that greatly aided the rise of AnthroDesign as a foundational component of innovation rather than an additive element. Mohammed emphasized more such collaborative spaces should open up to further collapse disciplinary silos in addition to increasing the opportunities for the academy and various industries to learn from each other.

Mohammed Hamid Mohammed, Ph.D., an independent consultant in development innovation and R&D, currently collaborates with UW’s TASCHA, and IMTFI at the University of  California, Irvine. He is also Africa editor of the online magazine Foreign Policy Digest. His areas of focus include international development, computers and mobile devices, financial services, education, and small-scale trade.

TASCHA Talks are bi-weekly sessions to share, discuss, and advance new ideas around topics related to technology and social change. Learn more at