1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Practicing Anthropology and Design

Edited By Jenessa Mae Spears, Christine Z Miller Copyright 2025
    434 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Routledge Companion to Practicing Anthropology and Design provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the relationship between these two fields and their current state, outlining key concepts and current debates as well as positing directions for future practice and research.  

    Bringing together original work from a diverse group of established and emerging professionals, this volume joins a wider conversation about the trajectory of this transdisciplinary movement and inspired by the continuing evolution of Anthropology and Design as they have adapted to accelerating and unpredictable conditions in arenas that span sectors, economies, socio-cultural groups, and geographies. It homes in on both the growing convergence and tensions between them, while exploring how individuals from both fields have found ways of mixing, experimenting, and evolving theory and new forms of practice, highlighting the experimental theories and practices their transdisciplinarity has generated.

    The Routledge Companion to Practicing Anthropology and Design is a valuable reference tool for practitioners, scholars, and upper-level students in the fields of Anthropology and Design, as well as related disciplines.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables

    List of Contributors

    Foreword – Kevin Bethune

    Introduction - Jenessa Mae Spears and Christine Z Miller

    Section 1: Design + Anthropology Foundations

    Introduction - Christine Z Miller and Jenessa Mae Spears

    1. Systems, Complexity, and Human Experience in Design Anthropology: From User-Centeredness to User Ecosystem Thinking - Benjamin Chesluk and Michael Youngblood

    2. The Dance of the Practitioner of Design Anthropology – Anna Kirah

    3. The Many Meanings of Design Anthropology – Brandon Meyer

    4. Gentrification Goes Big Box: The Role of Designers in Curating the Aesthetics of Neighborhood Change and their Mobilization to the Mass Market – Lisa Berglund

    5. Participatory Design and Action Research: Notes on an Unfinished Agenda in Design Anthropology – Kendall House

    6. Ethics of the Possible: Learning Design Anthropology with the Field - Raquel Gomes Noronha and Edson José Carpintero Rezende

    7. Tactics for Anthropology + Design Beyond the Academic & Applied Binary - Angela K. VandenBroek

    8. From Classroom Learning to Client Experience - Susan Squires

    Section 2: Praxis Projects & Case Studies

    Introduction – Jenessa Mae Spears and Christine Z Miller

    9. From Silent Enablers to Powerful Practices: Reflections on Design Staples in the Ethnographic Field - Manisha Dikshit, Antonella Fabri, Laurent Mertz, Letizia Nardi, and Patricia Sunderland

    10. Designing a Digital Archive for Bodo and Dimasa Indigenous Communities - Monali Longmailai, Bihung Brahma, Krithika Barman, and Christina Wasson

    11. From Design Research to Design Anthropology - Camille Mançon

    12. How to do Robotics with Words: Language and Prospective Ethics in Design Anthropological Approaches to Emergent Hardware - Lora Koycheva

    13.  Pain Points and Personality: Bringing Anthropology to Conversational UX Design - Elizabeth A. Rodwell

    14. Making Design with Anthropology, at the Confluence of Research and Life - Zoy Anastassakis

    15. A Design-inspired Approach Towards Innovative Ethics Education in STEM - Christine Z Miller, Elisabeth Hildt, Kelly Laas, and Eric Brey

    16. Ethnography in the Mode of Design Anthropology: A Field Report - Isabella Kölz

    17. The Capabilities Approach and the Blindspot in Commerce-Centered Design - Scott Boylston

    18. Confessions of an Organizational Change Agent - Helga Wild

    19. Participatory Design and Radical Games: Mapping the Future of Tech with Queer Youth - Kendall Roark and Ashlyn Sparrow

    20. Design Anthropology and Transformative Change: A Climate Action Case Study - Emma Jo Aiken-Klar and Ruth Silver

    Section 3: Opportunities, Speculations, & Emerging Potentialities

    Introduction - Christine Z Miller and Jenessa Mae Spears

    21. Neither an Axe nor A Tree: The Applied Ethnographer’s Role in Future Thinking Inside the Modern Corporation - Sam Ladner

    22. (Dis)embodied Rationality? Behavioral Design’s Mind-body Problem - Ruth Schmidt

    23. Embodying Change: Trauma-Informed Design, Human-Centered Design – Alissa Millenson

    24. Experiences Practicing Design and Anthropology in the Workplace: Applying Transformational Approaches to Traditional Business Models - Kay Zagrodny Barkley

    25. Future-Making: Strategy Design as Vital Design Evolution – Wendy Manning

    26. Transformative Innovation through Culture and Design – Bruce A. Claxton

    27. Design Anthropology by Co-Becoming: Reimagining Participation in the Pursuit of New Possibilities – Matt Artz

    28. Playing Strategist: Follow the Yellow Brick Road – Jason “TOGA” Trew

    4: Conclusion – Christine Z Miller and Jenessa Mae Spears



    Jenessa Mae Spears is a practicing cultural and medical anthropologist and Portfolio Manager at Consilience Group, LLC, a mission-driven systems transformation firm committed to the wellbeing of all people and communities. She maintains a commitment to praxis, serving as a University of Memphis Anthropology Department Community Advisory Board Co-Chair and Tennessee Young Child Wellness Council Data Action Team Chair. Jenessa was awarded the University of Memphis’ Distinguished Alumni Award in Anthropology in Spring 2022.

    Christine Miller is a design educator, researcher, and author working at the intersection of anthropology, design, and business. Her doctoral research combined these perspectives in an ethnographic study of the relationship between innovation and formalization. Christine studies innovation in sociotechnical systems and factors influencing the design, diffusion, adoption, and adaptation of new products, processes, and technologies. She is a professor of Design Management at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

    “Raising practice and scholarship to the next level is the outcome of this exciting, edited volume. It takes the mystery out of the anthropology-design interface while demolishing disciplinary silos and creating expansive opportunities for input from ordinary folk. Planning for and adapting to our collective future is the business of all, not the select few.”

    - Elizabeth K. Briody, PhD, Cultural Keys LLC, Founder and Principal.

    “An illuminating yet practical set of case studies that dive into the intersection of anthropology and design, The Companion draws on rich frameworks and real-world examples to highlight the power and applicability of converging these two disciplines. Whether you’re a practicing designer, a seasoned anthropologist, or simply intrigued by the dynamics of designing for humans, The Companion is an inspiring read.” 

    - Gabriella Lanning, UX Research Lead at Google