Summer is coming to a close and school is opening; excitement is in the air. What comes with new back packs, blank notebooks, and fresh excitement of the year to come?
Big ones, little ones. Planned or serendipitous. Guided or unchaperoned. We love to get out of our desks and into the world to explore new contexts and ideas in action. (We love our studio, but when the sun peeks through the windows we need to get outside too!)
We make excuses to go on field trips because what we take from "the field" is immeasurably valuable to us as people and designers alike. It's so important that it grounds each of our projects. We go in the field during the discovery phase to live with our schools during an "insight week" and on "inspiration trips" to places and spaces we admire. Occasionally, we will reserve time to debrief or get "heads down" work done at the museum, cafe, or new co-working space. We find that these immersive journeys illuminate more insights than desk research alone... they are energizing and inspiring for every one.
Field work is crucial for the "discovery" phase on any project, but good discovery never ends. It is both planned for and stumbled upon every day.
Strange as it may seem, we think field trips are more of a mindset and lifestyle than anything else. A mindset central to learning and design. When we go on field trips, we become students of the world––our awareness is heightened, our inspiration is fueled, and our understanding is deepened. Life is a series of really awesome field trips.
A few simple tips we like to take on the road:
- Immerse + Observe: Be present. Notice the world around you with all your senses and mind. How is this setting different or similar to your everyday context?
- Ask + Absorb: Ponder. Interact with people who use or work in the place you are visiting. Ask them the "whys, whats, wheres" on your mind. What's their favorite place and why? Where can you go to see the spirit of the place? Who are its users and what are their daily activities and reflections?
- Capture + Save: Gather. Use tools that are easy and unobtrusive for you to capture what you notice and think. Try taking an ethnographer's approach, separating objective observation from personal reflection. Bring your favorite notebook, a camera, a small bag to collect artifacts and information.
- Debrief + Reflect: Discuss. What did you notice? What did others notice? Reflect on your observations, surprises, and patterns that arose from your time in the field. Deepen your experience by creating time to debrief by yourself and in the company of others.
- Relate + Share: Relate your experiences to your context and to the world around you. Discuss them with friends who may not have been on the journey with you and invite their reflections. Or share your observations & musings digitally in a blog or through images.