BOOK: Making Sense of Field Research


Learn how to use field research to bring essential people-centred insights to your information design projects.

Information design is recognized as the practice of making complex data and information understandable for a particular audience, but what’s often overlooked is the importance of understanding the audience themselves during the information design process. Rather than rely on intuition or assumptions, information designers need evidence gathered from real people about how they think, feel, and behave in order to inform the design of effective solutions. To do this, they need field research.

If you’re unsure about field research and how it might fit into a project, this book is for you. This text presents practical, easy-to-follow instructions for planning, designing, and conducting a field study, as well as guidance for making sense of field data and translating findings into action. The selection of established methods and techniques, drawn from social sciences, anthropology, and participatory design, is geared specifically toward information design problems. Over 80 illustrations and five real-world case studies bring key principles and methods of field research to life.

Whether you are designing a family of icons or a large-scale signage system, an instruction manual or an interactive data visualization, this book will guide you through the necessary steps to ensure you are meeting people’s needs.

Book Launch Talk 

Understanding and Designing For People [Complete Talk] – Inaugural Talk for The Keller Center’s The Creative Mind & Leadership Series. Princeton University, February 13th, 2019

Book Reviews 

Jeanne-Louise Moys (2019): Making Sense of Field Research: A Practical Guide for Information Designers by Sheila Pontis, The Design Journal, Vol. 22, Issue 1, pp. 1–6

Readers’ testimonies

“I’ve just bought your new book on field research, and after just a few minutes with it want to write and say nice things about it! It’s such a welcome addition to our literature and to the maturing of our field.” — Information Designer

“I am thoroughly enjoying your book, Making Sense of Field Research: A Practical Guide for Information Designers. It will be a great asset to my two Information Design courses I teach at RIT. ” — Professor at RIT (US)

“I really enjoyed Sheila’s book – think it makes a very important contribution and is not just relevant for undergraduates. (…) I do think it’s a great book and will be of interest to a wide range of practitioners (not just information designers).” — Professor at Reading University (UK)

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