Ethnographic Study of Art Supply Buying Habits

Contextual Research Brainstorm


The pur­pose of this study was to exam­ine the habits of dorm-dwelling stu­dents in search of art/design sup­plies in order to under­stand how impor­tant loca­tion is in rela­tion to price and other con­trib­u­tors to the idea of value. We explored oppor­tu­ni­ties that one store in Savan­nah may have in over­com­ing the dis­ad­van­tage of prox­im­ity to under­grad­u­ate dorms. The insights uncov­ered by this research allowed us to rec­om­mend some small changes that could make a big dif­fer­ence for our client. The busi­ness is already see­ing pos­i­tive results.

Con­tex­tual Research

Our first step was to define our focus and develop a detailed research plan, lay­ing out what we need to accom­plish week by week. Our ini­tial research began with pas­sive obser­va­tion at three store loca­tions. We then moved onto par­tic­i­pant obser­va­tion, with meth­ods such as sur­veys and ethno­graphic interviews.

Unique Contextual Research Method

I designed a unique research method for our group to use, which involved the par­tic­i­pants describ­ing their feel­ings about each art sup­ply store in their own words. We sta­tioned our­selves in the com­mu­nity court­yard near the dorms and asked stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in the exer­cise. We found that stu­dents had an eas­ier time explain­ing exactly how they felt about each store after first being asked to write three adjec­tives down on post-it notes. The stu­dents’ answers were more elab­o­rate in this open-ended exer­cise than when we asked spe­cific questions.

This exer­cise gave us greater insight into stu­dent feel­ings and behav­ior than the one-on-one inter­views. As a bonus, we also had the post-it notes as arti­facts to use later in our affin­ity diagram.

Contextual Research Affinity Diagram


We cre­ated an affin­ity dia­gram in order ana­lyze the data we col­lected. We were able to iden­tify sev­eral new design oppor­tu­ni­ties to help the art sup­ply store com­pete with new competition.


We pre­sented the find­ings to our client in a 98-page process book that included inter­view tran­scripts, arti­facts, exten­sive research details and inno­va­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties. We also deliv­ered a PPT pre­sen­ta­tion with a short video.

Contextual Research Process Book


Our client has already enacted a few of our rec­om­mended changes and they are see­ing results. The store began bet­ter uti­liz­ing social net­work­ing by high­light­ing spe­cial deals and offers on their face­book page. They started offer­ing a free shut­tle between SCAD dorms and their store the first week of Fall classes in order to get new stu­dents in the door. The store now promi­nently adver­tises their gift cards after we dis­cov­ered that many stu­dents were unaware that the store offered them. Pre­vi­ously, par­ents were buy­ing their kids gift cards from the other stores in town. | 502: Bad gateway

Error 502 Ray ID: 3f23487324c5a62d • 2018-02-24 14:58:26 UTC

Bad gateway








What happened?

The web server reported a bad gateway error.

What can I do?

Please try again in a few minutes.