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Design Ethnography Certificate

alt="Design Word Picture"Ethnography is the naturalistic, real world description of human behavior based on direct observation, conversation, and interaction.

Design is the process of fitting products, services, policies, and organizations to human needs.

Design Ethnography informs design by providing insights into how real people interact with and use products, services, policies, and organizations.  Ethnographic methods (interviewing, contextual inquiry, qualitative research) are utilized in many newly emerging occupations, including “human centered design” and “user experience/UX.” Ethnography has both public and private sector applications.

The Design Ethnography Certificate introduces you to basic ethnographic skills, and prepares you to pursue advanced education or entry level opportunities in business anthropology. and assist you in developing a professional social media resume of your projects and preparation.

  • This novel program is open to any current Boise State student under the standard tuition and fee structure for online courses.  For current degree seeking Boise State students:
  • The program is also open to people who only want the certificate without earning a full bachelor’s degree but at a different per credit rate (see non-degree seeking student site). Our contact for this program is Randall Stacey, the College of Innovation and Design Project Coordinator, at

When searching the Peoplesoft dropdown menu, the program is listed as Design Ethnography. When browsing the course catalog, the program is listed under the course prefix ETHNO.

Design Ethnography Courses

The DEC certificate consists of nine one-credit, seven-week courses, and a three-credit capstone.

ETHNO 460 Ethnography at the Speed of Industry
Applying anthropological ethnography in fast-paced research settings and the unique contributions of well-designed, multi-method qualitative research in service and product design, consumer insights, and organizational innovation.
ETHNO 461 Ethical Ethnography
Reflect on codes of ethics from relevant professional societies, apply these statements to case studies and a potential research problem, consider ethical challenges, and complete training in human subjects’ research.
 ETHNO 462 Asking and Listening
Practice the application of varied deep listening and interview techniques in an iterative research process in a fast-paced environment.
 ETHNO 463 Contextual Inquiry
Practice the application of diverse observational techniques in an iterative research process in a fast-paced environment.
 ETHNO 464 Just Enough Research
Identify research problems suitable for ethnographic research, form collaborative teams, and experiment with research methods appropriate to informing service and product design, consumer insights, and organizational innovation.
 ETHNO 465 Ethnography for Design
Explains how ethnography provides the basis for user research that informs design of products, services, and organizations. Introduces basic design concepts including human centered design, iterative cycles, agility, personas, customer journey maps, pain points, unmet needs, and more.
 ETHNO 466 Planning Productive Fieldwork
Practice constructing proposals for conducting ethical fieldwork valuable to solving a real world problem, culminating in negotiating permission to conduct research with a public or private sector stakeholder, and obtaining appropriate human subjects’ research approval.
 ETHNO 467 Going Deeper With Theory
Explore the contribution of anthropological theory to effective research practice, and the unique contributions theoretically informed multi-method ethnography can make to varied industry problems. Emphasis on fundamentals of current anthropological science.
 ETHNO 468 Lean and Rapid Reporting
Prepare and communicate findings to decision makers in a variety of roles. Make the case for the value of qualitative, ethnographic research in oral, visual, and written forms.
 ETHNO 469 Design Ethnography Capstone
Propose and negotiate a research project, collect and analyze appropriate data, create a professional report, and present findings to a real world stakeholder, receiving feedback from a working practitioner in design anthropology or qualitative research.

Recommended Pathways through the Certificate

  1. Ideally, we recommend completing the Certificate courses in sequence, beginning with ETHNO 460 and concluding with ETHNO 469. Because the pre-Capstone courses are one credit, they can be completed concurrently as well as consecutively.
  2. The one-credit nature of the courses allows you to fine tune your course load to your available time. Each course runs seven weeks.
  3. You are welcome to “dip in” and take any one of the courses. However, you are strongly encouraged to complete ETHNO 461 concurrently with, or prior to, enrolling in the other courses in the Certificate.  Because of the hands-on nature of the courses, familiarizing yourself with research ethics is fundamental.
  4. The full 12 credit Certificate can be completed on a four semester plan (3 credits per semester), or a three semester plan (4 credits per semester). Or these plans can be mixed together (alternating between 3 credits and 4 credits). the minimal time needed to complete the Certificate will generally be two semesters. However, students who absolutely must work on an accelerated schedule–and who have sufficient time to invest–can attempt all courses except the Capstone in one semester, and complete the Capstone in the first seven weeks of the following semester.


Please contact Kendall House at or John Ziker at