An ecologically-Valid study of categorisation by designers
This paper reports the use of ethnographic and experimental methodologies to investigate the conceptual representation of design expertise. An ethnographic study was first conducted in a commercial software development group. This study yielded a wide range of data, from which thirty design episodes were selected. Members of the design team then undertook a card sort task, in which they sorted the episodes into natural categories. Differences in the sorts produced by designers reflect their specialist roles within the design team. The same design information is evaluated under different metrics across roles. This corroborates previous studies that show how conceptual design representations differ in individual and team contexts. The results also show how combining the outcomes of ethnography with a traditional cognitive method enable us to verify objectively the observations made in ethnographic studies.