The process of observation

the_process_of observation

“Before cameras, educated, well-to-do travellers had learned to sketch so that they could draw what they saw on their trips, in the same way, that before phonograph recordings, bourgeois families listened to music by making it themselves at home, playing the piano and singing in the parlor. Cameras made the task of keeping a record of people and things simpler and more widely available, and in the process reduced the care and intensity with which people needed to look at the things they wanted to remember well, because pressing a button required less concentration and effort than composing a precise and comely drawing.”

Michael Kimmelman – The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

As a planner, this extract makes me think about my job. We are basically looking the world from different perspectives with the objective of revealing something about the environment. Something that has been unnoticed. Highlighting relevant behaviours for our clients.

I would say that this can be done with a bunch of different tools, especially digital ones. But are we getting better at spotting insights using the annual trends reports, 140-character strategy or fragmented data from some websites?

It is not my intention to underestimate these means, some of them can be very useful, but in my opinion we should master our tools, starting by the simplest ones. A notebook and a pen, together with a good dose of patience and observation will give us time for the thinking process. It will allow us to spend more time on what really matters, to get a deeper understanding of people. Don’t be too lazy, think a minute before using pre-made solution.

Depict behaviours just as the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel did during his journeys.

Artwork : Ernst Haeckel


  • Reply January 20, 2015


    > “bourgeois families listened to music ‘my’ (?) making it themselves at home” (Mistake?)

    • Reply January 20, 2015

      Thomas Bouillot

      Thanks for the typu Ugo – “bourgeois families listened to music by making it themselves at home”

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