Breaking the wall in design research

Breaking the wall in Design Research


Film directors use a term to describe zooming out from the scene to deliberately demystify the production process.

This reveals backstage activity usually out of the frame, like the edges of the studio set, sound crew, equipment etc..

They call this ‘breaking the wall’.

Thanks to an ambitious client, and a two minute edit from a mountain of footage, I feel like I can do something similar, at least trying to answer some design research FAQs I’m often asked. In particular the approaches and practicalities of fieldwork.

The founder of a luggage brand and I set out to capture two stories in one:

  1. The psychology of packing light. How and why minimalist travellers packed their bags for a real trip.
  2. The field research process itself. How we went about it.

We had a film-maker in tow — with multiple cameras and a unique eye–briefed to capture the entire project, generating compelling content to motivate their team, and demonstrate their commitment to understanding customer needs.

As I hope the clip shows, the real mysteries to be uncovered lie not in the ‘back stage’ of fieldwork, but in the people we were trying to understand.

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