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Who are you designing for? The best way to understand who you are designing for is to talk with them directly. Immerse yourself in their environment, observe as much as you can by spending time in their context.

This Gets You

to explore the topic of design challenge by immersing yourself in the context of your user as an observer, participant, ethnographer, fly on the wall. 

Keep in Mind

this is about learning more about your challenge and your users. This isn’t about finding a solution for your design challenge, this is about continuing to collect observations, interviews, and insights. 


Risk Taking

Be Fully Present

Creative Commons

Learn from Failure


Make | Create | Do

Embrace Ambiguity

Assume a Beginners Mindset


Iterate, Iterate, Iterate


This tool is designed to help you gain empathy for the needs of your users. Consider what context you could immerse yourself in to observe the users’ perspective.

Revisit the norms. Consider how you will approach the people (students, teachers, administrators, parents, community members) whom you will be observing to ensure they understand your intent and the nature of this observation.

Consider how your presence may impact the phenomenon you are seeking to observe. How might you mitigate your impact?

Plan what you will be looking for, what you might ask and how you will document your experience (notes, photographs, video ?)



Review the planning you conducted.

Be fully present and engage with the users.

Documentation is key. The raw data you collect will fuel the next steps in the design thinking process. Without documentation it will be difficult to share your insights with your design team.


Immediately following the immersion it is important to review your documentation, reflect on your experience and synthesize the insights you gleaned. You want to document insights about the phenomenon and the users you observed. We are not looking for solutions at this stage!

Debrief. If you have more than one member of your design team in the immersion debrief and collaborative reflection is a great way to build on the experience.  You may want to facilitate a process for sharing and for consolidating the reflections into common themes or areas. You could use the “I like, I wish” protocol to facilitate the debrief.