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Steve Portigal, Principal

Steve is the author of Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights. He is fascinated by the stuff of a culture - its products, companies, consumers, media, and advertising. All these artifacts and the relationships between them are the rules that define a culture -- the stuff makes the culture, but it is the culture that makes the stuff.

Steve has an informal Museum of Foreign Grocery Products, a fun diversion that celebrates cultural differences through mundane consumer goods.

Steve takes pictures steadily whether for consulting work, travel, or as part of everyday life. Photography helps him discover another "frame" on our surroundings and to practice seeing the world differently.

Steve built one of the first online communities (a Rolling Stones fan group) in 1992, nurturing it from a time when the Internet was an underground academic technology through to today, as part of a global info-infrastructure.

Connect with Steve: LinkedIn   Flickr   Twitter



Our Past Speaking Engagements
  • About, With, and For at the Institute of Design (2002 - 2005; 2004 slides here)
  • Adobe Systems (2005) - the challenges of being a creative inside a corporate environment
  • Creative CanUX (2005) - seminar on ethnographic methods
  • DUX05 poster - user research for the HP Home Cinema Digital Projector (PDF link to paper)
  • DUX05 tutorial - innovation, ethnography and improv
  • IDSA-SF (2005) - facilitated panel discussion on design entrepreneurship
  • BayCHI - Kawaii: Adventures in a Parallel Universe (2004)
  • CHIFOO (2004) - innovation, ethnography and improv
  • eBay (2004) - Global User Experience & Design Summit (review)
  • Fisher-Price (2004) - Design Summit
  • IDSA Western District Conference (2004) - facilitated panel discussions on i) design stories and ii) radical changes in our world
  • IFL - Swedish Institute of Management (2003, 2004) - Beyond Market Research
  • LIMA Licensing Trade Show (2004) - facilitated panel discussion on trends
  • Masterfoods (2004) - R&D Excellence Week
  • PDMA-SoCal (2004) - Learning about Customers, Demystified
  • SF-AMA (2004) - international ethnography
  • Art Center College of Design (2003) - introduction to ethnographic methods
  • DUX03 (with Lynn Shade) - international ethnography (PDF link to paper)
  • FX/PAL (2003) - Beyond Market Research
  • Google (2003) - Designer Tea Time
  • IBM Make IT Easy (2003) - Discovering Customer Value
  • Institute of Design (2003) - international ethnography
  • Thought At Work (2003) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (review here) - introduction to design research
  • Chemical Senses Day (2002) - introduction to ethnographic methods
  • Shure (2000) - training in ethnographic methods
  • Stanford Design Program (1998 - 2000) - lecture on ethnographic methods
  • BayCHI - Building Meaning Into Products (1998)
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business (1996) - lecture on building usable products
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