It’s a bit of a paradox: The first thing to do when starting a design project is not to design. Instead, it’s to seek to understand and empathize. The most direct path I have found to achieve this goal is through a form of participatory ethnography. Simply put, leave the design studio and enter the context in which work and play are done. Designing for the homeless? Go spend time with the homeless. Trying to improve community agriculture? Go spend time with farmers and gardeners. There is both an art and a science to conducting qualitative research effectively, but being there is one of the best ways to get started.
— Jon Kolko: Trusting the Design Process