Method overview

Minimizing your impact can be a great way to maximize your discoveries. In situations where you cannot speak directly with people, or do not want to interrupt the flow of their activities, being a fly on the wall has its advantages.

You’ll come to find that careful, unobtrusive observation provides valuable insight you cannot otherwise obtain. When left to their own devices, people are likely to say or do things that they’re not aware of and would not be able to articulate, even if prompted. If you can watch and listen without interfering, you have a chance to capture people’s natural behavior. Remember to pay careful attention to people’s tasks and workflow, taking note of the information, tools, and people they rely upon to do what they do. Also be mindful of the surrounding environment, understanding that peripheral objects, sounds, and people may affect outcomes.”

The benefits of this method

  • Diminishes your presence as a researcher.
  • Deepens your empathy for others.
  • Challenges your assumptions.
  • Informs subsequent research activities.


Quick guide

  • Identify a subject area to study.
  • Develop a plan to guide your investigation.
  • Consider which people and activities to watch.
  • Choose a location to visit.
  • Obtain the necessary access and permission(s).
  • Prepare materials for capturing what you see.
  • Go out and observe.
  • Record your findings in videos, photos, and notes.

Helpful hints

  • Make every effort to blend in to the background.
  • Take on the role of an objective bystander.
  • Look at the situation from several vantage points.

Combining LUMA methods into design recipes

The methods in the LUMA System are great on their own, but they are really powerful when combined into design recipes. Just like when you combine ingredients to make a tasty meal, you can also combine design methods to address challenges such as improving workplace culture or uncovering customer insights.

An example of a recipe from LUMA Workplace®:

Want to learn more about LUMA methods?