Photo journal illustration

Lead paragraph

A Photo-journal is a visual tool that helps designers to get an understanding of how a person uses a service or spends time in a place. It also helps to understand a person’s context, the people who surround them, community dynamics, and the journey through how people use a service. It also helps people to tell their own stories as well as help create a foundation for further discussion.

PREPARATION: 1-2 hours
DURATION: 1-8 hours per round
TEMPLATE OR GUIDELINES: Create own guidelines
FACILITATORS: 1 design team member
RESOURCES: Smartphone or camera
PARTICIPANTS: Users, employees, or other stakeholders

By using the photo-journal tool, designers receive from participants captured everyday moments and subtleties. The subjects are often users, employees, or other stakeholders, who register with a camera their experiences or situations that are relevant to the design challenge.


Define the focus of what you are interested in and consider what you want to do with the findings (build personas, journey maps, system maps, etc.).

Based on the selected focus area, define the criteria for selecting suitable participants, considering not only who they are, but also what activities they would do.

Think about how you will recruit your participants, how you will start and end, and how much time they are expected to dedicate to this activity. Decide what expectations will be set up-front, and write up the guidelines explaining what your participants should do.

After deciding the best times, length and depth of the photo-journal, participants will immerse and register key events of their experience with photos or screenshots.

Once the participant has taken the photos, make sure that the photos are copied to the journal reporting presentation with comments, time and description. Write up key learnings from the photo-journal. Review all your data and highlight important issues whilst trying to find patterns within the data. Spend some time with the photos and try to think of questions or issues that require further information from the participant.

Invite participants to discuss/walk you through the photos they took, and what they mean. Probe into the ‘why’ behind each photo, dig into how they feel about the photos of the service or experience.

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