Planning an innovative or effective digital experience today usually demands research and analysis. But, how do you figure out which methods to use? A new book, “Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions,” has the answer. One of the book’s authors, Bella Martin (pictured right), recently took time away from her work at Delta to answer some of my questions about this handy resource.
My co-author Bruce Hanington (a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design) and I worked together on my thesis project, titled “Visualizing Research Methods” back in 2003-2004. With Bruce’s guidance, I investigated whether design teams seeing descriptions of new research methods made those teams more confident in using them.
After that project, Bruce and I would always hint at resurrecting it because we felt we were onto an idea that was really simple but had a lot of impact. So, not only did the idea stay with us, but we found ourselves repeatedly responding to our colleagues who would send us descriptions of a design problem and ask for advice on which research method to use. Over the years we amassed a pretty sizable set of seminal research papers and books that we would point people to again and again, and we thought it was time to share that information on a larger scale. The information was out there, and the book just gave us a chance to take all of it and present it in a new, more visual, way
Rockport’s “Essentials” series are beautiful books that were written and designed primarily to be visual…in the words of the editors there, they want their books to “show as much as they tell.” The other books in the series use the same “100 principles” format that we do, such as “Universal Principles of Design” (one of my favorite books).
In each of these books, each principle takes up only one or two pages, with the visual and the verbal elements working hand-in-hand to illuminate the ideas presented. The books are great because each creates a feeling of “looking over the shoulder” at the processes and techniques being used by design teams around the world.
The audience for Rockport books are usually practitioners and students…the people who are doing the day-by-day effort, don’t have time to read arcane and long-winded books, and who need references that provide both fresh ideas and techniques that help them to hone their skills.
More and more interactive teams and project stakeholders are waking up to the fact that design work cannot be teased apart from content work. Although it is likely people will react to the visual components of our products and services first, the reason they stay and that they return is going to be based on the content that you have made available, and whether it helps them, informs them, entertains them…and does so repeatedly.
Digital teams and project stakeholders can get in front of this challenge by making the content the focus of reviews and studies with the intended users or audiences. Methods of evaluating content—such as the example that your team at Content Science provided to visualize what the content is doing—can help interactive teams better plan for content.
I have a project that is just kicking off, and the team needs to review wish list items and prioritize them in a way that supports the business goals. I’m going to facilitate a few sessions using the Kano Analysis and the Weighted Matrix to help make decisions about the order in which we tackle each design request. I love using these methods as they take the guess work and individual preferences out of the mix…a much smarter way to work.
To learn more about or buy the book, visit Amazon.com.
Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in April 2012.
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