Monday, November 3, 2014

The Design of Design Methods

Part of my research during the last year and a half has been looking at how new design methods are developed. In addition to reading many academic papers about various methods and observing designers as they have struggled with the use of methods, these efforts have included many interviews with methods developers. It has been extremely surprising to me as I have come to discover that many who are engaged in developing new methods do not use the same process or think the same way when they are creating a method as when they are creating a design for some form of users.

Why would someone who designs artifacts, interactions and experiences not use the wisdom that they have gain from doing that work to create a new method? Why is the development of a design method not recognized as the same exact thing as designing something for someone else? Sure, methods developers use some of those same skills but many of them do not think about developing a method in the same way that they think about developing a new design. Most of these people, in their design work, are huge proponents of "user-centered" or "goal directed design." And yet when they do other types of work they seem to miss the possibility that the same exact processes and ideas can and should be applied to that other work.

I have seen this echoed in other things that designers do. A couple of years ago I attended a symposium in which designers were developing (hello designing!) a system to support graduate and post-graduate designers in sharing ideas and doing work. Many key concepts that they would have insisted upon using and considering in their work for other (i.e. non-designer) users went by the wayside and were completely forgotten. I think this is a universal problem. Human beings (not just designers), when working on things for themselves forget the principles that they hold so highly when working on things for other people.

Erik Stolterman and I are currently working on a short paper that discusses some of this. I'm pretty excited about it but also a bit apprehensive.


  1. I've been guilty of that myself, but I'm trying to do better. I've started a vision document for my latest game design project, mostly because the design problem I'm trying to solve is really hard.

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