Fostering Design Methods

Fostering Design Methods

Book cover of "Universal Methods of Design"

It was a perfect blend of design ideas.

Carnegie Mellon University alum Bella Martin (A'04) wanted to help companies embrace the power of human-centered research.

Associate Professor Bruce Hanington in CMU's School of Design, studies how different design methods work.

Their complementary approaches resulted in a new book, "Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions" from Rockport Publishers .

While attending CMU, Martin structured her thesis work around visualizing ways to help designers win arguments with companies in which human-centered research was not yet a consistent part of the culture.

Hanington was her adviser.

"Designers should involve users in the whole process of research — from understanding them before they design, to designing with them, to getting meaningful feedback from them at the design prototype stage," Hanington said.

Eight years later, the two took their original work and expanded it into the book. 

"Universal Methods of Design" is now the sixth in a series by Rockport Publishers; with the first book being one of Martin's and Hanington's favorites: "Universal Principles of Design" by Will Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler.

Following the series format, "Universal Methods of Design" offers 100 examples of design processes including case studies and illustrations from industry and research.

A number of them are from School of Design and Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) faculty, students, and alumni, and from companies such as Microsoft, eBay, Citrix, Adaptive Path, and MAYA.

Martin said the real-world examples used on every page of the book were picked because her thesis found evidence that visuals and case studies help to demystify what designers do.

"The book is for designers who create products and services. Very experienced designers who know 75 user research methods will hopefully learn 25 new ones, and we hope that design students will come to see the methods as the tools for our discipline, just as sketching and software are our tools," Martin said.

"I also hope it will end up on client, product manager and developer bookshelves — the book really was designed with them in mind, too," she added.

Hanington said the book is widely adaptable for designers in a variety of ways, and the examples from product, interface, communication and environmental design speak to that.

Martin added: "I hope that people who are not designers — or new to user-centered design — will look at the methods and think, 'Oh wow, that's all it is? Our team can do that."

Martin, now a senior interaction design consultant at Delta Airlines in Atlanta, said she is thankful for her professors at the School of Design and HCII. She said the book was partially born from her hopes to work with them again.

"I am always amazed at the doors that open when I say 'I'm a designer and researcher with a Masters from Carnegie Mellon,'" Martin said.

"It's also a great feeling to know how to deliver on those words. I am confident in what I learned at CMU and still deeply identify with the philosophy of the program."

Related Links: Purchase the book | School of Design | Human-Computer Interaction Institute

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