A method is simply a set of steps you can refer to, so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you are trying to solve a similar problem.

Design are great.

They help define a baseline way of doing something.

They help create a shared vocabulary across a team or an organization.

They help make design accessible to more people (hi, Design Thinking), which also means that other industries will start understanding the value design can bring to the equation.

They also help make our profession more standardized, more organized, more quantifiable, and as a consequence, look more serious than mainstream knowledge likes to think (wait, design is just art, right?).

In the last two decades, companies like IDEO, frog, IBM, Cooper have done a really good job in standardizing and popularizing certain design methods — and eventually putting them into a deck of cards.

IDEO Method Cards: numerous ways to inspire design — approximately 1 dollar each

Method cards can be great. They can help designers get un-stuck when trying to solve a certain problem. They can also be a powerful tool to evangelize non-designers on how methodical and scientific Design can be — which is particularly impactful when it comes to influencing the business people who make decisions on how much to invest in Design.

On the other hand, a lot of companies patent design methods as a way to charge higher for their services. To sell books. To position themselves as leaders or innovators in certain practices. Or just so that they can charge a lot of money to teach you, as a designer, how to use their tools.

That’s not necessarily concerning. It’s part of the business.

What is concerning is when designers cross the line and start to obsess about design methods. To rely on design methods for everything, and to start to believe there is no other way to solve design problems than the one that’s specified in one of those method cards.

Here are a few pieces of advice to ensure you are not crossing that line:

Don’t assume every designer knows every design method.

“Wait, you don’t know what a double diamond is?!” “Wait, you’ve never run a Design Sprint?! OMG.”

That’s straight up arrogant. You think you’re sounding smart, because you’re showing how much you’re “in the know” of all these different methodologies, but you’re actually missing the mark on a fundamental principle of being a designer: putting yourself in other people’s shoes, being empathetic, and creating accessibility in everything you do.

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