Building a Methodology
If you are not an active designer or, on the contrary, you are but you do not want to stay in the sector where you are currently Designing, before building your new methodology it is very relevant to explore new market niches.
Graphic design, as well as the rest of the Design disciplines, the final objective of the projects or digital products is not only to build something beautiful and aesthetic, that is, the appearance of the product, but the designer must be aware that his work goes beyond the mere constructive stage. For this reason, a designer must:
- Understand the strategic or business objectives of the product
- Understand the users of the product and design for them
- Respect the construction deadlines
- Fit your work into a given budget
- Add value to the digital product
- Build a usable, beautiful and memorable product.
Below are some of the most relevant Design methods, which are applied to the construction of digital products.
The Morris Asimov Method. 1962
The Morris Asimov Method (1962) is an iterative method that feeds back on itself. That is, it allows for the repetition of previous phases depending on the conclusions of each phase. It requires a vision from the point of view of the information and the current situation of the problem.
Christopher Jones’ Design Method. 1976
Engineer graduated from the University of Cambridge, lived in the 20th century, published a book on design methods that was pioneering in its field. In it, he explains the methodological concepts through a visual metaphor, black box and white box:
The designer builds a solution in which he believes but does not know how to explain the process that has led to that solution.
- The solution is biased by previous experiences.
- More results, the more time the designer has.
- Spontaneously perceives the solution.
- Does not follow any constructive order.
- It is unfeasible with complex problems.
- Does not adapt well to working in teams.
It is a linear, logically ordered process that can be explained from the beginning to the final solution. It is usually divided into two phases, a first of solution search and another that evaluates the solution and the method itself.
- The objectives, variables and strategies are set at the beginning
- Also the evaluation criteria
- Analysis of the problem is done before looking for solutions
- Logical evaluation. There is no intuition thinking.
- It is usual that there is no feedback in the process
- It is synthetic
Bruno Munari Method. 1983
In 1983 he wrote a book “How Objects Are Born” to bring design closer to any discipline or person. In the book he describes how designing any product is relatively easy, like cooking, but always following a logical process to reach the final design solution.
Bruce Archer Method. 2008
Select the right materials and shape them to meet the functional and aesthetic needs within the limitations of the available production means.
- Analytical (Inductive)
- Gather information
- Creative (Deductive)
- Develop prototypes and evaluate them
- Execution (Descriptive)
- Communication and documentation
- Design solution
Here is my own design methodology that I have employed until 2018: The Telescope Method.
I developed this approach out of humility and respect to work on my projects and assist my clients for Designing Digital Products focused on User Experience. method is constructed from Design Thinking and other Design methodologies. It is focused on solving problems in a week and incorporates two phases. The first phase is used at the beginning of a project to generate knowledge and promote the use of design processes. The second phase is integrated at the end of the usual design phases to provide feedback, evolve the product, and ensure quality while also meeting new business objectives.
I build Telescope Method specific for Designing Digital Products focused on User Experience. Is a Guerrilla design method for quickly solving problems.
This method is iterative and starts with an analysis of the problem by experts to identify user needs and issues. Defining and segmenting the problem is done to create a strong foundation of information and to enable co-creation sessions. During this phase, objectives, strategies, and architectures of the design are aligned and potential value propositions are added. A constructive plan or retrotiming is created and evaluations are conducted.
Designs are then built iteratively, starting with low-level prototypes to reduce construction time and explain the design. These are evaluated and medium-level prototypes containing solutions to the sub-problems of the design are constructed. Finally, the prototypes are translated into a design that is as close as possible to the final product.
The design is then evaluated using different methods and corrected where necessary. It is then evolved, with quantitative or qualitative analysis methods used to detect unsolved problems or integrate new objectives into the process. Prototypes are prototyped, built, and evaluated again, with this process repeating infinitely and involving Kaizen (continuous improvement) to increase the quality of the designed digital product.
The goal of this method is to create a process that is understandable to customers, that aligns with their objectives, and allows for the building of digital products using a scientific approach. Each step is evaluated and fed back in evolutionary phases. It is flexible, with each phase having different milestones and components, and can even omit some phases if they have been done from another source or have already been built.
Systems that help design and some sample outputs
Brief review of Design Thinking
In the other post of this blog I recommended a book of necessary reading for any designer, SPRINT which is summarized in this interesting Medium article.
In the book a design work process based on Design thinking is broken down. Another similar and complementary approach is the one developed by IDEO, the great multinational Design firm, in 2013.
Dan Nessler demonstrated in 2016 how to start any design project from scratch by unifying Human Centered Design (HCD), Design Thinking, and User Experience (UX) processes. This approach allows for greater clarity and conciseness in the design process.
Designers should have studied and memorized Designpedia by Rafael Zaragozá and Juan Gasca, a complete and categorized compendium of 80 Design Thinking tools. This book is essential for understanding when, how and why to use the tools for each phase of the two constructive design processes.
The compendium is growing, making it even more valuable.
Some techniques and concepts that can “save your life” in a project.
It is a technique that serves to, in a single page, show all the relevant aspects of a project and maintain a very precise and productive discussion with a client.
Any, from paper to Figma Jam or Miro.
Arborescences and Mind Maps
Mind maps are useful for a variety of tasks, from taking notes quickly to constructing the structure and flow of a mobile app.
Creating a prioritization process for a design or any project that requires a series of tasks can be applied to many areas. The process involves the following steps:
- Create a list of features and functionalities that the design should have. This should be done with your team and client.
- Ask the person who will build the functionalities to estimate the effort involved and the benefit of those functionalities, as well as their attractiveness.
- Analyze the results using an interpretation table.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is an idea taken from agile design and development approaches. It helps to identify the essential features that a product needs to have in order to be successful in the market and satisfy customers:
- It should be achievable by the design and development team.
- It should meet customer expectations.
- It should meet business objectives.
- To easily define an MVP, you can use the Attractiveness/Effort Matrix previously discussed.
Diversify Your Project Risk
To minimize the risk of non-payment or decline, it is recommended that you diversify your customer portfolio. You can do this by segmenting customers into the following categories:
High-revenue projects that offer maximum profit.
Risky projects with low revenue, such as startups and personal projects.
Projects that involve contests.
Social projects that are non-profit but beneficial to your portfolio.
Show Your Work, You Decide How
Before getting into it, I’ll explain how a professional designer shows and sells their projects. Suppose this designer doesn’t use a public portfolio like other designers, because after analyzing their desired clients, they decided to do it differently:
With a private portfolio, due to the NDA (confidentiality contracts) they signed with their clients.
Sending functional prototypes to customers, through cloud-based tools
Sending success stories in brief, through a password-protected website.
Showing their methodology, references, and collaborators.
But most importantly, they rely on recommendations for a job well done and word of mouth.
It is essential to conduct research to understand how to market your work. It is common to feel overwhelmed, particularly if:
- You are a new designer with few or no projects to showcase.
- You have created work for clients with low visibility.
First, consider your target audience. Who and what could need your services? Who and what would be your ideal clients in the next three years?
To answer these questions, I recommend completing the following tasks to know your potential client:
- Do an Empathy Map. 30 min.
- Set a Personas short session. 1 hour.
Define and Plan
After studying your potential customers or the customers you want to have, look among your works which can be adapted to their needs or projects. If you don’t have projects because you are a new designer, you can consider the idea of making “truchos”, which are fictitious works for large brands or products that interest you personally, designed unilaterally and not hired by you. This is a common way to build a good portfolio and demonstrate your good work, although it requires a lot of effort and work.
To measure how much effort it takes to do something and how attractive it is to your target, make an Attractiveness / Effort Matrix.
To do it, add some post-its to the matrix and score in two vectors: the amount of effort it will take to do that part of the portfolio (as a Designer) and how desirable that project will be for your potential customers (as a Client).
Use any tool to do it, but InDesign is usually preferred. The Portfolio Handbook explains how to build your portfolio. Additionally, explore some Software as a Service (SaaS) options. Here are some tips to consider:
- Create a public or private website to showcase your success stories.
- Demonstrate your methodology and its variations.
- Discuss your philosophy, structure, and team, and keep it up to date.
- Select the most relevant projects. Remember that you are judged by your most recent work, so be sure to include dates.
- Explain hypotheses, solutions, and ROI.
- Avoid technical jargon. Speak in the language of your potential clients.
- Include success metrics.
Some tools to make your portfolios in the cloud.
If you are a designer starting your career, you must be on Behance.
Behance is a platform to showcase your creative work, as well as to update and spread your portfolio. It synchronizes with ProSite, a fully customizable website builder and with Adobe Creative Cloud.
The alternative to Behance. Dribbble is a community of designers and creatives who share small snippets of their work, processes and projects. It has become a resource to discover and connect with designers from all over the world, and a Pro account gives you access to projects, attachments and statistics.
Very similar to Carbonmade, Dunked is a free, easy to use solution and does not require any programming knowledge. You create the portfolio, upload the images, upload a video or audio, choose a template and customize it to your liking.
It is a platform similar to Behance and Dribbble. It has unlimited free storage, mobile access and statistics. You can organize and adapt your portfolio. Coroflot also offers a personal profile, job alerts and very good visibility in the American market.
(Rala Zaragozá and Juan Gasca). “Designpedia. 80 Tools to Build Your Ideas”. Lid Publishing. 2016
(IDEO) Design Thinking. 2013.
(Blue Attack) Virtual and Augmented Reality Report. 2016 (Luke Wroblewski) Twitter. 2016. (Industrial design students at the University of Cincinnati) Hire Me?! The Portfolio Handbook. A Guide to Creating Your Design Portfolio. Free Book. 2011
If you’re curious to learn more
Creating Your Digital Portfolio: The Essential Guide to Showcasing Your Design Work Online This book takes you from how to build your narrative to the best hosting plan for your needs. Editor: How Design Books (December 26, 2010) Language: English ISBN-10: 1440310238 ISBN-13: 978-1440310232
LEAN Customer Development: How to Create Products Your Customers Will Buy (UNIR Emprende)
How do you develop those products that people will actually use and buy? This practical guide will teach you to validate products and potential business projects through Customer Development research, avoiding wasting time and money on developing products or services that no one wants or needs.
Hire Me?! The Portfolio Handbook
A Guide to Creating Your Design Portfolio
A simple free book from the University of Cincinnati that explains how to build a portfolio for almost any design discipline. Free Book Publish Date Sep 27, 2011 Industrial design students at the University of Cincinnati, DAAP class of 2012. Available here.