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Three Great Resources for Innovators

Are you familiar with the design process squiggle? It’s a very simple illustration that was created by a designer named Damien Newman to explain how the design process begins with the abstract, moves to the concept and finally the design, iterating and narrowing along the way.

This mess of uncertainty at the beginning, and those big loops of iteration are often the most fun and challenging parts of my work and the time that I most likely will turn to outside resources to look for new perspectives or tools to help. Here are three of my favorite go-to resources that I find myself using time and time again. One note on overlap…there’s a lot of comparable information listed in each of these resources. For example, while each resource offers information on personas, they each give a slightly different perspective and more importantly, they offer varying depths of info and instructions. I’ve listed the following 3 resources here according to how deep they each dive into the subject matter.

1. Service Design Tools

Although this is named Service Design tools, these tools are completely applicable and helpful for a variety of design projects (not just service design).
Why it’s great:

  • Unique tools! It includes unusual tools such as the Motivation Matrix (http://www.servicedesigntools.org/tools/20)- a way to understand the connection between all the entities in a given system.
  • It’s concise! It offers very concise definitions of frequently used methods such as a heuristic evaluation. (http://www.servicedesigntools.org/tools/16)
  • It’s easy! This tool is online and well organized making it easy to access and share with colleagues and clients.

2. Innovating for People

I’m a huge fan of Innovating for People which is both a book and a deck of planning cards created by LUMA, a human-centered design learning institute. Much like a favorite novel, I find myself repeatedly giving away my deck of LUMA’s planning cards and re-buying it.
Why it’s great:

  • Context. The “Sample Combination” recommendations in the book give context for thinking about how to sequence methods together. Super helpful when planning a workshop or project.
  • Unique methods! One of my favorites is called “Rose, Thorn, Bud” which is a method of color coding findings via post-it notes before conducting affinity mapping into themes. By doing so, it gives you a (literal) 10 foot view to identify positive, negative and opportunity areas within your project.

3. 101 Design Methods

When I’m talking with people who are interesting in getting involved in user-centered design, they often ask me to recommend one favorite book and this is the one I recommend. It’s a very pragmatic guidebook which organizes the design process into seven distinct modes: Sense Intent, Know Context, Know People, Frame Insights, Explore Concepts, Frame Solutions, and Realize Offerings.
Why it’s great:

  • Tons of actionable info! This book offers 2–3 pages of info for each of the 101 methods including benefits, what it does, how it works, when to use it and what outcomes you can expect. There are also illustrations and photos of each method as well as example projects.
  • The Intro. While most people won’t turn to a method book to learn about the overall design process, the intro of this book is a hidden gem which explains principles of successful innovation and a model of the design innovation process. Read it!