When Designing: Focus on Methods, Not Process

Bryan over at the ZURBlog wrote that designers should focus on methods, not process.

At a glance, method and process may seem like the same thing, but a closer look reveals their distinct differences. A method is a how you do something, while process is putting methods through an established routine.
Don’t get stuck thinking a process will solve your problems because without effective methods, you’re likely to end up with an uninspired result.

Some food for thought…
However I wonder if we are “splitting hairs” by playing around with the definition of the words here, but I do see where he is coming from. Personally, I don’t see a difference between the definition of “method” and “process”, and I tend to use both words interchangeably to represent the same thing. I do use “process”, however, to help communicate a larger sense of scale.
I do believe though, that this conversation follows along the same line of thinking as my point about how in Design there is no fix process, just broad guidelines.

A slide from “Design Thinking is Killing Creativity, a Presentation Redux“.

  • Lloyd Pennington

    October 30, 2010 at 1:17 am Reply

    I must say I have to agree with you Brian. In fact if I may I would go further to suggest design should have no process at all. At risk of being classed as unprofessional and a heretic, I would have to say I do not have use a design method or process.
    I think more in terms of having a design philosophy. To me better results can be realised when we think in terms of how the design will impact on the emotional responses of the end user. Think in terms of how the design first has to impact on the emotional responses of the CEO, the retail sector and other stakeholders. Having a design philosophy that encompasses holistic thinking; considering manufacture, distribution, profit margins etc, to realise a successful product are as important and as applicable to the end user as they are to the client because these impact the price that the consumer is willing to pay. That’s not to say that form and function are less important, in fact design aims to invoke and exploit the emotional responses of the consumer to spend more.
    I wouldn’t want either to give the impression that we should design simply for profit, but without a profit a product we design to enhance the consumers life simply will not come to market and thus fails in its ultimate objective.
    It’s been said often to me that if the design is right, the profits will follow. And whilst I agree with that notion, I do feel it’s a view that lacks a full and rounded view of the realities of design’s role in the commercial world.
    This led me to ‘design thinking’. While design argues with corporate executives over who should control design thinking, we should not forget who pays the wages, i.e. the consumer. While design thinkers protest that business should embrace the attributes of design, designers equally should do more to embrace the attributes of ‘business thinking’.

  • Julie Jenson Bennett

    November 1, 2010 at 2:19 am Reply

    Thanks for reminding me of the distinction between process and method – it’s been bugging me a lot in recent conversations when people purport that what I do is a process.
    Further thoughts here: http://slicedicestudio.com/2010/10/process-method-theory/

  • Process? Method? Theory? | Prove Design

    November 16, 2010 at 7:30 am Reply

    […] Design Sojourn’s recent post triggered my own mulling on the word process and current conversations around design thinking. […]

  • Design Translator

    November 18, 2010 at 3:03 pm Reply

    @Llyod: Another great comment. Thanks for taking the time. I like the term Design Philosophy, as this is something many great designers fall back on rather than a process. Process or Methods or even Methodology comes across as a very structured activity, thereby potentially giving a wrong impression. Having Philosophy means also having an implied process. But by having a Philosophy, it also means there is a focus on the end goal, or target experience. Nice.
    @Julie: Thanks for the blog post and link, I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

  • […] Design Sojourn’s recent post triggered my own mulling on the word process and current conversations around design thinking. […]

  • Andy Welch

    December 5, 2013 at 1:28 am Reply

    Hi, I agree that you need a balance of the idea and the practice. I think it is not a case of one being more important than the other. Having graduated from an MA program at Goldsmiths and worked as a designer I have put together a compendium of methods which can be found at http://www.designmethodsandprocesses.co.uk. It would be great to do a link exchange or if you can find some use for the methods on my site it would be great to have feedback.

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