IDEO's deck of "Method Cards" for doing humane design

Avis sez, "Ideo Method Cards are a great resource for triggering fresh, innovative design solutions that emerge from an ethnographic empathy with the lived experience of a user."

I love these -- like an Oblique Strategies deck for humane design.

Method Cards - Case Studies - IDEO

PDF: Ideo Method Cards (Thanks, Avi!)


  1. I’m a big fan of these (though I didn’t know they were available to download!) – they read like an inventory of methods, which is great.

    What would be even better (from a designer’s point of view) I think is a bit more structure to the process – which methods are most appropriate in which situations, and what the pros and cons of each can be. Also, examples of each method in practice. IDEO’s classification into Learn, Look, Ask and Try is a start, but it doesn’t have enough depth to be satisfying, somehow.

    I realise what I’m describing is basically a book or a well-thought-out heavily hyperlinked wiki, or something similar, and that would take it further from the Oblique Strategies / I-Ching / random oracle kind of approach.

    But look at the amount of excellent work that’s around on design patterns in software, interface design and (of course) architecture. Much of the value of, say, Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language is that it shows how patterns can be used together, how they work and how they don’t, and so on. If it were just a random deck of ‘architectural pattern’ cards, I don’t think it would have had as much impact.

    I should admit some interest: at present I’m evolving a method to help designers design products and systems which influence people to use them more sustainably and it’s veered between very prescriptive hierarchical decision trees and more open ‘idea space’ diagrams, with lots of variations in between. If I’ve learned anything from the trials with designers so far, it’s that people do use these things in different ways, and I’m sure it’s the same with the IDEO method cards: some people will prefer to stick to a subset of methods they understand; others will want a formal structure to help decide which to apply; others will try to rank the cards in some way, and so on. Ultimately I think I’ll end up with a method which has multiple entry points and (intentionally) a number of different ways of using it.

    For anyone interested in the more technical side of innovation, and who isn’t already aware of it, have a look at TRIZ and its extensions such as BioTRIZ – it’s had its fair share of controversy, but it’s an astonishingly clever structured innovation method.

    P.S. Slightly more along the lines of the IDEO Method Cards is an ‘ecodesign game’, Play Rethink which is focused on sustainability, challenging the participants to come up with ideas for rethinking the design of everyday products and services. It’s enjoyable and the website encourages players to share the ideas they’ve generated.

  2. For those looing for more info on “Oblique Strategies”, I refer you to this website which has a pretty good description of the origins of Oblique Strategy cards from Messers Eno and Schmidt.

  3. As useful as the IDEO cards may be, (it is tough to get people into the physical part of design), why did they have to make them so mugly?

    Oblique Strategies is also a beautiful object that I use everyday.

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