The book contains a wide selection of tools for better conversations; methods and techniques that enable designers and businesses to, in their words, ‘better understand and empathize with people, and as a result build more meaningful products’. Which is a very good way of describing the raft of tools we use as service designers with companies and their customers (customer journeys, personas, video diaries etc) to facilitate the conversation and gain the most insight.
When I was teaching web and product design students about service design I found it really hard to recommend textbooks to the students, not because there aren’t some fantastic books available on and around (service) design and design research, but because textbooks need to be very clear and concise and act as an easy point of reference that people can go back to time and time again.
As the title suggests Universal Methods of Design covers a very broad cross-section of methods for completing people-centred design projects; gathering insight and generating concepts. It is very well referenced with some further reading suggestions too, and perhaps best of all is the case study (or two) that comes with each tool, for example, Participant Observation provides a snippet of Patricia Moore’s work and Simulation Exercises the MIT AgeLab AGNES empathy suit.
This book is also a useful resource for businesses looking to understand their customers and better solve their problems, even if you haven’t used the tools before. There are innovative new ways to quickly and effectively ask your customers to complete surveys through to completing full customer experience audits of your product or service.
Some of the tools are seemingly simple (like interviews and observation) and others, much more methodical and complex, but it is actually using them that is important, and what you do with the insight they give you. How you translate your findings into better experiences for your customers is the art of design (and what makes your business stand out).
It is a book every design agency should have on their shelf; you will find something useful every time you pick it up. If you are able to commit each of the 100 methods and techniques to memory and put them into practice, you will be a Zen Master of design research, but until then, just having a copy on your shelf for reference is a great place to start.