Method U

I have been following Kahane’s Solving Tough Probelms for some time now. And have taken many bits of method U into my own practice.

The best bit about it is in this text – from Zaid Hasan – Connecting to the Source: The U-Process.

‘instead of planning and designing you just start. You take the first stp as quickly as possible. You try something out and then evluate it.

You can get this and other publications on this process from here: http://reospartners.com/publications#83

Chris Alexander fans

Six years or so ago when I googled Chris Alexander  came up with all these sites and references in the software designers realm. I wandered off and saw myself mentioning this to friends saying – how interesting this was. It was not usual for nyone to wander into design for methodological insights. It was usually us wandering out into other fields looking for the latest in-thing or fad. We were starting to get the beginnings of our foray into software and digital artefacts – sounding like the arts and crafts people – “let designers enter into the digital realm to make it a bit more aesthetic ( though how you can do this to the microsoft products is beyond me) and a bit more ergonomic”. And as we know so it was.

When they talked of a redoing of services – we asked for some of that action too.

This is Brian Eno getting into CAlexander. How curious.

Christopher Alexander, William Burroughs, HyperText

I heard Brian Eno mention Mr. Alexander’s writings in an interview on KPFA in Berkeley in 1988. BE talked about finding Alexander’s thinking and writing quite fascinating, even to non-architecture oriented folks. A few years later I saw some reference to Chris Alexander on Usenet and thought maybe I should explore further. But I never bothered. Then last week my girlfriend saw something on TV on Mr. Alexander, possibly a Nova episode, and she was fascinated enough to seek out two books by him. I’ve only had a few minutes to browse one of the books, but I think I can see why Eno would find it of interest. One of the books defines architecture and communities as a language, composed of patterns. It takes an approach of looking at what composes a community and breaks down 235 elements or patterns that make a community or design function in a home or building. It even goes off into a lot of philosophical directions, covering topics from sewage to defining elemnts of a comfortable workspace. One pattern focuses on the importance of the bedroom for a couple. Another suggests that children love cave-like spaces to play in and suggests building such into nooks under staircases, etc.

A unified approach to visual and interaction design

Cooper Journal: A unified approach to visual and interaction design

At the end of the day, as designers, we want to look for a set of attributes that tells a comprehensive story that resonates with both stakeholders and users, and has a healthy amount of tension which will be productive for exploring and establishing boundaries. For example, the attributes innovative and mature create some natural, productive tension. This contrast establishes a continuum that we can explore between the attributes, while establishing an extreme for each opposing attribute. For instance, a design language that takes the concept of innovation to the bleeding edge can no longer be considered stable and mature, and therefore falls outside the boundaries of the strategy defined by the overall attribute set.


A set of four experience attributes, along with their supporting terms.
A good attribute set always contains productive tension that is good
for establishing the boundaries of a design language strategy.

A set of four experience attributes, along with their supporting terms. A good attribute set always contains productive tension that is good for establishing the boundaries of a design language strategy.

Along these lines, it is often as productive to describe the negative space as it is to discuss the positive. In other words, make sure you spend some time discussing and explaining what it is categorically not, as well as what it is. For instance, the product should be brilliant, but not “bleeding edge.” An ideal negative attribute is one that represents a good thing taken to its extreme, rather than an inherently negative concept. For all experience attributes, but especially for expressing the significance of negative attributes, providing a visual reference can be very effective.