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UX Method Cards

August 31, 2011

After a conversation with a colleague last week about the Inception Card Deck we use at ThoughtWorks, and what we’d like to see be added to it, I wanted to share some of the other sets of UX Method cards that I’ve seen.

I find the deck that we use to be a very handy tool, both for planning a project, but also just to formalise and explain the UX activities that we use which can often be somewhat abstract to people who’ve never done them before.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to, I can’t share the ThoughtWorks Inception cards themselves. Essentially they are tool which contains all the various activities, both UX and Technical, that allows us to map out the steps/activities we’ll take within a project. The concept as a tool is nothing new, but the content is considered to be our special sauce as it were.

A while back I invested in physical copies of a whole lot of these while I was looking in to defining UX methodology frameworks. Too be honest, I haven’t used any of these in anger during an actual project, but they provided lots of food for thought about what what I would put in a set of my own if I found the time to create them. I also love owning a physical set of these. Not only does it help to give more weight to some of the UX things we do, some of them are beautiful tactile objects I just love to play with (particularly the Oblique Strategies which come in a nice embossed box).

Roughly, the following decks fall in to three different categories:

  • Research Techniques
  • Design Activities
  • Design Inspiration Challenges

SILK Method Deck

The SILK method deck is a handy collection of methods, principles and prompt cards, which can be used by project teams, designers, project managers, social science researchers, community and economic development experts alike.

Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behavior Through Design

The intention is that the cards are useful at the idea generation stage of the design process, helping designers, clients and – perhaps most importantly – potential users themselves explore behaviour change concepts from a number of disciplines, and think about how they might relate to the problem at hand.

Oblique Strategies

In 1975, Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno created the original pack of Oblique Strategies cards, through thinking about approaches to their own work as artist and musician. This deck contains over one hundred “worthwhile dilemmas.” Each card presents a question, dilemma, or new way of thinking about the work you are doing. The cards provide a number of options for thinking of problems from different angles.

IDEO Method Cards

IDEO Method Cards is a collection of 51 cards representing diverse ways that design teams can understand the people they are designing for. They are used to make a number of different methods accessible to all members of a design team, to explain how and when the methods are best used, and to demonstrate how they have been applied to real design projects.

nForm UX Method Cards

The sets first came out in 2007 at the IA Summit. Jess McMullin created a deck of 16 cards that show methods, deliverables, and ideas that practitioners can use to design great user experiences.

Mental Models

In the midst of a busy project it’s all too easy to forget the nuances that distinguish great products. Mental Notes brings together 50 insights from psychology into an easy reference and brainstorming tool. Each card describes one insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to the design of Web sites, Web apps,and software applications.

Design Thinking Bootcamp

The guide outlines each mode of a human-centered design process, and describes a number of methods which may support your design thinking throughout the process.

Gamestorming (Technically this is a book and not a et of method cards but it achieves the same end)

We’re hardwired to play games. We play them for fun. We play them in our social interactions. We play them at work. That last one is tricky. “Games” and “work” don’t seem like a natural pairing. Their coupling in the workplace either implies goofing off (the fun variant) or office politics (the not-so-fun type). The authors of Gamestorming, have a different perspective. They contend that an embrace and understanding of game mechanics can yield benefits in many work environments, particularly those where old hierarchical models are no longer applicable, like the creatively driven knowledge work of today’s cutting edge industries.

More reading
Here’s an article outlining some of these –


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