Design Methods
A collection of design methods that I've been using in my design process

Design is all about trade-offs. In order to gain insights from different stakeholders and objectively weigh the pros and cons of each decision, design methods are indispensable in the process for designers to design beyond personal preference.

Next to the design methods already mentioned in other projects, the following are selected examples of other design methods that I learned and used in my past work.


2011 - 2016


UX reserach
Visual design

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a great way to quickly visualize and organize thoughts in the design process. In a mind map, designers begin with a central idea and then branch out to relevant things that come up in mind. Comparing to the traditional note-taking method, mind mapping varies in forms with application of colors, fonts, graphics, strokes and connecting lines. It allows designers to jot down ideas in a more personal and lively fashion.

Design methods

A mind map illustrating the waste problems at University of Washington

Experience mapping

Experience mapping is a strategic process to capture and communicate complex user interactions. Through investigating and visualizing customer behaviors across different touchpoints, designers can develop empathy for users and identify design opportunities.

Generally speaking, there are four steps to build an effective experience map:

  • 1. Uncover the truth: Reach out to real users and observe their behaviors.

  • 2. Chart the course: Work with stakeholders in a session to synthesize key insights.

  • 3. Tell the story: Visualize the user journey and map out the insights.

  • 4. Use the map: Generate and communicate ideas based on the map.

For more information, an American design agency, Adaptive Path, has written a detailed guide here.

Design methods

Experience map of a hospital visit for Ebola patients

Design methods

Experience map of a hospital visit for Ebola patients (child & parent)

Thumbnail sketching

Thumbnail sketching is a quick and abbreviated drawing method that allows designers to rapidly map down ideas in the initial design stage. Since the main purpose of thumbnail sketch is to help memorizing thoughts instead of presenting, it is usually very small, like an inch or two high.

Design methods

Generate ideas of "how to encourage UW students to do recycling more"

Context mapping

Contextmapping is an emerging method for designers and researchers to map the contexts of user's interaction with products. By involving users to "make" things, contextmapping not only focuses on learning what users think and do, but also aims at gaining knowledge about what people know, feel and dream. It can reveal the tacit knowledge and expose latent needs of users (Visser, Stappers, Remko, Elizabeth, 2005), and thus goes beyond the conventional user study techniques such as interviews, observations and focus groups.

The goal of this context mapping was to gain insights of people's expectation of their ideal work style and to understand the context of the interaction between people and their office environment.

Design methods

The process of context mapping

Design methods

Deliver a sensitizing package to participants one week before the group session

Design methods

Group session: idea sharing and co-creating

Design methods

Participant's workbook

Design methods

The common themes surfacing after analyzing all data gathered in the process