Design Method, The: A Philosophy and Process for Functional Visual Communication

New Riders
Eric Karjaluoto  
New Riders
Total pages
August 2013

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Design Method, The: A Philosophy and Process for Functional Visual Communication
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Feeling uninspired? That shouldn’t keep you from creating great design work. Design is not about luck, inspiration, or personal expression. Design is a disciplined pursuit aimed at producing sensible, functional work for clients. In The Design Method, you’ll learn how to create quality design work on a regular basis that consistently pleases your clients using the same method that Creative Director Eric Karjaluoto uses at his creative agency, smashLAB. The Design Method will teach you a proven, repeatable process for solving visual communication problems.

In this book, you will learn:- Ways to conduct research and gain insight into your clients’ situations- A process for establishing strategies and plans for your projects- How to develop a cohesive concept and visual direction for each client/job- An iterative approach to prototype, test, refine, and produce effective design- Techniques for presenting and documenting creative work- Tips for making your design studio operate efficiently and consistently

Table of Contents



1. Debunking the Creative Myths

2. Creating Purposeful Design

3. Achieving Order Through Systems

4. Introducing The Design Method

5. Gaining Understanding: The Discovery Stage

6. Determining Course: The Planning Stage

7. Working with Ideas: The Creative Stage

8. Making Design Real: The Application Stage

9. Presenting Work to Clients

10. Bringing Order to Your Practice


Eric Karjaluoto is creative director and a founding partner of the creative agency smashLAB. Since 2000, he has helped a broad range of clients including The Vancouver Aquarium, the University of Minnesota, and The Nature Conservancy with their strategic, design, and communication challenges. Eric wrote Speak Human (Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal), and he writes regularly about design at

Reader Review(s)

“Everyone likes to complain about design, but almost no one is leading, teaching, and talking about how to do it better. Thanks, Eric, for giving us a book we can share with those that need it—us!”
—Seth Godin, Author of The Icarus Deception

“Eric Karjaluoto doesn’t think this book is for everyone, and boy is he wrong. This book is for every designer on the planet. The Design Method is proof positive that it is possible to make timeless, beautiful design that actually succeeds in the marketplace. If you’ve ever had your work rejected by a client (and who hasn’t), this book is for you.”
—Debbie Millman, President Design, Sterling Brands

“Designers often get confused with artists. Designers, however, are not paid to communicate their issues but to solve other people’s problems. We are professionals and we have clients. For them we visualize ideas, processes, messages, and products. Working within constraints means that we cannot wait for that moment of divine inspiration. It means employing methods to keep us on track by making our thought process transparent to our clients and our peers. When kids ask me for the three most important things to do, I tell them: 1) Learn; 2) Learn; 3) Learn. And in that order. Start by reading this book.”
—Erik Spiekermann, Partner, Edenspiekermann

“Clearly, Eric hates everything I stand for, but you should still buy his excellent book. No matter your motives and aspirations, he offers a strong, useful method that will make you a better designer.”
—Stefan G. Bucher, Designer, Illustrator, Writer, 344 Design

“Full of useful advice on how to tackle a graphic design project from start to finish. An excellent addition to the library of any design student or self-employed designer.”
—David Airey, Designer, and Author of Logo Design Love

“There are so many design books that are simply overblown portfolios. The Design Method presumes that designers know how to read and think. The book is dense, intelligent, and bravely opinionated. When designers are given nothing but frosting and pretty fluff, it is refreshing to see a book that challenges perceptions and informs us.”
—Sean Adams, Partner, AdamsMorioka

“This is a book that the design industry has needed for decades. It assumes that the designer wants to do effective work, which of itself is worthy of an entire book. In an era when design is being commoditized—even by the industry itself—I welcome this book
and hope it has a widespread influence.”
—David C. Baker, Principal, Recourses, Inc.

“It seems the design world increasingly confuses fame for mastery. Eric’s book will hurtle you down the path of mastery, first. Apply this thinking everywhere and you might become famous, second. If you want to expertly navigate the exploding potential that design now holds, this is the best new guidebook I know.”
—Brian Collins, Chief Creative Officer, Collins

“Required reading for all students of design, Karjaluoto’s straight-talking Method aptly advances designers beyond artistic makers to constructive facilitators that make things happen.”
—Robin Alyse Doyle, Managing Editor, Communication Arts

“As a successful designer and design commentator, Eric Karjaluoto combines his twin passions to great effect in The Design Method. By turns wise, witty, and opinionated, the book acts as a thoughtful and practical guide to doing effective brand, communication, and graphic design. While not all designers will embrace Karjaluoto’s method, all have something to learn from it.”
—Peter Giffen, Editor, Applied Arts Magazine

“Eric: I know you were only 10 years old at the time, but if you’d published this in 1984 I might have avoided some of the lessons I had to learn the really, really hard way. This is solid thinking, clearly articulated. You done good!”
—Dave Mason, Principal / Strategy Director, Multiple Inc.

“Eric Karjaluoto has a wonderful way of writing about design, which is engaging, conversational, and understandable. While this book is helpful for anyone interested in design, it is also a pleasure to read.”
—Paula Scher, Partner, Pentagram

“For the first eight years of my design career I learned from my mentor. For the next eight, I learned from my mistakes. The Design Method short circuits both with practical advice and proven wisdom. Karjaluoto’s casual style and personal perspective make for an engaging, non-nonsense read. There are times when you’ll want to put this book down—but only to make the changes it recommends.”
—Christopher Simmons, Principal / Creative Director, Mine

“Eric Karjaluoto’s book, The Design Method, is the essential handbook that should come with every career in design. This exceptionally practical reference, based on real world experiences in problem solving, will inform and enlighten everyone from beginning
students to seasoned practitioners.”
—Myles Tanaka, Department Chair, The Art Institute of New York City

“Being a staunch believer that design is not about being artsy or a vehicle for self-expression and is, instead, an objective, rational, laborious process based on listening to a client and translating that into a tangible, accessible solution, I found The Design Method the exact kind of prescription the design industry needs.
—Armin Vit, Co-founder, UnderConsideration